Find a system that helps you get the work done, and then use it
People often ask what my writing schedule looks like. This is always a hard question to answer because I’m not much of a structure guy. But I see the value in establishing routines, especially in the morning.
This can be a challenge because routines are all about you and your personality. So they should vary from person to person.
I like what Seth Godin said when Brian Clark asked him how he wrote every day. Seth refused to answer, and then he said:
There is this feeling that if we ate the same breakfast cereal Stephen King ate, then we’d be able to write like Stephen King writes.
So true. Routines are important, but only if you make them your own. Simply copying someone else’s routine probably won’t work.
Why We Need Routines
Routines are not fun. They’re not creative or imaginative. And frankly, I hate doing them. But routines can do a lot of good if we can get into the regular discipline of practicing them.
Why is this? Because they help make room in our lives for other things. Having an established routine in the morning is a great way to start the day because it gets you going in the right direction. Plus, it allows you to focus on other things throughout the day.
In our busy lives, sometimes we need to do a few things by rote simply to ensure they get done. Otherwise, you spend the rest of the day playing catch-up.
This feeling of being left behind is stressful. A morning routine can bring you peace and give the rest of your day purpose.
This Is Not Law
The reality of routines is they’re usually so quirky and idiosyncratic that they really only work for the person practicing them.
And that’s the point: Find a system that helps you get the work done, and then use it.
What’s important is not what your routine looks like, but that you have one. Everyone is different, but creating your own process for starting the day is a helpful discipline.
So I thought it might be helpful to share my routine — not because it’s the only way to start a day, but rather because it may help you consider what yours could look like.
Every day doesn’t look exactly the same for me, but this is the routine I’ve been using and it seems to be working:
- Wake up. Usually, around 5 or 6 a.m. (whenever our son gets up). The first thing I do is make a bottle and feed the baby, letting my hard-working wife sleep in a little.
- Make breakfast. Usually eggs (I try to start the day with protein, not carbs). Start boiling water for French press coffee.
- Write something, anything. This can be a blog post, book chapter, article, or just some random notes to myself. For me, it’s not about what I write as much as it is important just to write. Usually, I wrote around 1,000 words; sometimes less, sometimes more. As I do this, I drink coffee and listen to music while my son plays.
- Check email. Reply to the most important items. Delete everything I don’t need from the previous day.
- Check in on social media. If I’ve written a post for the day, this is when I would share it.
- Finish coffee. At this point, it’s usually cold, because I forgot to drink it in my haste to begin writing.
- Read something. This may be a novel, the Bible, or one of many nonfiction books I am in the middle of. Whatever it is, it must be analog. I find holding a book activates a different part of my brain than reading on a screen. I also enjoy audiobooks but listen to those throughout the day.
- Go for a walk. I often use taking the dog for a walk as an excuse to get some exercise. I use this time to think, pray, and collect my thoughts for the day.
- Take a shower. Then, get dressed and get ready to begin the day.
- Drink a large glass of water (at least a liter). Then sit at my “desk” (i.e. the kitchen table, couch, or my actual desk) and start working.
Every day is unique and different, but that’s what my routine has looked like lately. As our son gets older, I’m sure this will change. But for now, this is what works.
Having a routine is not something that comes naturally to me, but it’s nonetheless important. I discipline myself to have this structure because it helps me be creative in other parts of my life.