I’m big on habits and optimizing my life, mainly because I’m always stretched for hours between multiple projects and my never-ending creative needs, and I’m always looking out for new tools and thoughts on how to streamline my life.
Lately, I’ve come upon a new habit that has made my life a lot more enjoyable and easier; I can’t believe how much it baffles my friends when I tell them what it’s all about. Now, I can’t generalize and say this applies to everyone. Actually, it definitely doesn’t. I can’t say that it applies to you, dear reader, but since it is my blog, I can try to give as much bad advise as I feel like.
What I’ve come upon is something simple, it’s something I wish I’d began a decade ago and not a year ago, and it’s something poisonous to the nerd and geek communities: it’s waking up at 5.30 in the morning.
Knowledge workers generally tend to wake up flexibly, pointing out that their creative juices can only perform at specific times, saying that their best work only comes late at night, and that there’s no way they can even think straight in the morning. And while I don’t doubt that people have specific golden times during their day specifically set aside for the part of their brain that does writing, coding, or art, I also think that with certain mindfulness we can control or adjust it. Even if there really is only one magic hour late at night during which people are most creative, all that special time goes to waste if you’re too tired to do anything with it.
The whole point of waking up at 5.30 is not just to shift your day couple of hours earlier and do things like you would normally, but to change things around so that you can enjoy your spare time with your energy full, instead of tired and wasted.
For example, in my case, I’ve always lived the routine of waking up as late as possible, eating as quick a breakfast as possible, rushing to work, working for nine hours (+travel), have dinner, and finally sit down to relax. Tired from over ten hours of intense concentration and a meal digesting, I sure as hell never felt creative in the evening. Maybe after a few hours of resting there’s a spark of a thought in my head again, and I rise to the occasion to write or draw, only to find that it’s time to go to bed or risk sleep deprivation. A vicious cycle of feeling like crap for never finishing any creative projects, coupled with desperate lack of sleep made serious personal work only possible during the weekend.
For years I struggled with writing RFR and Daughters one hour a night, every night restarting with a buzzed out head, fighting with any decisions that required more than 1+1 calculations. Coffee and tea helped – a little – but all that lost time during the evening procrastination was ugly and painful.
Last year we switched things around and started waking up at 6.30 am (we go to the office at 9.30-10.00 am), and gained three hours of time for a nice solid breakfast, personal creative works and exercise, before spending the brain juice on professional game making. We still scheduled an hour of PC time between dinner and pre-sleep reading, but that was nothing but a gateway to procrastinating again.
Now, since we’ve managed to move the clock even further down, making the waking up happen at 5.30, gaining us a solid four and half hours of uninterrupted and well rested personal time, during which we can freely concentrate on daunting creative tasks like coming up with new universes and writing that requires concentration. This means that after work I really only have time for groceries, food, and an hour or so of reading, before succumbing to sleep at 10 pm.
I want to reiterate that I have not just magically gained more hours every day, just shifted the ones that got wasted in the evening to morning when I’m still rested.
At first, I was worried how this would affect my professional work, but it didn’t. I don’t feel any more or less tired form when I did before by the end of the day, and I think my mood has only improved – hence generating only better work. My body really only shuts down after dinner, which is why I pretty much just stay in bed with a book after food, willingly surrendering to my bodies will to sleep.
I am curious to see how far this can be adjusted, and I hope to try 4.30 am at some point, because as I mentioned, I’m a big fan of life hacking and finding the best patterns for my creativity. I’m worried about going to sleep at 9 pm though.
I realize this really doesn’t work for anyone with a social life or a partner with a different schedule, but if you’re a creative hermit like me, working together day and night with your best friend and lover, then I strongly urge you to give a good look at what you’re really spending all those hours on, and are there any steps you can actively take to make your every day happier.
What’s the harm in trying?