“I’ve always loved the mornings. My mum’s the same – when I go to visit her in Ireland, it’s not unusual to find us chatting over a cuppa in the kitchen at 4am.” Freelance journalist Alix O’Neill talks mornings, and expecting her first baby…
Alix O’Neill, 34, is a journalist and writer. She contributes to The Telegraph, The Sunday Times, The Times, Evening Standard, Spectator Life, Marie Claire, Red and Grazia. She’s a regular guest commentator on Sky News and has appeared on Good Morning Britain and LBC Radio. She’s also a mentor for Women in Journalism the charity, The Student View. She lives in Lambeth with her husband, Dexter. They’re expecting their first baby in a few weeks.
What time are you up in the morning?
Usually 5am, although sometimes earlier if I’m on a deadline.
And what time have you usually gone to bed?
9-9.30pm, but only because my husband moans at me to stay up with him! When he’s away on business, I’ll happily crawl into bed with an episode of Suits at 8pm.
What’s the minimum amount of sleep you need each night?
I can survive on four to five hours when I have to, but ideally, around seven hours.
What wakes you up in the morning?
I wake up naturally early, but I imagine once the baby gets here, they’ll be calling all the shots!
How do you feel?
Alert and excited to get a head start on the day. My husband hates my perkiness first-thing – our body clocks are completely out of sync.
Would you describe yourself as a ‘morning person’?
Definitely. I’ve always loved the mornings. My mum’s the same – when I go to visit her in Ireland, it’s not unusual to find us chatting over a cuppa in the kitchen at 4am. I love that each morning is a blank slate and you don’t know what the day is going to bring.
What do you first do upon waking?
I’m really bad at drinking water, so have been trying to have a glass as soon as I get up, but more often than not it’s coffee and checking my emails and Twitter feed.
Do you incorporate exercise into your morning routine?
I try to, though it depends on what I have on work-wise. When I’m being good, I’ll alternate a 20-minute walk with some light yoga and meditation.
Tea, coffee, juice, other…?
A double espresso, with half a teaspoon of sugar if I haven’t slept well the previous night.
Do you eat breakfast, and if yes – what do you eat?
Always – it’s my favourite meal of the day. I’ll typically go for porridge with dates, berries and chia seeds, and a bit of honey. Sometimes, I’ll make a loaf of banana bread and lather that with butter and peanut butter. I don’t understand people who say they can’t eat in the mornings. I’m always starving when I wake up.
How long do you spend getting ready?
It depends. Mostly, I work from home, so it’s just a 10-minute shower and change – I won’t bother with hair or make up. But if I’ve a meeting, I take around 45 minutes.
How do you choose what to wear each day?
I throw on some leggings and a big, cosy jumper if I’m at my desk all day. If I’m heading out, my work wardrobe tends to be jeans, a white shirt, navy blazer and knee-high boots, with a slick of red lipstick and a statement necklace or earrings.
Do you work at home, or outside of the home?
Mainly at home, though it’s nice to mix it up sometimes and work from one of my local coffee shops. Being around other freelancers gives me a creative boost.
How might the rest of your morning pan out?
I’m at my most energetic and creative in the mornings, so if I’ve writing to do, I’ll always get stuck into that first thing, then maybe some story pitching to editors. At around 11am, I’ll have a coffee or jasmine tea, and some dark chocolate – and maybe try to squeeze in some errands like picking up the dry cleaning. I’ve a short attention span, so can only work in short bursts. I leave the afternoons free for emails and meetings.
What do your weekend mornings look like?
I try to lie in (for me, this means 7-8am) then I’ll watch a bit of TV or read until my husband gets up. He makes an amazing bacon and avocado sandwich every Saturday, which we’ll tuck into while watching catching up on The Graham Norton Show. Then it’s lifemin and laundry, and planning our afternoon.
If you could design your dream morning routine, what would it be/include?
I’d love a yoga teacher to come round and for someone to bring me a cappuccino, pancakes and the Sunday papers in bed. Though, I’m told this will all change when the baby arrives – a dream morning is managing to get a two-minute shower and a hot cup of tea!
Follow Alix O’Neill on Twitter: @alixoneill