I don't really think I'm one much for a morning routine. Sure I get up roughly the same time most mornings (depressingly around 6:35 - but we set the clock 15 minutes fast (6:50) so it is less of a shock to the system... ask @HollyPoulter), the day doesn't get started until the first cup of coffee and sometimes the second, and most mornings are kickstarted by something to get the creative juices flowing.
For me it's podcasts. I studied radio production, ran a podcast production outfit and worked on a few shows for stations, and still find the spoken word the best way of sparking new thoughts. Whether its something deep and complex, or heartfelt and warming or just plain fun - the shows that course through my earbuds in the morning are what set my mind alight with new concoctions, ideas and projects for the day ahead. (See below for some podcast recommendations).
The problem with this form of early morning mental stimulation is the activities that I snared by through the average working day from the moment my coat comes off in the office. Namely - email.
Now I know several of you share my sentiment about email being the number one productivity killer of modern times, I truly believe it does more damage that Twitter, Facebook & Pinterest combined! But maybe this is only because of the bad habits we have developed with it. For most people, the first thing they do when they sit at their desks (or for those of us cursed with the CrackBerry - when we wake up) is checking email. This may seem logical - but the problem is email is full of inputs - actions that once acknowledged begin to create a backlog of unresolved loops* that our brain begins to want to process. Thus dashing any of the creative musings that were getting going in our heads when we first awake.
One of the sideaffects of working in companies, firms and businesses is that we are inherantly required to disregard the natural physical, emotional and mental cues that our mind, body and spirits give us to do what comes naturally. Now of course this is somewhat necessary convention - as otherwise it is likely that we would never get anything accomplished, but I dare you to follow me in this small change to the way we start our days.
Use the start of the day to be creative. Not productive.
Creative. Not productive.
By learning to do what comes to use naturally first - by starting the day not with a to-do list but with the act of putting fingers to keyboards, pen to paper or lips to words we may just find we spend a lot less time trying to be creative, and a lot more time actually creating the things we so long to see come to fruition.
So start today with what comes naturally - embrace it, feel it, let it mold you - and maybe, just maybe - leave the email till 10:30.
- This American Life from NPR
- Snap Judgement from NPR
- The Relevant Podcast from Relevant Magazine
- RadioLab from WBEZ Chicago
- Freakonomics Podcast from Freakonomics
- The Moth Podcast
*See David Allen's fantastic "Getting Things Done" for more on loops