Back from the summer break! Before we kick off with our usual episodes, in this one Tsh chats with Kendra Adachi about establishing simple morning routines, and why they’re so essential to our sanity. A good reminder as we look ahead to the fall, with new routines and responsibilities.
A Morning Routine | 38
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This is The Good List — I’m Tsh Oxenreider.
Hello friends, and how are you doing? I hope you’ve been having a good summer. As I do most every summer, I took July mostly offline and loved the break from all the instantaneous noise. More on that in future episodes, but let’s just say I highly recommend it for every one of us.
I’ve got new episodes and a new season of The Good List starting this month, but I wanted to first share with you a conversation I had with my lovely friend, Kendra Adachi. I’ve known her for several years now; she went on my first-ever Literary London trip I led and really got to know her there. And if you listened to my former podcast, Simple, you’ll recognize her because she was a regular co-host of mine for a while. I know a lot of you like her, and there’s a lot to like. She really embodies smart, funny normalcy, and I mean that in the best way possible. Her blog, podcast, and now new book is all under an umbrella called The Lazy Genius, and that’s such an apropos moniker for her, because she’s great at being razor-sharp about the things that matter to her and totally ignoring the things that don’t. And then she encourages us to do the same.
For fun, to kick off this next season of The Good List, I asked Kendra what I ask everyone here on this show: what’s one thing, habit, idea, or work of art that’s making your life a little bit better right now. And to no surprise, she had a great one. So here it is, my summertime chat with Kendra.
Tsh: Hey Kendra. How are you?
Kendra: I’m good, Tsh. It’s so good to be with you.
Tsh: It’s so good to be with you too. Listeners of my previous show will probably recognize you because you were on it for awhile. You have a book that is coming out this week, and I want to talk about some stuff in it, but since this is The Good List, we talk about one little thing that makes your life better, and that is very much you. What’s your one thing that makes life better?
Kendra: I think right now, the one thing is a morning routine and routine though, let’s not like freak out about the word routine. It doesn’t have to be five steps. I think it’s just like 10 minutes of being on your own and doing one or two things to just sort of center and clear your head. And this time of year, when we’re all losing, losing our heads, we need to grab onto that more. I don’t know if you feel this way, but when summer starts, I’m so grateful for the space. Everybody’s situation is different, but I work at home. I have a little bit more flexibility, but my kids are, they’re home. We don’t have to have a schedule. It’s just so nice to relax. But by the time you get five or six weeks into the summer, I feel like, where’s the structure, you start to sort of grasp a little bit. I think that having something in your day that you can depend on just as a singular human really helps put the lack of structure everywhere else, maybe into perspective. It helps it not be as drastic and dramatic. Do you feel that way with your routines?
Tsh: Yeah, I totally do. And especially in the year of our Lord 2020, we’ve been doing this for a while now that I think, we miss, I mean, there’s part of me that just loves being home. I like being my own boss, so I like people not telling me what to do, yet, I want to be the boss of me. I want to tell me what to do. And so that doesn’t mean doing nothing. That means doing something. I like to make better use of my time. To me, a routine gives structure like scaffolding to my day. But I just have to remember, it’s not the boss of me because days don’t go perfectly.
Kendra: One thing that I love about lazy genius routines and I talk about this and my book, The Lazy Genius Way, it’s still feels so weird to do that sentence drop.
Tsh: It reminds me of in Harry Potter, magical me. Like what’s his name? Lockhart.
Tsh: How he always just name drops his own books. I felt like that every time I have a book come out, we all know. And it’s all good. And your book is really good. It’d be one thing, if it wasn’t a good book, it’s a good book. So anyway, keep talking, keep talking.
Kendra: But one of the things I write about in the book is I do talk about routines, but thinking about routines less, like you said, like it is scaffolding, but it’s not so much like step-by-step, I have to do this thing. The point of a routine is it’s building you, moving you towards something. I really love to think about my morning routine, especially this time of year as, this is my quiet for the day. This is moving me into an energy of being present with my kids and being able to completely switch and move back into work when I have to do that. It has a purpose. It’s not just an arbitrary list of things that you do at a certain time of day. That’s why people don’t stick to routines because it’s not leading them anywhere. It’s supposed to be a runway to something, not the destination itself.
