Published in Jan-Feb 2022
I have no shame in admitting that I hit the snooze button at least three times every morning before finally getting out of bed. The struggle is real even after three years of hosting a TV morning show that goes live at 9 a.m. sharp.
My first alarm is set for 5: 30 a.m. and I am usually out of bed by six (ah, those precious 10-minute snooze hits!). I like the first 30 to 45 minutes of my morning to be quiet so that I can take in the silence and gather my energy and thoughts. Next, I head to make a quick but hearty breakfast, which usually consists of eggs in some form and big mugs of chai for my mum and myself. We do a quick review of the day – the errands she would like me to run (read daant and angry reminders about stuff I have been delaying) and my schedule and movements as the day is usually packed with meetings in different parts of the city which I keep mum posted about. The household is already buzzing as the house help, my personal makeup artist and my driver arrive within short intervals of each other.
Now comes a series of quick critical decisions. What to wear, how to accessorise, do I have shoes to match the outfit and so on – all made easier thanks to inputs from my makeup artist. I am not a fan of long, complicated TV makeup sessions, so we keep it quick and basic. By this time, I am already doing the math, calculating drive time, the shortest route, to-do lists and simultaneously asking the house help to put all my ‘stuff’ in the car. Every morning, my car looks as if I am leaving for a road trip. Gym bag, extra TV clothes (for additional shoots), office meeting clothes (cannot be TV clothes), different footwear, makeup bag, snack bag, water bottle and sanitising kit are all loaded in the car (in case I am flying out, this includes a carry-on bag too). Forgetting any of these would mean making a detour home to pick up the missing item and any ‘Karachi hustler’ will tell you this is not a good idea, as it means an hour lost to the road or even more.
It usually takes 15 to 20 minutes to drive to the studio and I use the time to centre myself. I check with my production team on WhatsApp for the line-up details (in case anything has been added or changed since the previous night). With my morning playlist blaring in my pods, I check online for news updates, making mental and digital notes.
As soon as I walk into the studio, all the team members are activated like dominoes. It’s almost clockwork now… I mic up, sound-check, the camera zooms for a solo head-shot of myself as we white balance the other camera. I review my makeup with last-minute touch-ups and we tweak the aperture for the right balance of light and shadow. My talk-back is already lit as the production team gives me technical updates (the connection quality of the guests, are the reporters connected via Zoom and other studios). Meanwhile, my assistant hurriedly narrates content segment details. The ‘On-Air’ sign lights up… countdown… title music… and action!
The next two hours race by. On a good day, 80% goes according to plan and 20% is always intelligent improvisation. It is a real adrenaline high, which promotes quick thinking in the moment. Post-show, we review the two hours, course correct for any hiccoughs and start planning for the next day. Brainstorming, locking in ideas and racing to coordinate the execution is a daily drill. There are so many moving parts to count, but the team has really gelled together to perform under pressure. Yet, this neck-breaking speed and gazillion micro and nano decisions are enormously taxing on a daily basis. By Friday, the team is ready to shout “Hallelujah! Thank God it’s Friday.” We disconnect from each other until Sunday morning in order to stay human and begin the new week with recharged batteries.
Once the next day’s show is sorted, midday is my most productive time. This is when the rubber hits the road. These hours are packed with meetings, speaking assignments, consulting projects, independent shoots and domestic travels. These days, I prefer matinee flights to Lahore and Islamabad, as they allow me to manage my time better. In this crazy life, I bless my driver and my mum who respectively provide timely reminders regarding refuelling both the car and myself. I maintain a complex and intricate system of colour-coded task lists and calendar alarms to keep me on track and on top of all my projects. I am told this can be quite dizzying to a ‘non-hustler.’
By early evening, it’s time to make a deliberate attempt to get back into my body. I love all that I do, but it does require me to spend so much time in my head, which, in the long run, is a recipe for disaster. So every day I find time for physical movement and for cultivating joy. I train with my personal trainer, Fatima Zara Malik, three to four times a week. She keeps it fun and mixes it up to make each session different. I make time for friends and activities that bring me joy. At the top of this list is spending time with family (read: my favourite human beings – my niece and nephews). If they are staying over, expect me to cancel appointments and huddle with them for a Marvel movie night, interspersed with making chocolate pancakes at ungodly hours. Their smiles and hugs are what truly fill my heart.
On a normal day, I am usually in bed by 10:30 p.m.; a quick recap of the day runs through my mind before I fall asleep. Every night I am grateful for the wonderful experiences and opportunities the day has brought. I look back with wonder, as every day brings countless big and small miracles that I didn’t see coming. I am grateful and excited about the journey so far. Let’s see what tomorrow brings. n
Sidra Iqbal is a TV personality, journalist and infopreneur.