Tag Archives: writing

A reading/writing ritual

I love to read books.  And yet I’m often distracted by the siren song of my iPad and its candy-coated delivery of snarky sports websites and boring email.

And I love to write.  And yet I’m often paralyzed by my ability to develop an idea fully or what others may think of it, so it just festers like a half-eaten croissant in a dumpster.

If I want to do these things more, I need to habituate myself.  I’ve been getting up early in the morning to exercise–when the house is quiet and distractions are few- so I’ve got a roadmap on how to successfully add another habit.  For me, the hardest part is not the habit itself–I’ve got plenty of willpower–it’s the decision to create the habit.

I had set aside some time in my morning routine for reading and writing before, but I was finding that the amorphous and large amount of time I set aside for it made it harder for me to stick to it. I’ve learned from my own experience and others that it makes sense to start with small goals.

So, my goal for January is simple:  write and read for just 9 minutes a day each.  I’ll add a minute a month so that by the end of the year, I’ll be up to 20 minutes a day of writing and 20 minutes of reading.  That doesn’t sound like much, but that’ll be over 85 hours each of reading and writing in a year.  That would be like taking a month off of work to just read and write.

You may wonder where this desire to devote this much time to reading and writing came from.  I’m a big consumer of other people’s talents (TV, sports, books, websites, good food).  High-speed internet access, digital cable, iPads, and Amazon have made it easier than ever to consume these items.  And this ease obscures the thousands of hours of hard work and practice that goes into making something of quality, whether that is a page-turner book, an exciting football game, or a grits souffle umami bomb (RIP, Magnolia Grill). It is only by consuming quality books mindfully and then finding my own voice by writing will I truly appreciate the work of those creators.

Follow along as I track my progress and let me know what you think.

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Adventures at 5 am: An Exercise/Writing Routine

I dubbed my previous attempt at focusing on reading, writing, and exercise as the “me hour.”  I woke at 6 am–an hour before anyone else in the house–in order to give myself uninterrupted reading, writing, and exercise time. And after some fits and starts, I can say that I have honored that hour almost every weekday this year.

But it’s turned out a little differently than I imagined. Because of our family’s commitment to get at least 10,000 steps a day, I’ve found I use the me hour exclusively for exercise. With a desk job, I won’t get anywhere near 10,000 steps unless I make a concerted effort to exercise.  Certainly not a bad thing (I’m averaging over 11,000 steps), but its not giving me the writing and thinking time that I’d like to devote to this blog and other projects.

So, what did I do? Expand the me hour to 2 hours starting at 5 am. I exercise from 5-6 am and then think/write from 6-7 am.

With a few drawbacks, I’m finding this new schedule helpful to start out my day on the right foot. First, the benefits:

  • It gets me out of bed. I tried to write prior to exercising, but I found that it was too easy for me to reach for the snooze button. Because I’ve already trained myself to get up and exercise, doing that first ensures I get out of bed.

  • I get writing ideas. As I start my exercise, my mind starts to unravel from the sleepiness. Ideas start swirling around in my head. If I focus on a problem, I’ve now convinced myself that I’ll figure out an answer–though not necessarily the best one–for it by the time I finish my walk.

  • It forces me to prioritize better. Getting up at 5 am forces me to be in bed by 10 pm at the latest. That means I don’t allow myself to be distracted (too much) by late-night, low-value internet wanderings.

  • I see unexpected things. This week, I saw some large white rodent of some sort scurry across the outside steps as I was tying my shoes. Yesterday, I saw a raccoon dart up a tree and ran into a friend that I don’t make nearly enough time for.  Beyond the unexpected, the quietness of that time a day is priceless.

  • I don’t feel rushed. With only one hour, I often found myself rushing back to start the day. Now, with two hours, I can exercise and still have time to do some push ups or a 7-minute workout.   And since I hate taking a shower while I’m still sweating from a run, this schedule allows me to cool down and shower before the kids wake up and things get hectic.

There are some drawbacks though:

  • Impact on others. My wife does not like the 5 am alarm. I often wake up before the alarm but not always. And in the rare case one of the kids needs something that early, I’m not available to help.

  • Meeting my energy needs. I haven’t yet figured out the right balance of food, water, and coffee during this two hour stretch to maximize my productivity and comfort.

  • The pull to stay up late. Whether its a work project or some must-see sports event on TV, having the discipline to be in bed by 10 is challenging.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Paul Dryden for inspiring me to take some of the same discipline I’ve honed for exercise and apply it to thinking and writing. Both Paul and I are constantly on the lookout for how productive creative people learn and practice their craft. What do you do?

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The Me Hour

I remember meeting someone a couple years ago who had a great tradition with his wife. They got up early every morning, made a pot of coffee, and sat together watching the sunrise.  I don’t know what they discussed, if anything, but that investment in yourself or your relationship can’t be a bad thing.

The switch back to standard time is a good time to start a new tradition: the me hour.  Get up on weekdays at 6 am and do something that is healthy: workout, write, think, or meditate.

I’ve always enjoyed the mornings, before anyone else is awake.  I find the world peaceful at this time of day and enjoy watching the day come alive, with the sun rising and the birds beginning to sing.

With work and household obligations keeping me up late and the same obligations often getting me up early, investing the needed time in myself gets more and more difficult with every passing day.  And the only way to ensure that I actually get it done is to get up earlier than everyone else.

A few ground rules ensure that I’m spending time on my priorities and not other people’s priorities for me::

  • No email
  • No Internet
  • No Twitter
  • No work

How do you ensure you get your me time?

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