I haven’t always considered myself a very disciplined person. When I first moved to New York, I put my alarm on snooze and skipped a lot of auditions that would require me to wait outside at 5:30am. I skipped warming up and practicing because it was zero fun. (I later learned everyone hates practicing, but the professionals do it anyway…whoops) But once I was my own boss, I had to get super disciplined and super consistent if I wanted my business to succeed. And the secret sauce is and will always be… how you start your morning.
I’ve read a lot of books on the subject, and over the last few years have found the routine that works for me. It keeps me energized, focused, and checking off my to do list--which is so fun and satisfying that it’s almost embarrassing. Truly. Don’t worry, this article is not me telling you that you need to get up at 5AM to win the day. I just want to point out a few steps you can take to start your morning in an empowered place.
Keep your cellphone out of your bedroom
For anyone who argues that they don’t have time in the morning for meditation, or writing goals, or whatever I’m about to suggest, I want to see exactly how they spend their first fifteen minutes. (In a non-creepy way) My guess is, they’re on their phone checking emails or scrolling social media. I’m sure your correspondence is extremely important. I’m sure someone commented on a post and you just have to read it. But I’m also sure that it is a time and energy suck. Ever been in bed checking your phone without realizing 30 minutes have gone by? I thought so. Me too. Studies have also shown that people check their phone in the middle of the night. It’s even messing with your sleep! So quit it!
Also, everything coming at you from your phone involves someone else’s needs and someone else’s priorities. It does not involve you or your dreams. What if you took your first fifteen minutes of the day to quickly center yourself, remember what’s most important to you, and jot down your goals and/or to dos for the day? What if you waited to check email until after your morning coffee? Wouldn’t you be more centered, more intentional, and way less reactive? Also, imagine you get a rude email response or perhaps are just… reading the news. Are you really going to let that set the tone for the day? You have life changing dreams to think about and make possible! So please, I beg you to put your phone outside of your bedroom, and give yourself at least 15-30 minutes of ‘me’ time before letting the world in.
If you’re a parent or an on-call doctor and need your children and/or work to be available to you, I suggest doing what Mel Robbins does. She puts her phone in her bathroom on Do Not Disturb. If there’s an emergency, her kids’ numbers come through and her phone will ring. Ta-da! If your phone is your alarm, you can still keep it in the bathroom. If you don’t have an ensuite bathroom (yet) invest in a traditional alarm. Now they make these lovely alarms that mimic the sunrise to gently coax you awake. The extra fancy ones even have birds chirping as the alarm tone. Can you imagine the peacefulness of waking up to that? I love that my alarm is never startling me awake. With the light slowly brightening, my body is ready to get up by the time the alarm rings.
Quit hitting that snooze button
One of my dearest friends and former roommates is a chronic snoozer. It’s been a sore subject for us, as I passionately tried to convince her to stop, and she owned that crap out of snoozing, and still lives a fabulous life. (See? Own your morning routine!) That being said, it can really kill your productivity in the morning. If you hit the snooze and go back to sleep, your body actually starts another REM cycle, which can take 45-90 minutes to complete. If you’re woken up in the middle of that cycle, your body is startled awake, and you’re in a sort of ‘sleep fog.’ It can take hours to get your brain to fire on all cylinders, meaning the first few hours of the day are wasted on playing catch up. This is particularly dangerous, because your brain is most productive within a few hours of waking, so don’t miss out! The best trick to keep yourself from snoozing is to keep your alarm away from your bed (which hopefully you're doing anyway). It will force you immediately on your feet. Second, down a 16 oz. glass of water. Your body is dehydrated from not drinking for the last eight hours, and this can be surprisingly effective in restoring your energy.
