The “daily routine” story, in which accomplished people reveal their typical workday schedules, is one of magazine journalism’s most delicious genres. Most interviewees describe days of relentless productivity that begin with 3:40 a.m. workouts, homemade cashew milk, and sentences like: “I usually wake up at 6:30am, and start with some Kundalini meditation and a 23-minute breath set—along with a copper cup of silver needle and calendula tea.”
These profiles leave the reader marveling at the subjects’ discipline, as well as at how different their idealized mornings are from those that take place in the reader’s own home, where everyone runs about as if trying to exit an escape room and there are no copper cups at all.
This is why The Cut’s “How I Get it Done” interview with journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner is so inspiring. Brodesser-Akner is a much-admired writer of funny, keenly observant celebrity profiles for the New York Times. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and, as she makes refreshingly clear, no morning routine to speak of.
“My husband usually takes the mornings and lets me sleep, but I wake up in the middle of it and just feel bad that I’m not a bigger part of it,” Brodesser-Akner says. “So, he has the whole routine set with taking care of our children, getting them out the door, and every day I have to make a crucial decision: Do I get ready while they’re getting ready, do I sit with them and hover over them and then get ready after they leave? And every day it’s a new adventure.”
Most “daily routine” profiles suggest that routine itself is a factor in the interviewee’s success, which is why they can be so dispiriting to read. In real life, it is very hard to pull off the reliable predictability one needs to have a routine in the first place: We oversleep, we wake up with sore throats or hangovers, we have schedules that make the very idea of a routine feel laughably unattainable. So it’s nice to hear from a person at the top of her game who has dispensed with the idea entirely.
“I always thought that the thing that made life easier is to not have any routines, since it hurts too much to veer from them,” Brodesser-Akner told the magazine. “Sometimes I wake up and I’m in London; sometimes I wake up and I have a 6 a.m. interview. So my only real morning routine is that I wake up, and I’m supposed to do physical therapy for my knees and I don’t.”