Morning routine

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It’s 4:39am, and i am deep in slumber. The room is a cool, 24 degrees from a late January cool season. Not the snowy kind, since i am in the tropics after all; but cold nonetheless, that we did not have a need for the aircon running the whole night.

In less than a minute, at exactly 4:40am, my phone will unceremoniously make a noise, loud enough to wake me from my sleep. To this, i react by grudgingly directing my fingers to the snooze button.

I try going back to sleep, but that initial alarm has already done its job. By now, i am half awake, aware that i only have 5 minutes left, before the second alarm fires up to remind me, that it is indeed time to wake up.

This is me, knowing myself too well, that i need a back-up plan, should i fail in my first try of waking up. There’s actually a third alarm, that hits at 5am, which is a stretch of a measure for my standard, but it comes built-in with the phone’s timer function when i set my regular sleeping time in the app. I get a reminder, when it is time to sleep.

With these tools, i wake up every day, including weekends, at more or less the same time. There are exceptions of course, specially Sunday, when i know very well that my morning is a bit flexible. But with most days, it is a fixed sequence of activities, that i do, until around 9:30am.

Right after getting out of bed, i am unto my next task. On Mondays, and every other day after, i take a shower. I don’t worry about the shower being cold, since i have an instant water heater installed, which functions remarkably well with the strong water pressure early in the morning. I prefer this time, since later in the day, around 8am, the water pressure drops low, which is not enough to trigger the pressure switch in the heater.

The sequence of tasks varies, with the mornings i am scheduled for a quick run, like Tuesdays, and every other day after. Quick here is between 3km and 5km, depending on my constitution to endure this very morning. At this time of the year, morning light comes late, so it means running in the dark. I like the cool weather, but not the late sunrise.

During weekdays, i only run within the subdivision, so all pavement, except for some parts, where i run across our neighborhood tree park. My only concern in the dark, is stepping on dog poo. Though, having run this circuit for many years now, i have yet to hit a poo on a run. Call it lucky, or probably just fast reflex.

Whatever the sequence after waking up, on weekdays i bring my kids to school, at around 6:35am, immediately right after i take a quick breakfast. The trip to school, takes on average 30 mins round-trip, which brings me back home, at around 7:05am. Traffic is light, though there are spots where cars line up to take turns in the few crossroads i pass by. It’s morning rush hour for most people, as they head to the city for work. For me, it’s lazy time, since i know, i still have until 8am, when my commute to work starts. So i give way when i can.

Between the time after my shower and before i drive my kids to school, i have some time gaps where i am able to read a book. So i have my Kindle with me around these times, and just read where i left off from last time. Normally, i have a book that i read over many days. It’s an easy commitment, since with this time window, i get to read a snippet of idea, and i ponder on it until the next day.

I don’t read fiction books, so most of what i read are self-help, or biographies, or technical books about what i am currently working on. I don’t consider myself a big reader, i only managed an average of 20 books a year, according to my GoodReads account. For this year, i am challenging myself to beat Bill Gates at 50 books read in a year. As of this morning, i am not hopeful i will meet the challenge, but i still have 11 months to get back on track.

As soon as i arrive back at home, i go back to bed to meditate. By this time, it’s 7:10am, and i tap on the Headspace app in my phone. I put on my headphones, and lie down to listen to Andy’s voice prompt. I have used the Calm app before, which i also find very good. My usage of either of them, depends on the program i have started. Right now, it’s on Headspace, and it is about how to manage stress.

I have been doing these for a few months now (i think i started in May of last year), and i find it as a useful way to manage the thoughts in my mind. I’m a thinker, an over the top critical thinker, like someone who thinks about things critically, all the time.

It’s hard to turn it off, since i have this feeling that i might miss something. So i constantly turn-on my critical thinking, on every little detail. So having a time to go through my thoughts, separate them in layers, put them in perspective, and turn them off one-by-one, is a relaxing experience.

I do meditation every day now. So i am delighted, i get a few minutes in my day, where i am able to observe my thoughts, and put them in their place. A sort of a kaizen way to maintain my mind.

