I’m a night owl. In college I was one of those people who normally started work around 11 PM. But today I get up at 5 a.m. to write, and it’s one of the most important things I do to stay productive and hit my deadlines.
There’s a quality to my concentration in the early hours that is unique: because I’m a little bleary the door to my subconscious is still a little ajar, I’m not tempted to self-distract with Facebook, and I have the house to myself. In those early, focused hours, ideas come easily that would take immense effort later in the day; I write at a pace and quality that is hard (but not impossible) to achieve at other times.
To support this, I’ve learned that it’s essential to set up EVERYTHING the night before. I program the coffee pot, set out a coffee mug, complete with an unhealthy amount of sugar. I put out clothes at the foot of my bed; when it’s cold (which happens even in California), I set out sandals right where my feet hit when I get out of bed.
I set up my working space the night before, too. I put whatever books and notebooks I’ll need on my desk. I close my email and browser so I won’t be tempted by them. I write a list of things to focus on the next morning on a post-it and stick it to the screen before putting the laptop to sleep. Finally, I open my “Morning Music” collection and queue up a playlist. I always listen to classical music in the early hours, and never by an ensemble larger than a quartet. (The simplicity of smaller arrangements works better for me in the early hours than orchestral music. It suits my effort to keep everything simple and minimalist.)
If I set it all up the night before, when the alarm goes off, I have fewer excuses to sleep in, and I don’t have to make any decisions when I get up. From the moment I get up to the moment I sit down at my desk, I don’t have to think about what I’m doing. The hardest things I have to do are reach, dress, pour, and stir. The more I can do those things on automatic, the easier it is to preserve that undisturbed, focused mental state that makes the early hours so productive. Setting up so I can glide through this routine lets my mind remain calm and focused, and helps me be more creative.
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang is the author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less (http://amzn.to/2sJ4bmZ), and founder of the Restful Company, a Silicon Valley consultancy. This piece is adapted from his new ebook, Rest in the World: My Morning Routine (http://amzn.to/2t82Rt8).
If you missed his previous guest post about how digital distraction is impacting your ability to rest, you can read it here! Or, to learn more about Alex and his work, visit his website at www.deliberate.rest.