Wake Up and Smell The Routine: Reflecting on ESTABLISH

I’m a gal who really thrives on structure.

In fact, of the skills and talents in which I like to boast, organization is usually at the top of the list. In job interviews to demonstrate how ingrained it is to my personality, I typically discuss how at seven years old I had a space for literally everything in my bedroom. All my toys, art supplies, and stuffed animals had a particular labeled spot. I remember getting one of those old embossing label makers which to-date I regard as one of the best gifts I’d ever received. In college, before I could work on a large paper or project, I would compulsively clean my entire house so I could focus. Even now, I will occasionally find myself adjusting the contents of my refrigerator for optimum visuals.

So yeah. Structure and organization speak to me on a deeply primal level.

And it is because of this desire that I am constantly adjusting and refining my wake-up and wind-down routines.

For those who know me reasonably well, you’re already aware of what a morning person I am not. Waking up is a jolt to my system; one that my body does not take kindly to. When an alarm sounds, it aggressively extracts me from my slumber and dunks me into nausea, headaches, and foggy-brain. For years I couldn’t eat within three hours of rising — perhaps it was the daily morning sickness induced by minty toothpaste that made me decide at an early age I didn’t want my own offspring. When I gained my driver’s licence I also cultivated the ability to get ready in 10 minutes flat.

I’ve always kinda wanted to be a morning person. The ability to function (well) pre-dawn fascinates me. And as much as I like being able to luxuriate in bed, I began seeing lots of articles and videos about people who seemed like they had veritable days before they rolled into work. Something about getting your morning off on the right foot, etc, began to take room in my brain.

So upon moving to Birmingham, I began ESTABLISHing a solid set of morning and night regimens. And I stuck to them for several months, feeling an uptick in my productivity and satisfaction.

Then over consumption, odd hours, and multiple crises (on both a personal and national level) of this past holiday season threw me off my game. To boot, I had a somewhat sketchy interaction while on a 6:00am walk where some dude followed me in a white van, trying to pick me up assuming I was turning early morning tricks. Since I live alone and my neighborhood, while not scary, isn’t exactly not-scary during non-daylight hours, I decided that I ought to halt my morning constitutionals until the sun rose a little earlier.

So this week I dug in my heels to getting back on track, and even made some additions in the hope I’d streamline even further. And call me crazy, but I really love knowing what other people’s life routines look like… I even follow a blog of exactly that.

Morning Routine:

5:30am  —  My beloved Wake Up Light initiates faux sunrise sequence

5:45am  — Wake Up Light steps it up a notch and starts sounding some fake birds. The light and chirps are gentle and oh-so-pleasant. In order to maximize the light filling my room, the alarm is located on the wall opposite the foot of my bed. In order to turn it off, I have to get my ass up out of the covers and punch a series of complicated little hidden buttons. Brilliantly done, Phillips. Usually though, I rather like the soft glow and natural noise so I leave it on until I leave for work.

If I’m having a really hard time emerging from sleep, I will play a few rounds of Best Fiends. For serious, guys, I’m addicted to this game and it, along with Instagram, are on my nighttime blacklist. I figured since it triggers my brain so well at night that I could use it to my advantage when I struggled to be awake. The rule is that I can only do three rounds so I don’t spend all damn morning in bed. While it doesn’t make me proud, it does work.

5:50am  —  Brush teeth, apply deodorant. Best feeling EVAH.

While brushing, walk into the kitchen and click on my electric kettle for either tea or coffee and bump up my apartment temp since I’m an inferno while I sleep and can’t get comfortable unless the room is less than 65 degrees.

5:55am  —  Back in bed! I turn on a podcast or audio book, review my agenda for the day, and fill out the prompts in my Happiness Planner while I sip some tepid water. I mentally plan my menu and decide whether I want to walk, stretch, or wash my hair that morning. Because, yes, washing and drying my hair takes over an hour so I gotta be very intentional to integrate basic personal hygiene.

Current podcastsHow to be AmazingMind Body Musingsand Mortified


Recent audiobooks
Fast GirlThe Girl on the Trainand Yes, Please

6:15am  —  Out of bed, retrieve my warm beverage, and initiate whatever movement I decided upon. My preference is “urban hiking” and now that daybreak is once again striking at this hour, I can resume my strolls. Very happy about this.

Generally I cruise up the hills towards Forest Park, where the houses get bigger and fancier, plus more joggers and fewer creepers in vans. My walks are anywhere between 45 minutes to a little over an hour, depending on my route (aka how lost I get). I continue listening to whatever spoken word I started, unless it’s a Monday and then I’m grooving to my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist.