Tsh: Yeah. That’s good. It’s like just knowing your why, What’s the point of this?And for me, especially when we’re talking about morning, it has to do with waking up for my day versus waking up to my day, which is really subtle. But to me, that means instead of like waking up to things happening, it just gives me a little bit more of an on ramp. I don’t know.
Kendra: Exactly. Don’t you think, I feel like that’s true, you said it’s subtle. There are so many things that make exponential differences in our day that come from something subtle. They come from just the tiniest shift of waking up for my day and instead of to my day. That’s why even just when I realized that my routines work for me best when they are leading me somewhere. Yeah. When they’re an on ramp somewhere. What that helps you do then is also know like how you need to spend that time, that 10 or 20 minutes that you can find in the morning, if you know where you’re going that day, mentally energetically, you make a choice of what to put in that time to get you there. It’s not like I drink out of this cup of coffee and I sit down in this chair, that can be part of it. That can be really centering and lovely. But I think sometimes we put too much pressure on the order of things in that routine and exactly what it is rather than it’s where it’s taking us, again, it’s so subtle, but it really makes a difference.
Tsh: And I really like also, speaking of the subtle thing, that you’re talking, you’ve already said several times, five, ten minutes, you’re not talking an hour. I mean, just because reality and you’re in a particular life stage, your oldest is?
Kendra: 10, 8 and four.
Tsh: Right. And that’s just not the reality for most women in your life stage to be able to wake up a full hour in advance and light your candle and do your things. It’s little bit more of just like grasping for a few minutes, like you said, the on ramp thing.
Tsh: So what does it look like for you practically? Maybe I should ask, what does your summer morning routine or lack of a routine look like or maybe there is one and it just looks different and then what, what does it look like for you during a school year? And I know like asterisk, who knows what the school year is like, right?
Kendra: One hundred percent. Side note, I’m getting requests for like write an article about going into the school year. No one knows, no one knows we can’t do this right now. Nobody has any clue what’s happening. What it looks like for me practically is two things. One is doing a sun salutation, like some sort of moving my body really, really slowly. I’m not like a sweating person. I don’t like to move to the point of wetting unless like my body’s like, girl, you need to go and do something. I’m not interested. My body doesn’t like to do that. I will start with a sun salutation or two, which let’s be real is like 40 seconds. It’s not anything, but it makes a difference, stretches your back, whatever. Then, I have a porch swing on my front porch and I tell you what summer days are no fun, but some are mornings are really lovely when it comes to the weather. I think like a lot of us, I’m a changed person when I’m outside. Just being outside makes a huge difference for my mental health. I have to make sure that I’m doing that in the summer because I don’t like going outside after like 9 or 10 in the morning, unless it’s at a pool. And then it’s not really being outside. It’s just like trying to keep everyone from getting sunburned and you’re not dying of heat stroke. It’s like a different energy, but that’s what my morning routine is. I do a sun salutation in my living room and then I go and sit on my porch swing for a few minutes until people wake up. I might read while I’m sitting there. But most of the time I just like listen to birds and sit outside and I can tell a difference. And I know people say this, and I know for folks who might not really do a morning routine, or you’ve started out with it being elaborate or you have expectations that has to be really long and all these things, you hear people say, it makes such a difference and that you roll your eyes and go on with your day. I was that person, too. But I tell you what, I can tell a difference. I can tell a difference in how I am on the inside as I move into the day, if I don’t start my day that way. Does that mean everyone? Your day is trash and irredeemable if you don’t?No, of course not, like that’s not a thing, but it really, it feels like you’re starting with, I was about to try to use a poker analogy and I don’t know how to play, but something where you start with chips and like you’re in the black, you know what I’m saying? Fix it for me, Tsh, you’re better at analogy than I am.
