If you are one of those annoying people who jump — not crawl, you actually JUMP — out of bed every single morning at some ungodly hour, full of vim and vigor and ready to rock out the day, right after you work out for an hour and make homemade pancakes for the kiddies and put on your crisply pressed suit and zip out the door looking like a freaking supermodel — if you are one of THOSE people?
Kindly leave my blog. You have no business here.
The rest of y’all? Blunder on over here and bring your coffee. I want to talk to you about … oh, wow, I don’t even know if I can bring myself to write it … about being productive in the morning.
So, it might sound a little funny for someone who claims to be lazy and who claims to live in pajamas and fuzzy slippers (and for the record, I DID disclose that I actually live in yoga pants, but since I also sometimes sleep in yoga pants, it still counts) to be talking about being productive in the mornings.
You might have this picture of me being one of those alarm-smashing people. The kind who stay up to three in the morning doing wild and fun stuff. The kind who crawls out of sleep reluctantly and really only gets going sometime around lunch.
You? Would be wrong.
Now, I’m not one of the peppy commercial mom people. (See: First paragraph.)
But I do manage to get a fair amount of crap done before a lot of you are even awake.
I did my time in the Three AM Brigade, mind you. That’s what happens when you’re an actor. (Also a bartender. Also a strip club waitress.)
And these days, I don’t think I could stay up past midnight if my life depended on it. Yes, it does make me feel really old, thanks ever so much for asking.
I get my eight hours (some less painful than others). And I get up at four AM. (Do the math.)
And then? I get stuff done. So I know whereof I speak. I got the crash course in getting stuff done in the morning, ’cause I could no longer keep the schedule I’d become accustomed to. ‘Cause of the whole chronic pain thing.
What I’ve learned, I now gladly pass on to you. Take what works, leave the rest.
1. Julia Cameron calls ’em “morning pages.” I call it “taking out the mental trash.”
Whatever you call it, it’s basically three or four pages of longhand writing, stream of consciousness style. Yes, on paper with pen and everything. I know, how analog. Whatever. It works. I do not pretend to know how it works, but I know it does.
When I do my pages, I feel lighter, freer, calmer, more confident. I feel like I’ve given the little panicky voice inside my head — the one that keeps freaking out because I’m not doing enough and not doing it fast enough — time to freak out for good.
I’m listening to it, which calms it down.
What comes out in my pages is truly trash. It’s all “OMG I gotta” and “whine-whine-whine.”
There’s no poetry there — well, precious little. I mean every now and again, I’ll stumble on to a turn of phrase or an elegant idea that gets me all tingly inside, and as a writer, I love those moments. But that’s not the job of the pages.
Try it. But give it a few weeks, if you’re going to try it at all. You might feel a little silly in the beginning, and it may take awhile to get into the flow of it.
2. Set out your necessary stuff the night before.
I love this one, ’cause it really worked for me.
I hadn’t worked on my novel in progress in a long, long time. I mean months. I wanted to. Every day, I had the intention of working on the novel but somehow, I just never got around to it.
So one night I got the bright idea to open up Scrivener, the software I use for my writing projects, and leave the novel project files open on the laptop overnight.
Then I got up in the morning, and after I downed the first cup of coffee and whined my way through my pages, I opened up the laptop and it woke up to … ta-da! My novel. Right there.
It worked because I HAD NO EXCUSE. So, I wrote.
Lay out your running shoes and your workout clothes, or your yoga mat, or your paints and brushes and easel, or whatever your version of my writing software might be. Do it the night before.
And see if you run out of excuses too.
3. Behold the beauty of the morning ritual.
This one, I’ve heard from Christine Kane and from Twyla Tharp (the choreographer). (I mean, in Twyla’s book, The Creative Habit, which I cannot recommend highly enough. It’s not like Twyla and I had lunch the other day, or whatever.) (Though how cool would that be…)
Create a little morning ritual for yourself. Something that gets you good and centered. Something that feels good. (Doing crappy exercises you hate does NOT COUNT.) Something that makes you feel good about yourself.
My “coffee + pages” equation is a ritual. Yours might be all Zen-spa with candles and yoga and meditation. Or maybe you are jazzed by that early morning run (I’m envious, actually).
Pick a ritual that’s meaningful for you. And use it as a trigger — which means that what you do next is really important – maybe more important than the ritual itself: get busy building your dream. Whatever it might be. Do something that gets you closer to it.
That’s how the ritual becomes the trigger. Like Pavlov’s dogs, you’ll start feeling the urge to get to work, as soon as that ritual is complete.
There you have it. My three best tricks to get you moving in the AM towards your dreams.
Instead of back to bed.
(But I wholeheartedly approve of smashing alarm clocks with hammers. They’re just evil.)