Work on your big goal in the morning
My restaurant job has crazy long hours. I have to be at work sometimes as early as 6:30am, and I’m there sometimes as late as 5pm. Once I’m home and sitting down, I do not feel like working my online business. So for awhile… I didn’t. As you can imagine, that didn’t turn out well, and it also didn’t feel good. Then, in a stroke of brilliance, I decided to add just 15 minutes of work in my morning routine before heading to the restaurant. Whatever your lifelong goal/dream is, I bet you can boil it down to one small action you should be doing daily to move your life forward. For me, it’s ‘asks.’ For you, it may be writing a few pages, doing a quick workout, sending out your resume, whatever. What’s that thing you know you need to do every day that you never end up doing? That’s what those fifteen minutes are for. So, I started asking people to take a look at my business for fifteen minutes in the morning (don’t worry, I wasn’t calling them on the phone, I’m not a monster). And then I’d head off to work. And here’s the amazing thing: my entire mood changed. I had already gotten the most important thing done for the day! I would get responses from my reach outs, and have a quick scheduling session when I got home, and then I was done. If I wanted to spend the rest of the night having dinner and relaxing with my fiancé, I could! And because my business now felt in control, I felt empowered and was attracting a lot more business.
If you’re having trouble knowing what the one tiny thing for your goal is, work from the big thing to the tiniest thing. So you want to have a best-selling novel? Great, you’ll probably need a novel to be written in the first place. So what’s a daily action to complete that? Write a little bit every day. Voila. It’s that simple. Even doing 15 minutes of exercise every day can significantly change your health. Pick your thing, and stick with it.
Experiment with your routine
I’m so grateful to Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner, because every three months, you write your morning and evening routines anew. It gives me a chance to reflect on what worked and what didn’t last quarter and adjust accordingly. I’m not saying you have to buy his planner, but I am saying map out what you want your morning routine to be. And then try it. Try it for at least a month. If it’s not working for you, then change it. Miracle Morning is a great jumping off point. It is a fantastic book that lays out the secret to becoming a superhero in your morning routine. It uses the acronym SAVERS to layout its suggested routine. Silence, Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, and Scribing. All of these are incredible ways to start your morning. But this can also end up being a rather long morning routine that hasn't worked for my early work days… I’ve combined and condensed my routine to always include silence/visualization, and affirmations/scribing. The rest, I fit in when I can. It took a long time to find what works, and what works this season may not work the next, but it took experimentation. A great place to start is with some guided meditation, and writing down your current goals. From there, try something else, switch it up, and then own whatever you choose.
I’m so excited for all of you to start your day feeling more centered and empowered. As they say in Mulan “Once you find your center, you are sure to win.” I’d love to hear about your own morning routines and how the experimentation goes! (And yes, I did just quote Mulan.)
If you want to go deeper into what to have in your morning routine, or if you’re not sure where to start, check out these books:
Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod (they have book specific to each industry as well, so check those out)
5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins (Most facts about phone use/morning brain come from this baby)
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis
On September 10th, 2010, I moved to New York City to become a famous actress. To pay for this new thing in my life called ‘rent,’ I got my first serving gig. And luckily…or not so luckily… I was very good at it. For better or worse, serving has been my day job for the past 9 years. In a lot of ways, it’s great. It’s incredibly flexible, and offers one of the highest hourly rates of any ‘day job’ I know. Plus, you get to learn the difference between Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and flaunt that knowledge to your friends. But, is it fulfilling? Not for me.
I’ve noticed that in the US, particularly in large cities, Food Service and Hospitality is an industry of necessity, not necessarily a chosen career path. Most servers, even the ones making six figures at a fine dining establishment, have something else they do on the side. I’ve worked with the most fascinating people: poetry translators, authors, comedians, reiki healers, clothing designers, you name it. But because this job hasn’t been my passion, it has been very easy for me to despise it.
I’ve hated my job on and off for nine years. Serving is not that fun once the thrill of nightly cash tips wears off. It’s hard on your body, people are incredibly rude, and it’s not very mentally stimulating unless you have a table willing to nerd out about the various Beaujolais Appellations. On top of that, a lot of management has fallen into the job without any leadership training, which can change the nature of your day job for the worse very quickly. (I learned recently from a leadership coach friend of mine that this lack of leadership is a common problem in almost every industry, go figure!). Anyway… the money is great, and usually the colleagues are awesome. But frankly… the job sucks.
I first looked for an escape in 2015 when I started my network marketing business. I had found that secret job that could, with work and dedication, pay me more money than bartending! Huzzah! But I was impatient to leave. And I was miserable and mean. I was single during this period, and some men I’d been dating would say they might stop by the bar to say ‘hi’ while I was working. I’d beg them not to, for fear they’d take one look at ‘Katie Rage’ and run right out the door, justifiably ghosting me for life. Katie Rage is a legit term that has been coined for me by my coworkers in not one, but TWO restaurants. Y’all. I get grumpy.
