I could say it’s the autumn colours, the brightening of the orange against a gentle blue sky. The quiet, the creaking of the house, the knowledge that somewhere in this city another writer is beavering away or a bus driver is travelling the solitary streets.
But a perfect writing sprint, or yoga session or any time spent with you and the universe is usually more of a cumulation of a series of inner conditions.
It’s a few isolated hours each day where peace and calm reign for as long as you can let it before the chaos of the outside world demands attention.
One-quarter of the day spent in this condition of bliss, or heightened productivity, whatever you call it, is better than nothing but it’s still a small slice of the day.
Are there things you can take from your perfect piece of the day to make the rest more harmonious? Ideal conditions are challenging to find and impossible to maintain but maybe aiming for a robust approach to the rest of the day could help to dampen anxieties.
What’s your favourite part of the day? Mine is early morning or late at night, but I can’t have both because I need a lot of sleep, so I opt for the mornings.
So, the focus of this blog is mornings, but whatever your prime time is these conditions could apply to you too.
There’s plenty of generic advice about what to do in the morning; drink water, don’t look at your smartphone, don’t go anywhere near social media etc. but what’s the driver for these rules? I get that the smartphone is a distraction, but why is it a distraction. What are the battlegrounds for my attention span?
Is it more than just the shiny lights?
Here are my observations about the perfect morning session and what the shutting off of the world is really about.
Hitting my writing first thing in the morning means that no matter what else happens during the day, I have maintained a small degree of control in directing life in the right direction. It’s probably harder to tell now that I’m also writing as a day job, but my writing projects and paid gigs have a different audience.
Control first thing means having command of my activity, my emotion and my energy — all critical elements of my time.
And knowing I’ve done this feeds gently into being able to handle trickier parts of the day.
The enablers for the control are forced on me by myself; I need my coffee pot clean and ready, so I’m not messing about in the kitchen, some days I need to set my productivity app, Rescue Time for two hours.
Creating the conditions for controlling these hours pays off, but as the time to start my day job come, I lose this control.
How can we get it back?
Each morning brings a new starting line, new possibilities, so much can unfold in a day — for better or worse, the first thing in the morning is all about hope for me.
The Modernist writers; James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield, loved the time structure of a single day. Their stories contained the rise and sometimes the fall of their characters and their worlds over 24 hours.
They understood the potential that existed within a single day. I like that. Things are more manageable under the guardianship of hope than despair.
Despair sends me to bed, puts on the television, and it must be avoided. How can I extend this feeling of hope throughout the entire day? Especially in the light of the news around us right now? There must be a way.
If external communications/inputs = despair, we’ve got to find a way to manage this.
During any peak flow, time becomes less visible. Suppose you’re lucky to be away from a laptop the glances over to the clock stop. If you are on the computer, you’ll still be less focused on the clock watching, or checking the remaining minutes on your rescue time app when you’re lost in a task.
Maybe it’s reading a book; it’s perhaps training; sometimes, the less you’re able to measure something, the more valuable it is finitely.
Like love, or hope
For many years in corporate spaces where the 9–5 structure dictates the day and face time over productivity or satisfaction reigns supreme. An afternoon of Google surfing, chatting in the tea room or any other time eating activity may help five o’clock come around sooner, but you also find yourself another year older and less learned.
My morning slot is more free-range. Why? Because there’s no timesheet, nobody is paying by the hour, and its measure of success is more qualitative than quantitative. Sure, I can count words, but the real value is a more harmonious entire day. I can register two hours of writing, but what does that mean outside the construct of time?
For my prime morning spot at least something more essential needs to be the central measurement.
Value, peace, happiness — the unmeasurable delights of life .
What are yours?
Responsibility for this time is mine. I waste it, and it’s on me, I triumph, and it’s all mine to enjoy and with this responsibility is a better experience.
Because there’s no judgement, there’s no waiting on other people’s approval or opinions, which, however, hardy and resilient you are always weigh on your mind in this interconnected world.
With accepting responsibility, albeit of these two hours of the day, every day brings a strong sense of empowerment. It’s another form of control; controlling your time and your headspace. It’s a positive thing.
So how do you bring these measurements of control, hope, qualitative measurement and responsibility into play?
Only you can tell, but it’s worth going through your optimum time and seeing what works and what doesn’t. What’s important to you, and what’s not?
I’m a natural introvert so my drivers will be different to those of an extrovert and we could carry on down the personality types but only you know what is working for you.
Control is a big one for me. I hate the thought of being a passenger in life, especially now I’m in my fourth decade. Maybe you’re younger and looking for a different set of conditions.
When you have your perfect conditions, flip them and ask yourself how you can extend them. My questions to myself are as follows, with answers.
1. How do I get a sense of control out of the rest of my day?
2. How do I keep the hope-despair ratio positive?
3. How do I ensure I’m judging my day beyond mere numbers or data?
4. How do I take responsibility for as much of my day as possible, if not all?
The process of getting four mornings into a day is dynamic and iterative and won’t happen all at once. It’s a process, and your questions and answers may be different.
But the first stage to any problem is identifying it, and maybe I’ll have to live with a lack of prime time usage in my day, but first I’m going to try other options.
I hope you’ve found this helpful. I’m on an endless quest to make the most of each day, and I know the magic that comes from the morning hours; it’s magic that comes from the inside. To know yourself better is to see the world better and don’t we all need that right now?
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