I am certain, i am not doing this meditation thing properly. Since i can’t stick my focus on my breath. I might be able to do it for a few seconds, but quickly, i get distracted by all kinds of thoughts. Good thing, the voice prompt comes up, and i remind myself to bring it back.

Though it is in these intervals, that i am able to run through the thought, step back a bit, observe, and then mindfully put in its own place. Like, talking to myself, about properly filing gadgets and things in their own place in the cabinet. It’s a satisfying ordeal for an obsessive compulsive individual like me.

I used to set my meditation time to 10 mins, but these days i have upped the challenge to 15 mins. At this duration, i definitely notice the time, since sometimes, i wonder when will the session ends. As i finished meditation, i don’t get up right away. I try to digest the experience, and refocus my mind on what will happen in the day. This normally takes 5 mins, with the intention, that as i get on my feet, i know what i will target for the day.

I checked my phone, and the time displays 7:30am. I get up, walk downstairs, and grab my toothbrush. I brush my teeth twice, first with toothpaste, and second just with water. It’s an old habit, i acquired from encoding audio and video files, where it takes multiple pass to get that better quality. Somehow, i convinced myself that this is a good thing to apply when brushing my teeth. Please don’t ask why.

With a sparkling teeth, i walk a few steps heading for a storage rack holding my vitamins. Like a kid, who drinks Clusivol every day, i have my adult version of 1000mg Vit C, an Omega-3 capsule, and if there’s supply, a 500mg Vit A and 400IU Vit E. I try to eat healthy, but i know, it’s a challenge to get enough nutrients from food, unless you excessively eat a portion, just to get the expected amount of nutrients. Hence, i see vitamins as necessary means to get what my body needs.

As i put down my glass of water, i glance at my watch to notice it’s already 7:50am. The right time, to gather my stuffs, and start the car. If i get my car moving at 8am, i consider it a successful morning routine. Most times, i go to the city with my wife, so in parallel to my routines, she also does her thing. But i can’t seem to find a pattern from her style, which annoys me a lot, specially when the time to depart is near. And when i nag her, i get more annoyed, since i worry, that she might forget things, because she’s hurrying up herself. There were already a few times, where we had to drive back home, to pick up what she missed.

The commute to the city, takes an average of 45 mins to an hour, depending on traffic. It’s also a bit of a longish commute, since i drive away from the main routes, and up in the hills, where roads are small and snaky, but quiet. Occasionally, trucks get stuck in the narrow parts, but can quickly recover after gaining some scratches on it’s sides.

It’s an uncommon approach, but i learned to drive on white roads, instead of the yellow lines, from reading Gary Erickson’s book, about his journey in founding the Clif Bar company. It’s a more scenic and relaxing journey, instead of competing with motorists on congested routes.

I have grown to like my commute, despite the length of time, since i found it is a perfect span of time to listen on a podcast. I listen to all kinds of shows, and some of my favorites are TWiST, Recode, Tim Ferris, Software Engineering Daily, Freakonomics, and How i built this. I have subscribed to about 30 shows, and i pre-download up to 25 at a time.

I feel like a winner, having converted one of the worst time sinks in my life, into a productive and enlightening period. That sometimes, i prefer to take the longest, slowest line in traffic, so i have enough time to finish an episode, before i arrive in the office.

Every day, i do the same routine. I like the habit of doing it every day, since i get the satisfaction later, that i was able to do what i think i should have done in the day. I feel like i earn good karma for completing the needed tasks.

I find the process of designing my routine, similar to the routine of a software program. Where there’s always an ‘init’ stage and a ‘boot’ stage, before the main functions are useable. The main function in my life, is whatever i do between 10am and 4pm. I also have a night time routine, which starts around 4pm or 6pm, when i commute home. But i’ll leave that for another story.

I pull up to my parking space at the 2nd floor of the building where i go to work, and glance at my watch, to see it’s already 10:35am.

When i am commuting with my wife, we make a point to detour, and spend leisure time at a favorite coffee shop, to enjoy coffee and do some reading. We imagine, we are these city people, who pass by cafes as part of their morning commute, before heading up to the office. This is us, catching up with the joneses out here in the city. So instead of arriving in the office in an hour’s time, i pull in an hour later.

As i switch off the engine of my car, i release a deep breath, to signal the next phase of my day.