My network marketing business was the beacon of hope carrying myself through these shifts. Knowing my days were numbered certainly helped. And finally, just under a year after launching my side hustle, I put my notice in at my restaurant. The last day of work I triumphantly threw away my Danskos, vowing never to return to food service. Some bar regulars bought me a bottle of Dom Pérignon and we drank it together while I had steak tartare on the other side of the bar for once.
I have a secret. My business had not replaced my income yet. I was doing a big, crazy leap hoping it would motivate me to work harder and reach my desired income. And unfortunately… motivate, it did not. To close that gap, I worked at a barre studio instead, making about half of what I made at the restaurant. It was even less mentally stimulating, and… it was barre. This is my least favorite workout. Isn’t the point of group fitness that it’s supposed to be fun? I remember being in the middle of class, white knuckling the ballet barre as we pulsed our thighs. I looked over at the women next to me, and we all had the exact same horribly miserable expression on our face. What happened to Jazzercise and Zumba?! This seemed like something pulled right out of Guantanamo Bay. I quickly realized I hated this job, too! And what’s worse, it didn’t even help me make rent.
Then guess what I did? In the fall of 2016, I also quit that job before my measly bit of income had been replaced. I had had two great months, and I thought surely my business would do nothing but keep growing. We’d elect our first woman president, and I would promote to Regional Vice President. A flashy title with a flashy Mercedes, and a flashy paycheck to boot. What a time to be alive! Well, we all know that didn’t happen… (yet). My business sadly did not grow.
I tried other odd jobs, like walking for Wag and catering. Both incredibly flexible, but again never really paying enough. I just kept hustling and kept ignoring my rising credit card statement. Finally, a year after leaving my first restaurant job, I realized I was close to the limit on my multiple credit cards, and I had gotten into ca-razy debt. Like, a number I’m too embarrassed to write here. I had basically lived in a deficit in New York and ignored that fact until I was crying in my room at the end of my financial rope. I was so far in the hole, it made me want to slap my friends crying over their $5,000 credit card problems. (I’ll just spoil it for everyone here, I find a way out of debt, so don’t worry about me!)
So, I went back to the only thing I knew could fix the problem quickly. I bought some new Danskos, and landed a job back in food service. Oh joy. This was super humbling and incredibly depressing at first. But here’s the thing I didn’t know until this time around. You can be grateful for a job you don’t like. You’re probably reading this going… ‘Wait, you seriously didn’t know this was an option, Katie?’ Nope! I thought you had to hate any job that wasn’t your passion or directly related to your dreams. You had to ooze from your very pores that this job was beneath you in every way, that you could be creating ART or making a DIFFERENCE, but you showed up ANYWAY because you’re not a MONSTER. (And because this serving job has given you a taste for expensive White Burgundy Wines…) I didn’t realize I could just clock in, do my work, kiss my paycheck gratefully each week, and go build my dreams once I clock out. It’s not taking time or energy away from my creativity, like I thought. It was providing the foundation and the stability for my creativity and passions to thrive.
Coming back to serving was a huge hit to the ego. But it was a necessary lesson in the fact that success is almost never linear. There are peaks and valleys. And in my new restaurant, there are lots of entrepreneurs, just like me! It’s awesome! I still totally hate it at the end of a long shift when my body is about to turn to actual dust, and I suddenly have to make a Ramos Fizz. Or five. But I am so so grateful for this job. I’m so grateful I only have to work three days a week and afford to live in New York City. I’m grateful it leaves me with enough mental energy to pursue everything else. Case in point, I’m writing this article at the end of a loooong day in a SweetGreen before I head to a networking event to pursue my passion. And you know what? There is absolutely no shame in working another job while you’re dream takes off. A lot of writers, artists, and entrepreneurs did it in their day. And when this day job finally gets fired forever, I’ll look back on this time with a bit of reverent nostalgia. So to all the servers folding napkins after a long and hard shift, I raise my glass of Chablis Premier Cru to you. Cheers.