Josh Gross is a founding partner at Planetary, a digital product studio that has worked with clients including Univison, Blue Diamond, and Google’s non-profit arm. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.
What is your morning routine?
Does “get smacked in the face repeatedly by the dog until I get out of bed” qualify as a complete morning routine? No? Well, in that case…
I wake up at approximately 7:00am every morning. I try to be as consistent as possible with this because it helps set the pace for the rest of the day. Once I’m up, the first thing I do is put on the kettle and prep my coffee—I use a French press because I really enjoy the zen-ness of the process. My personal favorite is the GROSCHE Madrid French Press. Easy to wash and high quality.
Once the kettle is on, I feed the dog (Lady) and then check my email, take a shower, and pull up the news (typically Curbed, Reddit, and Google News). I take note of any emails that need an urgent response, but I don’t respond until after at least the first sip of coffee; mornings are “my time” and I try to keep it that way.
The last thing I do before starting work for the day is take the dog out for a walk, if my partner hasn’t. Then I’m out the door! …Or at my desk, if I’m working from home. (As part of a distributed team, I keep an office but don’t always go in.)
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
I’ve stuck with this routine and have been pretty consistent about it since at least 2014, when I started Planetary. I think the routine has really helped balance the chaos of my days.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
It hasn’t varied too much in the past few years. The biggest change has been getting a dog, which means that I’ve had to add feeding and walking the dog into my mornings. I walk the dog right before beginning my workday, which has been a nice way to transition my mindset from whatever I was reading in the morning to my focus for the rest of the day.
That being said, I’ve experimented a bit with introducing some variation into the routine. Last year I added 6:30am spin classes on Fridays, meaning I’d wake up at 6:00am and—before coffee or anything else—walk to class. I recently took a break from this but intend to pick it up again; it was a nice way to end the week and add some variation to my mornings.
What time do you go to sleep?
Midnight. It’s terrible. I really should go to bed a bit earlier because I typically wake up feeling a bit tired, but I have trouble convincing myself to go to bed sooner. Really, I’ve tried.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
Usually, I’ll clean the French press (if I didn’t do it in the morning) and my house a bit (put away clothes, straighten up). A clean house means I wake up feeling less stressed; I’ve found that physical clutter and messes have a negative effect on my well-being.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
I use an alarm six or seven days a week—even on the weekends. I try not to hit the snooze button, but if I’ve gone to bed past midnight I may try to catch an extra fifteen minutes.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
I’ve tried to be better about eating actual food in recent years, but I usually won’t eat anything until I get to the office (or, if working from home, until after I start work). Most of the time it’s a pastry (like a croissant) or oatmeal, if I feel like preparing it.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
Not really, beyond the spin class on Friday mornings that I introduced last year.
Since trying that, though, I’ve found it was actually a great way to start the day. I’m probably going to pick up some variation of that again. I’m also considering taking an early morning run with the dog, which would get both her and me out for some early exercise.
Do you have a morning meditation routine?
I wish! I’ve tried doing meditation on and off over the years, but it has never stuck. I used to have a consistent yoga routine, which was the closest to meditation I can get, but I always did it at the end of my day, not at the beginning.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
Not until the first sip of coffee… I might have a bit of a coffee addiction. I’ve found that if I try to answer email before that, most of my replies have some pretty egregious grammar!
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
I don’t track the quality of my sleep or have anything special for my morning routine. In fact, I just use the alarm app on iOS.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
Since my phone is also my alarm, it’s difficult—but I really try not to fall into the pattern of checking my messages first thing. I put my phone as far across the room as possible the night before to force me out of bed when the alarm goes off, which helps quite a bit. I can more easily convince myself to turn off the alarm, put the phone down, and head into the kitchen once I’m already standing up.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Beyond getting some form of caffeine, definitely feeding and walking the dog. Everything else in my morning routine is interchangeable, which is helpful when traveling.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
Coffee. Coffee? Coffee! Usually about twenty minutes after I wake up. If I’m making it myself, a dark roast with a small bit of half-and-half—I don’t purchase any particular brand, just whatever looks good, though I’m a fan of anything from Brooklyn Roasting Company. Otherwise, I typically go for a cappuccino or latte when at a coffee shop.
How does your partner fit into your morning routine?
We pretty much just do our own things and give each other space in the morning; my partner usually leaves earlier than I do, so she is typically up and out of bed earlier than I am.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
My weekend routine is actually pretty much the same. I do wake up a bit later, usually at 8:00-9:00am, depending on whether or not I have something to do in the morning.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
That’s the nice thing about having a fairly simple morning routine: it’s easily adapted. When traveling, I either make coffee in my hotel room or step out for it, and I often get an actual breakfast. The rest of my routine pretty much stays the same!
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
Honestly, it’s awful. This routine, as simple as it is, really helps me get my day started right. If I wake up and have to immediately deal with work, check email, respond to messages, or otherwise disrupt this schedule, it throws off my focus and productivity for the whole day. I need to be able to maintain at least the core of this routine for my own mental health.
Anything else you would like to add?
A morning routine doesn’t need to be intricate to be meaningful and hold high personal value. I consider mornings prior to starting work as my own personal, uninterruptible time to do a bit of self-care. Missing my routine doesn’t ruin my day by any stretch, but I find that my routine is valuable in helping me center myself. During the day, I don’t often get much time to pay attention to my own needs, so the mornings really provide that opportunity.
I imagine my routine is actually fairly common but, for me, it provides structure and—even if the rest of the day is going to be long, tough, difficult, or unpleasant—having these few consistent elements first thing in the morning grounds me for the rest of the day and sets me off on the best possible foot.
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