I don’t know about you, but I am an absolute sucker
for those kinds of articles that detail
the daily habits and the morning routines
of famous authors and other well-known people.
I was reading one recently, and I noticed there was
this disparity between the morning routines
and the time at which a lot of authors get to work.
For instance, the author Haruki Murakami
who wrote IQ84 and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,
among other books, liked to wake up
at 4:00 AM in the morning and write
for five or six hours before doing anything else
when he was in novel writing mode.
This is pretty similar to what Ernest Hemingway did as well.
On the other hand, you’ve got authors like Margaret Atwood,
who still woke up pretty early in the morning,
but tended to procrastinate and liked to
get into her writing later in the day.
What that says to me is you can be a successful author
or really have success in any field
without adhering to a specific daily schedule
or pattern of doing things.
It’s in that context that I want to answer a question
that I got on Twitter a couple of weeks ago.
“Do you have any advice for somebody”
“who plans out everything the night before”
“but then loses all motivation the next morning?”
First and foremost, I want to give props
to this person for planning out their day
the night before.
I think that is an excellent habit to get into.
It’s what I do in my daily schedule.
I think it creates a nice separation
between your planning mode and your doing mode.
At least in my case, when I wake up,
it makes me feel a little bit
beholden to my past self and that helps me
actually do what I planned to do.
With that being said, though, let’s get into
some solutions for this problem.
The first idea I have for you today
goes back to that disparity between
the different daily schedules of famous authors.
If your current daily schedule isn’t working for you,
try changing it up.
You see, I think there are two different kinds of people,
and hence there are two solutions
for how to structure your day.
On one hand, you have people who do
their best work first thing in the morning.
These are the people like Hemingway and Murikami.
People who just basically roll out of bed
and get straight to work on the hardest task of the day.
If you think you’re that kind of a person,
or maybe you don’t know and you want to do an experiment,
try putting the most difficult task
on your daily plan first, and then tackle that
right when you wake up in the morning.
If at first glance you don’t really know
what your most challenging task is,
take a look at your daily plan and ask yourself,
which of these tasks do I have
the most resistance to starting.
As the author Steven Pressfield put it
in his excellent book The War of Art,
“Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil,”
“Resistance will unfailinglypoint to true north,”
“meaning that calling or action it most wants”
“to stop us from doing.”
“We can use this.”
“We can use this as a compass.”
“We can navigate by Resistance,”
“letting it guide us to that calling or action”
“that we must follow before all others.”
Now, while trying this strategy out
might help you be more motivated in the morning,
it also might not.
That’s why I think it’s important
to experiment a bit to see which category
of people you fall into.
Because there is a second category of people,
and I think that I fall into the second category.
These are the kind of people who need to build up
a bit of productive momentum before
they get into the most challenging work of the day.
Now maybe you’re wondering what “productive momentum” means.
To explain this, I want to tell you a story
about a piece of advice a friend gave me
a few years ago.
He told me that when I’m procrastinating
on starting a big, challenging task,
I should go do the dishes.
The reason for that is that dishes are a chore,
they are work, but they’re what he called
low level work.
Doing the dishes is not a cognitively demanding task,
which means there’s not a whole lot
of mental resistance to starting them.
But once you get into the flow of doing them,
or really any other kind of chore or low level task,
you start to build up some productive momentum.
You get your brain into work mode.
That momentum can carry you into
that more challenging task that you were
procrastinating on earlier.
So if you’re not the kind of person
who can start doing your most challenging work
first thing in the morning,
I think you should try to integrate that process
of building productive momentum
right into your daily schedule,
and you do that by building a morning routine.
Now we’ll definitely talk more about
morning routines in the future,
and I’ll be sharing mine with you in detail.
But to get you started, if you don’t
have a morning routine right now,
sit down with a piece of paper and create a list
of three to five habits that you’ll do
when you wake up first thing in the morning.
These things can be easy.
But the key is that they start to build up
some of that productive momentum,
and get you ready for the day.
They can be things like meditating,
cooking breakfast, going for a walk or going to the gym.
Really anything that gets you in a productive mindset.
Now whether you’re that kind of person
who can roll out of bed and start working right away,
or you’re the kind of person who needs a morning routine,
I do have a couple more ideas that you can try out as well.
First off, if you don’t tend to get all the things
in your daily plan done each and every day,
try putting fewer things on that plan in the first place.
It’s a concept that’s talked about in books like
Getting Results the Agile Way,
and The Productivity Project,
called the Rule of Three.
This concept advises boiling your daily task list
down to the three most important items
that must be done, and nothing else.
Now, I don’t think there’s anything particularly
special about the number three,
but I do like this concept because it’s focused
on helping you narrow that gap
between what you plan to do and what you execute on.
Because if you’re constantly maintaining this gap,
you’re waking up every day,
and you have this subconscious expectation
that you’re not going to get done what you planned.
That can only kill your motivation.
On the flip side, if you eliminate that gap
and you consistently do what you set out to do,
you’re going to wake up with a lot more drive to do it
because there’s that confidence there.
The last idea I want to talk about here
might be the most important.
It’s the difference between push motivation
and pull motivation.
There’s this quote from Tony Robbins
that I really like that goes,
“There are two different kinds of motivation:”
“Push requires willpower, and willpower never lasts.”
“What will last is pull, having something so exciting,”
“so attractive, so you desire so much”
“that you have a hard time going to sleep at night.”
“You get up so early in the morning”
“and you take it to the next level.”
I wanted to include this quote because,
At least on an ideal level, I absolutely agree with it.
I think that it does play a large part
in why people like Murikami and Hemingway
got up and worked so hard first thing in the morning.
They had this overbearing idea
just pulling at them and making them
want to do nothing else.
But I also think that that was their personality,
and that there are other authors out there,
other people in different fields,
who work in different ways.
I’m also a bit of a realistic person,
because I know you might be in school,
or you might be in a job right now,
or you might be in that part of your journey
where you’re kind of just having to embrace the grind
and there’s not a whole lot of passion in what you do,
but it’s still a necessary part of the process.
If you do happen to be in that situation
where you just don’t have something
pulling at every fiber of your being
and making you want to work 25 hours a day,
you don’t have to wait for that thing to show up
to gain motivation to work in the morning.
I think you can gain some of the benefits
of that idea by simply building something smaller
that does pull you in maybe a weaker
but still significant way into your morning routine.
In addition to those habits that help you
build that productive momentum,
I think you should also have something
that you truly look forward to doing
when you wake up in the morning.
It can be really small.
For me, one of my favorite things to do in the morning
is to just go outside for a short walk
and listen to a podcast or an audiobook.
That might sound mundane to some people,
but it did make me look forward to starting my day
and that raises my overall motivation level
to get into my work.
Now, when it comes to waking up more motivated,
these ideas are certainly not the only things you can do,
but I do think you’ll find them beneficial
if you try implementing them into your daily schedule.
If you’ve got additional ideas,
I would love to hear from you down in the comments below.
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