7:00am  —  As soon as I walk inside I start heating up a pan for my breakfast. I may top off my tea or start a Vietnamese coffee if I need the extra jolt. Quickly I pull my clothes for work and toss them in the dryer if they’re wrinkled. I try to mix up my breakfast but I’ve found for me a large green smoothie, fried eggs, and some protein (usually sausage) keeps me satiated until about 1:00pm.

While the eggs are cooking, I perform a stretch that, when I used to do it at the gym, had people asking if I was injured. I stand feet shoulder-width apart and turned slightly inward, put my arms behind my head and drop my chin to my chest. I then fold slowly down, trying to go one vertebrae at a time until I’m able to put my palms flat on the floor. This kills me every day. Repeat three times and then do one or two minutes of pigeon pose.

7:15am  —  Practice mindful eating and then continue to sip smoothie while I finish getting dressed. If I have enough time I wash my dishes, if not, I embrace slob status and leave them crusting in the sink until my nighttime regimen. I’ve learned if at this point I don’t literally hang my lunchbox on my front door handle then I’ll forget it and have to figure out a sad lunch with whatever snacks I have stockpiled in my office.

7:30am  —  Get dressed and put on makeup if I’m so inclined that day. If it’s humid that day, tame my hair with a curling iron so I look less like Shawn White.

7:45am  —  Clanging bells on my phone yell at me that it’s time to leave.

This week Josh bought me a teeny Mr. Coffee with timer for my bedroom so that I can have fresh coffee without even having to crawl out of bed. Thinking of setting the brewer to activate around 5:30 as well in order to get the sounds and smell rolling at the same time my faux sunrise starts.

I work normal 8:00 to 5:00 hours and I typically eat dinner as soon as I get home from work. I  wash my face as soon as I get home, especially if I wore makeup that day and change clothes immediately to one of two outfits: yoga pants and a Fort Collins brewery tank top or a nightgown (these or these). I try to limit myself to one hour of TV a night and otherwise read, craft, catch up on emails, Skype with friends/family… play a dozen rounds of Best Fiends. For reals, guys, I’m addicted.

I’ve discovered that becoming a morning person makes you super lame at night. Back in my 10-minute-morning days I would go to sleep around midnight. Now, I’m clicking off my light between 9:45 and 10:30.

Evening Routine:

9:15pm  —  My phone gently reminds me to stop watching America’s Next Top Model reruns and prioritize sleep. It also instructs me to add today’s entry into my Happiness Jar Birdcage. I slip in one good thing that happened that day.

9:20pm  —  3 Minute Tidy. I don’t remember where I was introduced to this concept but it’s a fantastic one. I set a timer for three minutes and start addressing whatever odds and ends I can. Sometimes that means putting away dishes, other times it’s hanging up clothes, usually I put devices on their chargers, etc. Rarely is my apartment messy enough that it takes more than that though I do find that if I’ve been putting off a task all night (usually laundry related) once I get started, the three minutes is enough of a start that I’ll finish.

9:23pm  —  Guzzle what’s left of the beverage I’d been enjoying that night (tea, decaf, beer, wine) and fill the glass of water I’ll be drinking the next morning, placing a coaster on top so no buggies find their way in while I sleep. Grind some coffee beans and activate the timer for my auto-drip.

9:25pm  —  Meditation time. Light candles and incense on my meditation alter and turn on the Relax Melodies white noise app (the paid version is soooo worth it).  I will either decide on a guided meditation from YouTube or I’ll take myself through the Six Phase Meditation. Depending on how wired I am, I’ll meditate between 15 to 60 minutes (the hour ones are guided, I’m not that zen).

Bedtime  —  Blow out the candles but leave on the white noise app. I set the sunset function on my light alarm and climb into bed. I complete the day’s prompts on my Happiness Planner and write in one of my many journals. I send my goodnight texts and focus on a deep relaxation exercise to help coax me into rest.

Journal recommendations: Q&A Journal, One Page at a Time, 642 Things to Draw, or this basic lined journal

The act of ritual, for me, is sanity maintenance and ESTABLISH was a good motivator to get reenergized about sticking to these schedules. I don’t hold a lot of sacred space in my day-to-day but self-catering and reflection bookending my days is essential to feeling happy and peaceful.
Things were so, so different when I lived in Colorado and my social life was so booked. It’s a change for sure, but one that feels healthier and somehow more fulfilling. It’ll be interesting to see what shifts when I begin cohabitating later this year, but for now it fits this season (of the year and my life) rather well.

And now it’s time to take things up a notch with ELEVATE…


Lin’s VOW mantra: The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine. 

Lin’s Song of the Week: Foundations by Kate Nash


Be sure to read up on Steph’s post on #VOWestablish

And! If you’re a Spotify listener, check out The Vow Venture’s compilation of our weekly songs.

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