What's the first thing you do when you get out of bed in the morning? A well-rounded morning routine sets the tone for the day and gets you prepped—both mentally and physically—before diving into a packed schedule filled with emails, chores, happy hours, workouts, and more. Our series Morning Person profiles those who have mastered the art of the morning routine. Tune in every Monday morning here and on our Instagram to learn exactly how the pros get it all done before the sun comes up, from their go-to breakfasts to their a.m. workouts.
Confession: I am not a morning person at all, and I never have been. I also didn't think I would ever become a morning person until I moved back to Los Angeles from New York City and started my new job as managing editor of THE/THIRTY (hello!) a month ago.
You see, I recently moved back home and am living with my mom for the time being until I find an apartment. (Hi, Mom! Thanks, Mom!) While not having to pay rent is great (just want to point out I'm not a freeloader, and I do my share of chores and pitch in with groceries and utility bills), my mom's house is located about an hour and some change from THE/THIRTY and Who What Wear's offices. We're talking Los Angeles traffic here. The commute time makes for earlier mornings—way earlier than my mornings in New York City. To give you a picture of my past life, I would wake up at 8:30 every morning, leave the house by 9, and get to the office by 9:30 via subway. In my present life, I wake up at 7 or 7:30, leave the house by 8, and get to the office at 9:15 or 9:30, all thanks to traffic.
Instead of lamenting my new wake-up time, I decided to embrace it and attempt to become a morning person. To start, I reached out to time management expert Laura Vanderkam, author of Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done and Juliet's School of Possibilities for some tips.
If you're reading this and have no sympathy for me because 7 a.m. is not that bad, Vanderkam agrees with you, as she told me, "I'd point out that 7 a.m. really isn't all that early." I get it, but as a night owl who normally goes to bed at midnight or later, it's early for me! My brain doesn't really hit its productivity rhythm until midday. But for the sake of this story (and my own personal gain of productivity), I decided to listen and learn.
"There are definitely night owls out there, but when people say 'I'm not a morning person,' what they often mean is that they're tired in the mornings," Vanderkam told me. "But that's a function of when you go to bed. Look at how you're spending your evenings, and if it's not terribly productive, cut the puttering off a little bit earlier, go to bed a little bit earlier, and wake up a little bit earlier. That way you can turn unproductive evening hours into productive morning hours." Okay, so maybe I didn't need to watch that next episode on Netflix or play a round of Candy Crush to "decompress" before I went to bed.
Vanderkam gave me three tips to help me become a morning person:
1. Set a bedtime: "Morning people still need sleep. The only way to get up earlier is to go to bed earlier."
2. Don't hit snooze: "The snooze button is evil. Either get up the first time or set your alarm for when you actually intend to get out of bed."
3. Do a fun activity: "Start your day with something fun. Most people won't get up, consistently, for something they don't like. So figure out what would make those first minutes (or even hour!) of the day feel like a treat."
But most importantly, when I asked her about good habits (like working out, listening to podcasts, meditating, etc.), she told me that I should use my mornings to do what makes me happy. "There's no point getting up early just to do so. The question is what you'll do with the time—hopefully something that will advance you toward your long-term goals."
After getting Vanderkam's advice, I decided to revamp my morning routine. So, I present it to you below:
Yes, I moved up my wake-up time, but I want to incorporate a workout a few mornings a week into my routine. For the mornings I don't work out, I'll stick to the 7 a.m. alarm.
So I wake up at 6 a.m. and hurry to brush my teeth, wash my face, and throw on some gym clothes, so I'm out the door in 15 minutes. I find it can be done if I set out my gym clothes and pack a bag with my work clothes and makeup/skincare the night before.
I drive to my workout class. I'm on ClassPass, so I try to choose studios near the office so I can get my long commute over with. Today, I'm going to Flywheel (but always looking for new recommendations since I just moved to L.A.). When you drive at this time, you beat the traffic, so my commute takes 45 minutes.
In general, to deal with my commute, Vanderkam made a helpful suggestion. "As for your commute, because this is so much time, you really should think about how you're spending it. Maybe listen to audiobooks or listen to lectures so you can turn this into self-improvement time," Vanderkam told me. So I use my drive time to catch up on podcasts. I love history ones, such as Stuff You Missed in History Class, History Extra, and You Must Remember This. Learning is fun, and my inner history professor is happy.
After arriving a few minutes early to the cycling class, I put my things away in the locker room and get settled before it starts at 7:15 a.m. I recently got an Apple Watch, and it really taunts me sometimes. When I've been sitting at my desk all day and it's not a workout day, it tells me to try to close some Activity rings (meaning I haven't moved a lot). So today, I am going to show it who's boss by working extra hard in class.
I survive the 45-minute class and look down in satisfaction at my watch. I closed two rings, and it's not even 9 a.m. yet. I also burned 396 active calories, so the adrenaline and endorphins have taken over my body. I am hyped for the workday!
I head to the locker room to shower. I get dressed and do my very minimal makeup routine—sunscreen, moisturizer, some concealer, mascara, bronzer, and eyebrow gel. I don't normally wear too much makeup to work unless I have an event to attend or a meeting outside the office.
I leave Flywheel. After working out, I like to treat myself because my body worked hard, and we deserve it. I grab a smoothie bowl to eat at my desk while I catch up on emails. The drive to the breakfast spot next to the office is only a couple of minutes, so I'm in my office parking lot at 9 a.m., which is 30 minutes early!
After trying out this new morning routine, I have to say maybe I will actually like being a morning person. I felt more energized (thanks to the workout), and it's nice to start the morning with a breakfast treat. I also felt like I accomplished a lot—and so early in the day, too! I'm going to see if I stick to it, and I'll report back. In the meantime, I'd love to know your tips for being a morning person! You can DM me @thethirty on Instagram, or on my own account, @sarahayang.