All successful people have routines. Some take it to extremes (Mark Zuckerberg wears the same outfit every day). What routine can you develop to supercharge your writing?
Can a routine make you creative? It’s an interesting question. You can’t trigger your muse whenever you want to write another chapter. It comes and goes as it pleases. Then, what is the word routine doing in the same headline with writing?
The fact is, implementing a productive routine into your lifestyle will make you a more successful writer. All successful people have routines. Some take it to extremes. Mark Zuckerberg wears the same outfit every day. His rationale? “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.” He didn’t turn his job into a routine. Instead, he formed a routine around other aspects of his life, so thinking about them doesn’t consume his creative energy.
You may not want to take it quite that far, but what’s a good routine, anyway? Is it about waking up at the same hour of the day, every single day? Is it about having the same type of coffee or doing the same session of exercises every morning? It may be. You’ll discover your own morning routine, which will make you a more productive writer.
That said, here’s a morning routine that works for most people. It’s flexible, so you can always adjust it to your own needs and schedule.
Step 1: Wake up!
The first step seems obvious, doesn’t it? However, it’s not as simple as it seems on the surface. You need to wake up only after you’ve gotten enough sleep. Hopefully, your job as a writer means you can be flexible. You can work during your productivity peaks, which might mean working all night. Of course, keeping late hours can easily lead to lack of sleep.
Here is some science for you to consider: there is such thing as sleep debt. If you’re not getting enough sleep, your body doesn’t get a chance to break down adenosine. The buildup of adenosine in your bloodstream makes you sleepy and unproductive, so you’ll have to repay that debt sooner or later.
The National Sleep Foundation published a useful Sleep Diary, which helps you determine how much sleep your body needs. Use it to figure out how healthy your sleep is. You’ll realize what habits affect your sleep, so you’ll be able to work on them. Whether it’s going to bed and waking up at the same hour, or changing the activities you do in the hours before you go to bed, make sure you’re giving your body and mind enough time to regenerate with sleep.
Haruki Murakami understands his own rhythm and developed a sleeping routine around it: “When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 pm.”
Step 2: Cleanse
Taking a shower in the morning energizes you, but there’s also a metaphor in the act itself: you’re washing out the stress. Your muscles relax with hot water, you increase blood flow, and a soap with citrus oils and other enhancers perks you up. If you can bring yourself to do it, a few seconds of cold water at the end of a hot shower has proven benefits, like making you more resilient to stress and speeding up muscle recovery.
You’ll feel fresh, clean, and ready for the next step.
Step 3: Meditate
Most people start meditating when they build up too much stress in their lives, but meditation works best when you use it as prevention against stress. Do you know when you can meditate most effectively? Right after you wake up.
Karen Meeks, a friend and writing tutor at BestDissertation.com, has been practicing meditation as a morning routine for over a year now. “I realized that when I meditate as soon as I wake up, my mind is almost blank and I can quickly get into meditative state,” she explains. “There’s no accumulated stress in it. I wake up, roll out the mat, do some stretching, and I meditate for at least 30 minutes. At that point, my mind is relaxed and open for positive affirmations: ‘Today will be a good day. I will write more and I’ll do it well.’ And it works!”
Step 4: Get your vitamins
When it comes to productive writing, Stephen King is an authority. Do you know he writes every day of the year, with no exceptions? He starts the day with a cup of tea or a glass of water, and a vitamin pill as well.
Following his example, here’s what you can do after your morning meditation routine: drink a glass of water to stay hydrated. As for the vitamins, a smoothie will do, too. Think of a different combination of fruits and vegetables each day, just to infuse some creativity into your routine. This will keep you energized for the working session.
Step 5: Make a plan for the day
Benjamin Franklin was the king of daily routines. He had a meticulous plan for the day, which kept his work and thoughts organized and productive. When you write down your plan for the day, you’ll feel obligated to meet those goals. Figure out a system that works for you, and write down the tasks for the day in the morning. This will make you mentally prepared to face the challenges of the day.
Let’s see how much of your time this morning routine will take:
- Shower: 10 minutes
- Stretching and meditation: 30-40 minutes
- Water and vitamins: 5 minutes… 10 if you’re making a smoothie
- Planning the day: 5 minutes
You’ll put around an hour of your day into the morning scheme, but you’ll get increased productivity levels in return. Try it just for a week and tell us: did you notice a difference?
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