Anna Palmer is the senior Washington correspondent for POLITICO and the co-author of POLITICO’s Playbook She’s also the co-host of the daily POLITICO morning podcast Playbook Audio Briefing (which she records at 4 a.m. every morning!) as well as host of the Women Rule podcast.
I couldn’t wait to talk to Anna about happiness, habits, and productivity.
Gretchen: What’s a simple habit or activity that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?
Anna: WATER. I challenge myself to drink 90 oz of water a day – I really believe it bleeds into making similar healthy choices and keeps me peppy despite my early mornings and late nights!
Gretchen: What’s something you know now about building healthy habits or happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
Anna: FOMO. I used to have a huge fear of missing out and that would mean I was going to all kinds of things on the off chance it would be something special and run myself ragged in doing so. I try to be much more deliberate and be present at the events I choose to attend.
Gretchen: Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?
Anna: Sleep. I always want more but it’s hard when we are all on the go. I got great advice a few years ago — and that was to be comfortable taking a nap. A good nap can change a person’s whole perspective.
Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)
Anna: Regular workouts are a must to keep me sane — it’s easy to blame my schedule for my energy levels, but I know that a session with my trainer Keith will always turn things around. He’s also refocused my energy from just doing cardio to really spending time with weights, squats and ab work. I love band workouts — we are focusing on walking lunges and eliminating sugar (except my wine, a lady needs one outlet!).
Gretchen: Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?
Anna: I used to love to stay up late. My hours made that impossible and I have found early to bed, early to rise is a much healthier, consistent way of living my life.
Gretchen: Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?
Anna: Definitely an Upholder. I like to know what the expectations are from others and myself and then not only meet, but exceed them.
Gretchen: Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits? (e.g. travel, parties)
Anna: I travel a lot for work and keep unconventional hours — waking up between 3:30 AM and 4 AM Monday through Friday to write Playbook and record the Playbook Audio Briefing. At the same time, I am really focused on keeping up my close relationship with my friends and family. That can be challenging when traveling to the West Coast and getting up at 1 a.m. to do my job.
Gretchen: Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?
Anna: I made a promise to myself in my early 30s that I would try to travel abroad at least twice a year. I hadn’t done much international travel at that time (mostly because I was working and a struggling journalist). It hit me that I needed to work hard, but also play hard — and I have traveled the world, explored new cultures and come back reinvigorated in my career.
Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) Or a quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful? Or a particular book that has stayed with you?
Anna: There is no substitute for excellence. My mom Joyce — or JMom as she calls herself — repeated that a lot to us as kids. And I have even heard her say it as an adult. Without that internal north star, I wouldn’t be writing my first book and still dragging myself to the treadmill in the mornings!