Why You Should Wake Up Early

Why You Should Wake Up Early

Divisive post, I know, especially to a group of people that (probably) mostly consists of night-owls.  Here, I’ll post your reply for you: “Shut up, Dave, I work better at night.  Don’t tell me how to live my life!”

But I’m here to tell you that if you’re looking for an extra boost, that surge of productivity that’ll help you get more done than you ever have before, or if you’re finding that your motivation is at an all-time low and are looking for a way to get back on track, or (damn, this is a long list) if you just want to switch things up and feel like you’re seizing every single one of your days again… you should start to wake up earlier.  Set your alarm right now.  I dare you.

So let’s backtrack a little bit (for those of you with kids/families/other obligations please know that I understand you can’t change your entire day to fit your own personal schedule – just do the best you can).  Raise your hand if the skeleton of your day looks roughly like this:

  • Wake Up (6-7am)
  • Day Job
  • Gym/Happy Hour/Family Obligations/Pick Up Kids
  • Make Dinner
  • Try to Write
  • Maybe Watch TV
  • Bed (10-11pm)

Sure, make allowances in the list for special occasions like parties, going to the movies, seeing friends, taking trips/vacations.  Maybe you can switch up two or three of the above.  But I’ll wager that for most of us this is what our day looks like – and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Now also raise your hand if you find yourself tired, physically or mentally, by the time you get through your entire work day, after-work-activity, dinner, and then finally sit down to write (or work on whatever your passion project is).

The problem is that most of us don’t account for a few specific types of fatigue that we experience throughout the day: mental, motivational, and decision fatigue.  All three of these types of fatigue are very real, and they occur throughout the day as we exercise these parts of our brain: every time you use mental energy (likely at your job) you have less left in the tank; if you go to work or the gym gung-ho and throw yourself into your activities, you sap your motivation (though it can be replenished); and every decision you make, from choosing your clothes in the morning, to making bold work-related choices, can cause decision fatigue.  That’s why we often find it so hard to sit down and work when we finally have free time late at night. 

I mean, honestly, have you ever gotten yourself a cup of coffee early on a Saturday or Sunday morning (or perhaps on a day off from work), sat down at your workspace, and found that the words just pour out of you like a waterfall after a monsoon?  That’s no fluke.  It happens because you’re fresh, your mind primed, you’re ready to seize the day. 

I could wax poetic about the beauty of working in the morning – indeed, it’s easy to fall in love with golden sunrises, the hush of the city or suburbs before the world wakes up, the inescapable sense that you should be tiptoeing across the floor even if you live alone – but I think we all know where I’m going with this.  Go to sleep earlier, set your alarm, jump in the shower, (dare I say; grab a cup of coffee?) and start achieving the goals you set for yourself. 

Even for you night owls out there, try it once or twice, just to see what it feels like.  If it’s not for you, that’s fine.

To close out this post I wanted to share my favorite part about writing early in the morning: you feel like you’ve accomplished your goal before the day even starts.  Writing early will impact your entire day; it will lift your mood; it will let you focus on the other thousand-and-one tasks that compete for your attention.  And you’re now free to use the rest of the day as you see fit.  Want to write more?  Great.  Want to go out with friends?  Have a blast.  Want to go to Happy Hour?  Crush some beers (that’s what my friends and I call it, because we’re terrible people.  ‘Crushing beers’).  The rest of your day belongs to you.  No guilt.  No sense of leaving something unaccomplished.

So try it, please, even just a few times.  Set your alarm.  Wake up with purpose.

I won’t say it’s easy.  But it’s definitely worth it.

What about you?  Are you an early riser?  A night-owl?  When do you get your work done?  Let me know below!

Working On A Beautiful Spring Day

Working On A Beautiful Spring Day

It’s been cold in DC for the last few weeks.  Not just chilly, but bone-biting, wind-driving, snow-piling cold.  The bulk of people in the city have spent their time hiding indoors, layering like they live in the North Pole, and Ubering places they could easily have walked.  I Ubered 4 blocks the other day.  It was embarrassing.

Not anymore, though.  The sun came out this weekend, we hit the mid-60s, and people have been running around like it’s the middle of summer.  All anyone wants to do is join in the outdoor fun, but what if we have too much work to get done? (Yes I know that rhymed.  No I didn’t do it on purpose.  Yes it was still awesome.)

On days like this, when warm weather is still fresh and novel, it’s important to take advantage of what you can.  It’s important to get outside.  It’s important to breathe the fresh air.  It’s important recharge your batteries like one of Elon Musk’s solar panels.  The question is: How? Continue reading “Working On A Beautiful Spring Day”

15 Days to Done

15 Days to Done

What is it about a challenge that motivates us so much?  Why is the pull of a one-week challenge so alluring? 

There is something a little magical, and a little scary, about setting a short-term goal for yourself and driving towards it with all the power you can muster.  You see it in the fitness industry all the time, in commercial campaigns and incentive programs at large companies, and, yes, even in writing… ever heard of NaNoWriMo?

Maybe people have short attention spans, or maybe the promise of a reward that’s only two weeks away is just irresistible; either way, short challenges work.  Public ones work even better. Continue reading “15 Days to Done”

Words On A Plane

Words On A Plane

A couple weeks ago, after a work trip to Montreal, I was going to write a blog post about how much I love working on planes – they’re actually one of my favorite places to write.  I’d gotten through a couple of paragraph before I thought, “Hm, shouldn’t I wait to write this blog post until I’m actually on a plane again?” 

So here I am, flying home from Chicago after an extended weekend celebrating St. Paddy’s Day with a big group of friends (in Chicago they celebrate the weekend before, don’t ask me why), tired, excited to collapse into my own bed, more than a little hungover, but still happy to be on a plane.

There’s something about being thousands of feet above the clouds, separated from the rest of the world, but still able to look down and marvel at it (if the skies are clear), unbothered by your friends or family, kept company only by the sometimes annoying knee and elbow of the person next to you. 

I have a pair of Bose noise-cancelling bluetooth headphones that reduce the roar of the plane’s engines to a comforting hum, and I never, ever, connect to the plane’s Wifi.  No internet, no texting, nobody to bother you, arguably the greatest view on the planet – what else could a person want in a workspace?

So sit back, leave your anxiety about flying at home, and don’t rush to be the first person on the plane – it’s not worth the stress.  Bring your laptop or notebook, a pair of headphones, and your favorite book (for breaks).

And don’t forget to look out the window during takeoff and landing.

The Third Dimension Of Character

The Third Dimension Of Character

I’ve been working on my characters a lot lately.  You know, those people who walk around your stories and never end up doing what you want them to?  (And no, I don’t mean my character, though that could probably use some work too).

Characters are fun to work with.  It’s easy to think of them as real people, fun to make up their pasts, their triumphs, mistakes, flaws.  And there are lots of ways to build them out, whether you want to detail every aspect of their personality and see where they take the story, build out the story first then figure out what kind of character you need, or make them up as you go along.  You can be as weird or creative with them as you want.

I pretended (please don’t tell too many people about this) I was talking to one of my characters the other day, and wrote down the interview as if I was transcribing what she was saying to me in first person.  I asked her questions out loud.  Never, in my entire life, have I felt more like a lunatic.  I pray to god that nobody ever reads that full character sheet – her name is Alice, and her interview starts like this: Continue reading “The Third Dimension Of Character”