26 September 2023

Morning magic: How to start each day on the right foot

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Betty Liu’s* varied work routines means she has tried and tested a number of morning routines that best set her up for the day.

Ever since I began Radiate, I’ve become obsessed with squeezing as much time out of my day as possible.

Juggling one full-time job is demanding enough — add-on starting a business and minding two teenage boys — and the phrase ‘glutton for punishment’ comes to mind.

When I was a child I used to wonder why adults were always saying they’re “so busy”. Now I’m one of them and I realise why.

That’s why for the past year I’ve been experimenting with morning routines.

When I was hosting my Bloomberg TV morning show at 8am, my routine was pretty set.

I’d wake up at 3:30am, and arrive at work by 4:30am.

There I would drink my green tea, read the newspapers, hold meetings, have my hair and make-up done.

By the time the clock struck 8am, I was bright eyed and ready to greet our viewers.

That was my routine for eight-plus years; now that I anchor the evening show, my morning routine is more malleable — though no less hectic.

I’ve listened to so many chief executives tell me their own routines.

Some of their habits I mirrored, others I knew were not for me.

All those who told me they woke up at 5am every day made me tune out.

While I love waking up early, my days of arising in total darkness are over.

So for this past year, I’ve experimented with five different ways to go about my morning.

In the process, I discovered some valuable lessons.

No Emails in the Morning:

Inspired by Randi Zuckerberg who told me she stays away from emails when she wakes up, I decided to do the same for a few months.

I woke up and didn’t look at my phone.

I went about my morning making breakfast for the kids and buying a newspaper (a physical newspaper) to catch up on the day’s news before walking into the office.

For a few weeks, I felt enlightened.

I sat on the train reading and thinking while everyone’s heads were buried in their phones.

After a while, things started to happen that forced me to look at my phone.

A work fire here or there; an email that, if left unanswered until 10am, would mean we may have missed an opportunity.

After a few months, I realised not looking at my phone was unsustainable.

Meditation in the Morning:

Lots of people make a big deal about how well-known people like Deepak Chopra meditate in the morning to clear their brains.

I have never taken meditation lessons but I did download the app Headspace, to try my hand at meditation for a few weeks.

After dropping the kids off at school, I would sit and meditate in the quiet of the house.

While I did feel calmer, I realised that meditating after you’ve been running around for an hour is difficult.

By that time, your mind is buzzing so meditating for five minutes is not enough — you have to be dedicated to it for a good 15-to-20 minutes and I just didn’t have time.

I try now to meditate in the evening when I get the chance.

My Headspace app used to ping me reminders. Now I think it’s just given up on me.

Working Out in the Morning:

I loved doing this while I had the commitment — for a few weeks, I was at the gym by 7am.

The problem is I had to add extra buffer time in for a shower, make-up and change of clothes to proper work attire.

That would inevitably add another 30-to-45 minutes to my morning which meant that I arrived at the office later or had to push back morning meetings.

I think lots of men talk about working out in the morning as invigorating which is great but none of them have to wear make-up or blow dry their hair after.

I can’t arrive at work in yoga pants.

So this was unsustainable. Now I schedule my workouts around my other commitments.

Read or Write in the Morning:

Radiate Expert Charlie Munger has said that he reads every morning to stay grounded.

For some, reading a book or writing in a journal is another form of meditation that helps centre oneself for the rest of the day.

I started to read some highly recommended books on my commute in and I must say, this was one of my favourite routines.

I got more energised in a half hour’s reading than I did just scrolling through Instagram.

My habit came to an end after I started driving to work (see next routine), but whenever I do ride in on a train, I pull out my favourite tome.

Commuting Off-Hours in the Morning:

In the end, this is the morning routine I found works best for me.

I got this from the Chief Executive of media company, Oath, Tim Armstrong who said that sometimes to save time, he commutes outside of rush hour.

I loved that advice. In fact, I still do it.

I usually leave my house now at 9am and drive part of the way into work, then take the train in.

I found by doing this, I actually arrived in the office nearly the same time as if I left my house at 8:15am, in the thick of the rush hour frenzy.

Anything that gives a bit of sanity in a crazed morning is all I need to start my day right.

*Betty Liu is an anchor person for Bloomberg Television and founder of Radiate Inc., a media technology platform that unlocks knowledge from the world’s most successful people. She can be contacted at radiateinc.com.

This article first appeared on the Radiate Inc. website.

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