Something that stood out in Daily Rituals is how many of its creatives had a strong tendency toward using certain hours of the day. For myself, I can focus up until about lunchtime, and then any deep work goes out the window. So if I fritter away my mornings on meetings or messages or margaritas, I know won’t get any of my big creative task (programming, writing, whatever) done that day.
The book’s stories obviously aren’t representative of the population at large, since it selected for folks who had, well, daily habits. But it shows that some notable people do have that tendency, and if you happen to be one of them (like me) you can probably benefit by putting it to use.
The change for me was as simple as protecting my mornings. No interaction or interruption of any kind until after lunch. Email unchecked, phone still on airplane mode from the night before. For the brief periods when I had an office, I wouldn’t go in until lunchtime. On days when I couldn’t protect my mornings (like while traveling for conferences), I just accepted that those were non-creative days and didn’t expect to get any real work done.
There’s a cost, of course. Sometimes people get grumpy that my “first thing” is about 2pm (more like 3 or 4 really, since I obviously deserve a beer and a nap after doing my real work for the day). And I’ve experienced a rather high number of frosty morning stand-offs with ex-girlfriends who didn’t understand why I wanted to be left alone for the first couple hours of the day. But if the work matters…
We’re spoilt for choice while we’re in good health and can pick from a full day’s menu of hours. Once our health goes–temporarily or permanently–the preciousness of a good hour’s worth of attention and energy becomes a bit too clear.
Mornings work for me. If Cal Newport is right with his thesis in Deep Work, then the first step in creating anything big is to carve out a safe chunk of uninterruptable time for it. Then again, some folk do it differently:
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