Sunday, June 26, 2011

Early Morning Key to Productive Writing Routine

Early morning holds for me the same ambivalence I experience on a pleasantly mild winter day, or those days when humidity and temperature combine to transform trees with a delicate filigree of hoar frost.

Just as it is still winter no matter how aesthetically pleasing, early morning is still some time before I want to be awake. The only difference - and this is the dilemma - some part of me realizes that if only early rising was a regular part of my day somehow I might manage to get more done, to overcome some of the chronic aspects of my disorganized life.

Ironically, I'm writing this now at 7:02 am, having woken up at 6 am, enjoyed a big mug of yesterday's coffee warmed up. It's bright outside, having just passed the summer equinox, and I look forward to accomplishing more today than in many of the days which have gone before.

The people who write about organization often expound on the benefits of having a morning routine - a set of starting blocks so one can sprint into the day ahead, maintaining momentum through to evening. I get the point, really I do. But it's something else again to create the routine, and then to follow it.

As Len Babauta, founder of the wonderful blog zenhabits writes in a post introducing his new book Zen To Done (ZDT): The Ultimate Simple Productivity System, "It's about the habits and the doing, not the system or the tools."
The trap I fall into, especially when frustrated by an inability to get moving with productive activity, is to focus on the tools. As a result I've spent countless hours looking at different time management systems, and obsessing over planners, notebooks, and all kinds of information and time management software.
Ever since my first computer back in the late 80s, I've been intrigued with the use of outliner software for organizing. I regularly follow where outliners and other software approaches to information management are discussed regularly. About five yearsago  one of the members came up with an acronym to describe those of us always trying new kinds of such software.

In a May 10, 2006 post Steve Zeoli makes the definitive statement on this "condition."
CRIMP stands for a make-believe malady called compulsive-reactive information management purchasing. Symptoms include:
- never being satisfied with your current system of information management
- continuously being on the look-out for something newer and better
- purchasing every new PIM program you learn about
- and secretly hoping you won’t find the perfect PIM, because then you’d have to stop looking for a better one
So, when someone speaks of succumbing to his or her CRIMP, it means acknowledging that they’ve purchased another PIM program even though they really don’t think they need it.
There must be a 12-step program for over-coming CRIMP, but who really wants to? It’s too much fun.
Almost 10 years ago I learned about David Allen's approach to productivity, Getting Things Done, described in a book of the same name, and known as GTD for short. You can find information on Allen's website, and if you want to join one of the web's largest groups dedicated to GTD you can do so here. Wikipedia offers a good introductory article to GTD here.

Another irony - I was so taken by the practicality of Allen's GTD, which emphasizes the need to do a mind dump - getting everything on paper - so you're not anxious about missing deadlines or leaving work undone, organizing by contexts (that is, the places where different activities are done), and always identifying next actions, that I began the GTD group mentioned above.

Now with 7,000 members, including many dynamic and successful people who generously share their experiences and for whom I have great respect, I'm still left with many of the problems with which I began.

My organizational issues are becoming more focused as I realize the extent to which I am defining myself as a writer because of this blog, and a couple of other writing projects.

The obvious confronts me more and more: You ain't writer if you don't write. And productive writers write something everyday. Many writers say writing should be done at the beginning of one's day.

And that's where the reflection on getting up early, and having a routine which quickly moves into the top of day writing comes into play.

What's important should be done first may not be a bad principle.

Coffee, meditate, exercise, write, shower = a daily blog post and/or 1,000 words in the book I've been perpetually writing on my chaplaincy experiences, and how I came to be a psychotherapist.

Coffee, meditate, exercise, write shower - up at 6 am every day.

And by 10 am, the whole day lies ahead for reading, research, more exercise, meeting people.

As for dealing with winter, I hold fast to a dream, made more dominant by the rebirth of Hawaii 50 in the current television season, to spending some time once the snow falls in a place where summer is perpetual. My being resonates to heat and sun and sweat in ways I ought not to ignore.

The reality intertwined with this dream is that maybe, just maybe, by learning to get up early so that I become more productive, this wish for winter could materialize.

PS It is now 8:45, and I'm off to a pleasant and relaxing breakfast knowing I have already done the most important task of the day.

1 comment:

  1. There's something to be said for getting your writing done early in the morning.On the days when I feel the need to write, not getting it done early leads me to stress over it all day.