Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?

Laura Mae Martin: I put my feet on the floor! Then, I walk over to my coffee machine (it’s upstairs!) to press the start button and meditate while it’s brewing. 

TG: What gives you energy?

LM: Being with my kids, being in nature, reading, and being at the beach.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?

LM: Whenever I have returns, I leave them in my car. That way, if I’m driving around and pass the return location I can easily drop them off. I also only have one type and color of sock so I don’t match socks or lose socks because it’s just one big pile.

TG: Name a book that changed your life. 

LM: Defending Jacob by William Landay. The ending is crazy! It was one of my first thriller novels and I love them now because of it. 

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?

LM: Most definitely not! It has its own bed (the charging stand in my bathroom) and it’s own bedtime (at least an hour before my bedtime.) I also have a lot of customization on what apps I can access when and what I receive notifications for. 

TG: How do you deal with email?

LM: I treat it like laundry. I empty the dryer every morning (inbox zero) and put it into “baskets” based on what action it needs next. Then, I block time to handle each of those baskets every day (Read, Review, Respond)

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?

LM: I go to my Daily Plan and look at my “snack sized to-dos”, a list of actions I’ve already identified that are 15 minutes or less that I can do when I get unexpected moments in my day.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?

LM: In the midst of writing this book, I had a baby and he came much earlier than expected! It was a lot. I had to really take my own advice and ask myself, what are my top priorities right now, and what can I do to whittle down my responsibilities and commitments to make sure I have time and energy for the right things?

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.

LM: “Everything works out in the end, and if it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end.” 

TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?

LM: I make a plan. I revisit my Main List and take a look at absolutely everything I have to do. Then, I start to get realistic about what I can do based on my schedule. Then I usually take a little break before diving in. Sometimes the separating of the planning and the doing helps you to feel more organized them mixing them together. Finally, I play a game with myself where I pretend that I absolutely HAVE to find 5 things to say no to (commitments, plans, etc) and the fake “pressure” helps me make the hard decisions. 

TG: What advice would you give your younger self about reducing stress?

LM: I would say not to wait until you’re at the point of burnout or exhaustion to make changes. The moment you’re feeling overwhelmed, start to make moves to improve your well-being. If you operate at what you think is 80% of your capacity in time and commitments, you actually end up being closer to 100% so never shoot for 100% or it will end up being too much. 

TG: What’s your personal warning sign that you’re depleted?

LM: When my sleep starts to suffer, it’s a surefire sign! And only gets worse from there. I can tell if I have a hard time falling or staying asleep that I’ve been pushing myself too much and need to build in more downtime. 

TG: What’s a surprising way you practice mindfulness?

LM: I am a daily meditator but I think the smaller mindfulness practices throughout the day are just as impactful. I never let go of a hug with my kids until they do first. I always savor the first sip of coffee in the morning and the last moment of a hot shower. And when I read, eat, or watch a movie I leave my phone in another area so I can stay fully present.

TG: How do you reframe negative thinking?

LM: So many dishes to clean → How wonderful that my family had enough to eat tonight and a safe and warm place to eat it

I have so much work → I’m lucky to love what I do and it just keeps coming, I know it will all get done eventually.

Toys all over the floor → My kids had a wonderful and fun day playing here today, just being kids. 

I am constantly reframing these for myself and the more you do it, the more habitual it becomes to think this way. 

TG: What brings you optimism?

LM: Seeing the kindness of people to one another on a daily basis. 

TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve your sleep. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how you sustain this habit?

LM: Certainly sleeping with my phone outside my room. I had been sleeping with it next to me, mostly because I used it as an alarm clock and also to do a few things on it before I went to bed. But I realized you need to treat your phone like you would your inlaws or any guest staying in your home – with reasonable boundaries. You would not invite your in-laws into your bed first thing in the morning, or hang out with them in your bed in the evening until the moment you fell asleep. There needs to be clear cut things you do and don’t do to preserve the relationship. Same goes with your phone. I got a real sunrise-mimicking alarm clock and put my phone plugged in my bathroom so I can hear it ringing in the middle of the night if there was an emergency. The one small shift of sleeping with my phone away from my bed has caused me to read more, sleep better and wake up more refreshed and intentional. The change happened almost immediately and the benefits were so good I sustain the habit (plus my husband keeps me accountable!)

TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve your focus. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how you sustain this habit?

LM: Improving focus takes time, and intention. With the mental load we all carry, it can feel like your floating around in the clouds sometimes – hard to really see. I started meditating about 6 years ago after reading a book by Deepak Chopra about how much the practice can benefit you. At first I started with 1 minute a day because it’s the only thing I could really commit to. But usually I ended up sitting for a few more minutes. Then I saw how it made me feel calmer and more focused even just doing 5 or so minutes so I signed up for a challenge which was 15 minutes a day. After 15 minutes a day for 30 days, I was absolutely hooked. The clouds were still there, but I had risen above them. I saw them from a different angle. I would surprised myself with how tuned-in I was in meetings, how present and calm I felt throughout the day, how I seemed to squeeze more detail out of each moment. I’ve never turned back.

TG: What was the biggest turning point in your life?

LM: It sounds cliche but meeting my husband. On the second date I had what can only be described as an out of body experience and instantly knew I was going to marry him (PS I barely knew him at the time). It was the weirdest thing and hard to explain. But then, on the third date he turned to me and said, “I know this is weird but I kind of think we’re going to get married”. My life took a turn from there and now we’re 3 kids and 8 years later 🙂

TG: What’s your secret time-saver in the morning?

LM: Don’t touch your phone for the first 30 minutes of your morning routine. You won’t believe how efficient and present you are even drinking a cup of coffee or taking a shower if you haven’t switched your brain from sleepy mode to active phone mode first. 

TG: What’s your evening routine that helps you unwind and go to sleep?

LM: I put my phone to bed around 8:30 then I love to drink a hot drink of some kind like decaf coffee, hot chocolate, golden milk or just lemon water. Sometimes I watch a show (if it’s not No Tech Tuesday!) or play a board game with my husband. After that I go upstairs to bed and read for about 30 minutes before falling asleep. Nothing relaxes me more than curling up with a good book!

Purchase Laura Mae Martin’s UPTIME: A Practical Guide to Personal Wellbeing and Productivity, April 2, 2024; HarperCollins.