“The early morning has gold in its mouth.”
I have always been fascinated by people who are very productive and have a set routine. This category includes MOST successful creatives. I know the main reason for that is, otherwise their free-form lives and all their wild ideas would spiral and nothing would get done. Without a plan, ideas remain just ideas. I wish that I’d learned to implement a routine earlier in life. One of the great blank spots in my education (and probably in many of ours) was the teaching of discipline. For example, most successful people wake up very early, but when you go to art school (especially in Manhattan like I did) it is almost expected that you be a night owl. It is never too late to take control and learn to do something like this though. Develop habits that really work for you. For me this involved researching many other people’s habits and rituals. A few of my favorite books on this are Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit” and “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work”. Sometimes it is really good to learn about how non-artists go about their days as well (for example, scientists are a lot like artists and have really fascinating habits!). These books gave me inspiration and real life examples. They let me see how, by having some discipline you can turn your life into something really incredible. When trying to solidify my own routine, I looked to what I had heard about the many CEO’s and people on the Fortune 500 list. They get up SO EARLY. I ended up reading the book “The Miracle Morning” and deciding that this would be the framework for my routine. I had already experimented with the early morning wake up and found value in it, but this added structure. It provided a plan for what to do upon waking up. Note: If you are resistant to this kind of thing I would just say that most of us resist trying new things that disrupt what we have been doing even when what we have been doing does not work for us. Like going to bed early and waking up early. There are so many real and comforting reasons NOT to do this. Some excuses may even be true, but I would encourage some real self examination when you want change but aren’t willing to make changes. Change comes from change. There is no way around that.
For me, my optimal wake up time is 6am. I get up, make coffee and then meditate for between 10-20 minutes (if you have never meditated or have trouble I recommend downloading the Headspace app). I then read for about 15 minutes from a book I’ve chosen to inspire me and spark new ideas. Non-fiction only first thing in the morning is best! I then either run three miles (enough to get my engine going and be healthy but not enough to exhaust me for the day and take up too much time) or I do yoga. Following this I shower and get ready, as though I was going into the office (though my office is my studio space at home). I work much better when I am “ready for the day” and it tells me that what I’m working on is real and serious business. I eat breakfast while reading the news and then get whatever needs to be done that day that I’ve been putting off out of the way. A real creative bummer is knowing you have something you are avoiding, so to paraphrase Mark Twain “eat the frog first”! For me this usually includes paying bills or writing emails but we all have those things we love to avoid.
After all of this (it is usually around 10am by this time depending on how large my frog was) I sit down and start work. My goal each day is to actively work on my art for four hours. This means four hours of “pen to paper” work. I break down these hours into segments (which I will discuss in another post) so that I can keep my mind fresh and my body moving. For example, if I’ve been sitting for two hours I might take a moment to have a snack or go outside and walk a mile. I try to be done with my work day around 4-5pm so that I can really appreciate what I’ve accomplished and perhaps even maintain my social life (another thing I’d like to address in a future post)!
No matter what routine you decide upon, it is about committing to yourself. Committing to envisioning your best self and then deciding what you will do to get there. The amazing (and funny sounding) thing is, you never will! The moment that we reach what we believe to be our goal, life unfurls this amazing burst of inspiration and sets even more goals out in front of you. This is so exciting! It basically means that if you think you’ll ever run out of ideas or reach your fullest potential, the universe is quietly chuckling behind your back. The universe wants you to get on a roll and keep on rolling. So try it. What are you waiting for? You have a lot to do!