As the president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, Ed Catmull has a lot on his plate. He oversees one of the most lucrative animation studios in the world and has the responsibility of carrying on the legacy of none other than Steve Jobs.
In order to juggle all of this, Catmull has a strict morning routine. In "My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired" by Benjamin Spall and Michael Xander, Catmull describes his long-standing routine in detail. "I have been doing this for many many years," he says. "The only changes are that my schedule is busier now."
Here's exactly how one of the most powerful people in the movie business starts his day:
Like many other industry leaders, Catmull begins his day early — 5:45 a.m. to be exact. "I set the alarm for around 5:45 to 6:15 a.m.," he says. But the secret to the start of his morning routine is not the time, but the clock he uses to keep time.
"I use a progressive alarm that makes a soft sound at first, and then progressively gets louder. But I usually wake on the first sound, so it doesn't disturb my wife," he explains. "When I used a loud alarm clock, I was more likely to hit it on the head and go back to sleep."
Catmull's first beverage of the day is turbo-charged. "I wake up, go downstairs, and start making a cup of coffee. I use three shots of espresso, mix in three tablespoons of cocoa powder (not Dutch process), and two sweeteners," he says. "I've heard this helps you think better. I have no idea if this is true, but it tastes good."
"I drink the coffee while I first check email, then read the news: The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the San Francisco Chronicle," he says. "Then I check one of the news aggregators, which I didn't use to do, but the train wreck of public discourse nowadays is too hard to ignore."
Catmull's morning meal either includes a bowl of cereal or a smoothie. "My smoothie is typically some kind of plant protein powder (I am intolerant to milk protein) in almond milk, some frozen berries and a dollop of almond butter," he describes.
The most important part of his morning routine is his time spent meditating says Catmull. He spends 30 to 60 minutes practicing a form of Vipassana meditation in which he focuses on his breathing.
"I have received a great deal of benefit from the simple yet difficult practice of learning to stop the internal voice in my head," he says. "I learned that the voice isn't me and I don't need to keep rethinking events of the past nor overthink plans for the future. This skill has helped me both to focus and to pause before responding to unexpected events."
In truth, a clear mind is not always completely possible for the president of Pixar. "I will admit, however, that even though I am focusing on the breath, an idea will sometimes just pop up that's worth keeping," says Catmull. "If I hang onto it, it messes up my meditation. So I just jot it down and let it go."
"I exercise in the gym about three times a week," says Catmull. "I vary the workout every time but I'll always do some type of circuit work with weights. It gets my heart rate up without putting too much stress on my knees, which for some reason seem to be older than the rest of my body."
In order to minimize the impact on his knees, Catmull will typically run up one of the hills in his neighborhood of San Francisco and then walk back down. "I eagerly await the day when there is a replacement for the meniscus," he says.
Exercise, he admits, is the part of his schedule that is sometimes shortened because of his busy schedule, but says he can't avoid working out for too long. "If I don't exercise, I start to feel crummy, but I'm pretty good about holding myself to my schedule."
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