Tsh: I don’t know poker either though, but I know what you’re meaning to me it’s about, ATM, making deposits and then making withdrawals throughout the day, energy wise. To me, it’s an energy thing. Maybe that’s because of just who I am, but I like that you’ve actually made this point because you are an extrovert or at least you’re more extroverted than me and yet you still need that alone time.
Kendra: Totally. Yeah. What do they call it when it’s both? I think it’s an ambivert. I think I’m an ambivert. It’s sort of like being alone reminds me of who I am. It’s hard for me to remember who I am when I’m with people, because you can get distracted by who you think you’re supposed to be in the room and that takes its own amount of energy to tell yourself the truth in social situations. That can get really deep. We can stop there. Being alone, especially to start the day, okay, I’m gonna remember who I am, what’s important for today. You can think big picture, but just like for today, like what is important today? What matters today? Name that thing, rest in that thing. And then as people get up, I’m more ready, energetically, like you said, it just feels like life makes a little bit more sense.
Tsh: Yup. Yeah. I like that. One thing that I do in my morning routine that I used to do in my evening routine, was from our mutual friend, Emily, you know those line of day journals? I was having the hardest time keeping up with mine because I would do it at night and by night I’m toast. And I would be like, whatever happened today, I don’t know. I don’t care what happened today. She basically just told me all she does is does she does hers in the morning about the day before. She just pretends and I was like, oh right. That has become a really good thing in my morning routine because it forces me, not forces in a bad way, but it just causes me to reflect back on what was the day before like, and I’m also much more positive about it because that was an okay day. Like we woke up and we have another day. That was kind of a cool thing that I did. And it’s because it’s like five lines long, it’s zero pressure. I think I’m gonna say more than I do every time because there’s not enough room.
Kendra: I have the same journal and when quarantine started, I’ve kept it up for over a year. And when quarantine started, I stopped. I have several months now just empty lines. It’s that thing where you stop and you’re like, do we even pick up, but then that what that does, no, of course you pick it up again because it, that doesn’t discount everything that you did before, but it was the exact same thing, Tsh is, I was just too tired at night and I would forget. So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to put my journal, my line journal on my porch swing.
Tsh: There you go.
Kendra: Just let it sit there because it’s protected from the elements and do it in the morning. You’ve just changed my life. Thanks so much.
Tsh: You’re so welcome. That’s exactly what happened to me. In fact, at first I was like, quarantine is the best time to do. I started off gung ho. I even assigned it to my students and I gave them like interesting prompts and I did it too. Then after a while you just realize, more of the same, I don’t know what I think about anything. I used to think, gosh, I have to start all over and I have to wait until next January 1st. No, I just pick it up. And my future self will know when I look back. Oh yeah. That was a weird time where my brain was mush and that’s okay. Rabbit trail there, since we’re talking about routines and since we brought up evening, do you have a similar thought about the evening routine? I mean, I know we weren’t gonna go there, but I don’t know. Is that an exit ramp as well?
Kendra: It can be, yes. It depends on what the next day is. I tend to pull out my, I’ve gotten back into bullet journaling and so I will look back at the journal for the day and just think about what’s coming tomorrow. I might jot down a few things for the next day. Generally what keeps me from sleeping is just all the stuff rolling around in my head. It is helpful to look back at what I wrote down today and think about tomorrow and write it down. But I also tend to take a long time or longer than in the morning, doing my face, like washing my face with my stuff that I love. It smells good. I’ve tried to kind of carve out time for that. Then I have a book, I’ve got a book by my bed and so it’s pretty simple. It’s nothing that no one really tends to do, but it’s not that I would usually do. I would like fall into bed and sometimes forget to brush my teeth or I’m like, oh, I don’t care. I’ll wash my face in the morning. Everything just felt sort of mechanical like it wasn’t serving any purpose outside of my soul. And when I realized that doing things like taking time to smell something good and wash my face and take care of myself and then sit in a bed and read a book before I’m exhausted makes a difference. I wonder too, as I’m saying that if just the act one thing that I have done for a while now is just trying to get in the bed before I’m tired.
