Adam Ayrton Stoner

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An Interview with My Morning Routine: Tracking Habits of Over 170 People

2 years ago

When you start your day with healthy habits and focus on what is important to you, there’s no denying you’ll get off to a flying start. The benefits of a structured morning routine are undeniable, and if you’re in search of inspiration look no further than My Morning Routine.

The website, founded in December 2012, aims to bring readers a brand new and inspiring morning routine every Wednesday to help set them up for a more productive and enjoyable day. Whether you’re looking for ideas to mix in to your current routine or are searching for a complete overhaul, My Morning Routine wants to help.

The two founders, Michael Xander and Benjamin Spall, took some time out of their day earlier last month to chat –

What was the inspiration behind My Morning Routine?

Michael: The idea for My Morning Routine evolved over time. It’s hard to pin it to one specific event, but Tim Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Workweek and Joel Gascoigne’s blog certainly pushed the right buttons in my brain to build and launch it in December 2012, with my co-founder Benjamin.

Up to that point I’d been kinda obsessed with optimising workflows, not just with the goal of increasing my productivity, but also with a view to providing increased freedom and happiness. My Morning Routine represents that, bringing our audience a continuous stream of ideas to mix into their morning.

How do you find participants? Do you approach them – do they approach you?

Benjamin: For the first two years of the site’s existence we almost entirely published routines from people who would fill in a small contact form on our website saying they would like to participate. This method worked well in the beginning as it allowed us to build up a vast vault of morning routines while being able to treat the site as a smaller side project.

Since then, for the past eighteen months or so, we’ve for the most part been approaching individuals we want to interview on the site to see if they’d like to be involved.

Where do you think the interest is?

Michael: Since launching My Morning Routine we’ve noticed that more people are starting to realise, as we did, that there is a better way to start your day than rushing through your precious few morning hours before you head into work/school.

Your morning sets the stage for the rest of your day. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get-up very early; it means doing what’s important to you.

What are some of the more surprising revelations?

Benjamin: I don’t know if we could call these revelations especially surprising, but I wrote a while ago about the key things we had learned after publishing our first ninety-eight morning routines.

There are a lot of creatives on your website; do you think there’s a link between a structured morning routine and creativity?

Michael: Yes and no. As a creative person myself, I think a structured morning routine can help to set the stage (and make time) for what’s important to you, and most importantly it saves our brain mental energy, because most decisions are already automatically handled by our good habits. Jenny Blake, Ivanka Trump, Melody Wilding, and many more of our participants all cherish the benefit of mastering this so-called phenomenon of “decision-fatigue”, where our habits make our ordinary decisions for us, so that we can use our energy solely for our most important tasks.

I also said no, because from time to time I experience days where I have to throw my structure out the window in order to allow myself complete creative freedom. This is often the case when I start working on a new project, or when I’m just too excited to get started in the morning.

To summarize, a structured morning routine is essential for me on most days, because it allows me to get into the flow of creativity without burning mental energy on ordinary decisions. However, when I wake up already in the flow, I just go with it!

Two of you are involved in the project – who does what?

Benjamin: Michael focuses on the tech (coding the whole thing) and design, I focus on the copywriting, editing, and sponsorships. We jointly do business admin and marketing.

Who has been your favourite participant?

Michael: It’s hard to pick one specific participant as they all have interesting takes in their own way, but I really enjoyed how artist, designer, and writer, Elle Luna captures her dreams each morning. It’s a very unique creative habit. But, as I said, there are just too many to choose a true favourite. For more, subscribe and we’ll show you ten of our favourites!

Benjamin: I agree with Michael that it’s extremely hard to pick just one. With that said, I really enjoyed reading Yuko Shimizu‘s routine because it feels like an extended Humans of New York story.

Turning the lens on yourselves… What are your morning routines?

Michael: My alarm is set for 6:00am, but I get up whenever I wake up and feel ready (I don’t snooze); usually that’s between 4-5:30am. I almost never need my alarm as I’ve followed my routine seven days a week for over two years now. My internal clock is great at predicting when it’s time to get up!

I used to not use an alarm on the weekend, but I’ve learned that I feel much fresher and more balanced when I get up at about the same time every day. This also means I have to be strict with my bedtime, which is between 10:30-11:15pm every night.

Upon getting up I drink a big glass of water, let some fresh air into my apartment, and do three sets of push-ups and air squats to energize myself. I’ll then fix myself some oats with cornflakes and milk, or sometimes I’ll make an egg, bacon, and cheese burrito. I’ll then either read a book for an hour, go for a walk with weights in my rucksack, or catch up on Twitter and articles that I’ve added to my reading list. I’ll then hit the bathroom and get myself ready for work.

Benjamin: My alarm is set for 7:30am, and that’s usually exactly when I’ll get up. I’ll do some light stretching exercises before heading into the kitchen to make a breakfast of oatmeal, omelettes with avocado, or toast and fruit for my wife and I while she gets herself ready for the day.

Once breakfast is ready we’ll sit down to eat it together while discussing the day ahead, our plans for the weekend, and anything we’ve read in the news lately, all while keeping a close eye on the clock! When breakfast is over we’ll pack our bags (while shouting “Keys, wallet, phone!” to each other to ensure we haven’t forgotten anything), and head out the door.

Have you adopted any of things from the participants you’ve had?

Michael: After doing this for almost three and a half years, I still love the topic and enjoy exploring new ideas from our inspiring personalities on a regular basis. What sticks in my mind are often the little hacks, like to force you out of bed by placing your alarm far away from your bed, putting your phone in airplane mode to avoid distractions, or using social accountability to form habits.

How did you settle on the 17 questions you ask every participant?

Benjamin: It was less a case of settling on them than build them up (and replacing some) over time. If you go all the way back to our first published routines you’ll notice we used a few questions then that we have since discontinued, or merged into other questions.

What’s next for My Morning Routine?

Michael: Since the end of 2014 we started to describe My Morning Routine as more of an online magazine than a blog, as we added (and have continued to add) several more functionalities to the site.

Features that we’re especially proud of are our Interview Statistics page, where we make it easy for you to dive into our data to explore key findings from our ever-increasing archive of routines; and Routine Sorting, which allows you to browse our morning routines based on informative data points.

Our main focus is and will always be to get inspiring ideas in front of our readers. I can’t reveal any specific projects that we’re working on right now, but be assured the likelihood that you’ll find it interesting and helpful are high.

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BY-NC 4.0, 2018. Adam Stoner.