Tsh: That’s good. Yeah. It’s funny how we tend to be these like toddlers when we get over tired and cranky and sleep worse and take longer. And it’s so dumb and I’m sitting there thinking the whole time, just go to bed, just like what I would do with my kids when they were little.
Kendra: It’s crazy. Is it just because, I’ve wondered this for so long about myself and I know that this is true of other people, is it just that we feel like we’re going to miss something? Do we not get stuff done during the day that we wanted to do? Did we not get to decompress? What is so hard for me in telling myself, Kendra, you can go to bed at 9:45. That’s probably good for you instead of 11:30. I feel like there’s something, I’m assigning some kind of magic to like 9:45 to 11:45 that doesn’t exist other than making me cranky the next day. I don’t know what that’s about, Tsh.
Tsh: I’m wondering if, especially with kids that are younger, I know your kids are getting bigger, fast, but you know what I mean? It’s just trying to grab that kid free time.
Kendra: Yeah. I think that’s what it is. My boys go to bed at 8:45. I don’t start my alone time until 8:45.
Tsh: Right. My kids, I often now go to bed before Tate. That’s just the reality I’m in. I love being in bed, but it doesn’t, it just means something different now because I’ll hear my teenager, just clunking around the house and I yelling at her go to bed anyway.
Kendra: That’s crazy, man.
Tsh: I know, I know. But at the same time, I just do my routine and she doesn’t need me at all. So that’s kind of nice so I can do my thing.
I think to tie it in with your book that comes out this week, your book to me, it fits this podcast perfectly because it’s about lots of little things you can do to make your life better. This is one of them that you talk about right, in your book, from what I remember?
Kendra: Routines. Yes. It’s a book of 13 principles that you can put together like a life Swiss army knife. Just take whatever tools you need for whatever situation you’re in. Some are super practical. Some are a little bit more soulful, but one of them is to build the right routines for whatever it is. There’s a whole chapter about it.
Tsh: Cool. And you’re very good at that kind of stuff.
Kendra: Thank you.
Tsh: I think people who listened to this would really like both your book and the podcast, the same name. Thank you, my friend.
Kendra: It was fun to chat.
A big thanks to Kendra for chatting with me about the idea (or really, habit) that’s on her Good List right now, and an even bigger thanks to her for writing her new book — it’s called The Lazy Genius Way, and it’s fantastic, it really is. It’s all about embracing what matters, ditching what doesn’t, and getting stuff done by using her 13 “lazy genius” principles. I know it kinda sounds formulaic when I say it like that, but it’s very much the opposite of that, because it all starts with the foundational idea of knowing what matters to you and not apologizing for it. If you’ve followed my work for any length of time, you know I’m all about that. Kendra’s principles give us a framework for thinking through how we do all the little parts of our life, like x, in small bits of energy. Like her 2nd principle is all about starting small, and her 12th principle is about scheduling in rest. All really good stuff, and it’s a great way to kick off the fall. So check out Kendra Adacchi’s book via the link in the show notes of this episode, #38, or at thelazygeniuscollective.com/book.
I’ll be back next week with regular Good List episodes, so get your earbuds warmed up! That sounds kinda gross, but you get the idea. As a reminder, I’m on twitter @tsh and every now and then on IG @tshoxenreider, but if you’d really like to interact with me and stay in the know with what’s on my mind, your best bet is my free weekly email called 5 Quick Things. This is where I devote most of my energy to communicating with you, and I love doing it. I send it out most every Friday morning, and it can almost always be read in under a minute, pinky-swear. So to get it, go to fivequickthings.email, and sign up for free. I promise, no dumb, fluffy freebie for signing up — just simple connection with me.
Thanks again to Kendra Adachi for sharing with us what’s currently on her Good List. Music for the show is by Kevin MacLeod, and thanks, as always, to Caroline TeSelle and Kyle Oxenreider for their help, as well as my furry intern, Ginny. I’m Tsh Oxenreider, and I’ll be back with you soon — thanks for listening to The Good List.