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Shifting (rituals) with the season

Daylight is in abundance now in the far northern reaches of Scotland. It’s light out really early now, and although I love the mornings regardless, it’s more pleasant than usual to wake up early. As a result I’ve started another seasonal shift in my morning routine, and even more that than that, a bigger thematic shift in the expectations I set for what I do when during my days.

“You make doing what matters most a priority when your willpower is its highest. In other words, you give it the time of day it deserves.” (Gary Keller, Jay Papasan, The ONE Thing)

I’m now running first thing in the morning rather than later (mostly), and am trying to pay more attention to letting my energy guide my routine rather than my willpower.

This routine pretty much sums up what works for me, with some minor deviations:

“So my new, simple, and regular life began. I got up before five a.m. and went to bed before ten p.m. People are at their best at different times of day, but I’m definitely a morning person. That’s when I can focus and finish up important work I have to do. Afterward I work out or do other errands that don’t take much concentration. At the end of the day I relax and don’t do any more work. I read, listen to music, take it easy, and try to go to bed early.” (Haruki Murakami and Philip Gabriel, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running)

I’m up at 5:45am and always start the day with something creative and meditative while I’m having coffee, these days that’s drawing (mostly) or writing (in my journal), and then sitting for a ten minute meditation. Now that’s its light out in the morning, I go for a run (which i can’t do in the winter as it’s not light out until after 8am). Being active first thing in the morning tends to make the next 4-5 hours after highly productive and creative.

I’ve noticed that the times when I tend to feel anxious, distracted, or like I want to be doing something other that what I am doing right now are are when I don’t follow this general flow of the day, and try to force things when they shouldn’t be forced.

A sample of blind self-portraits done during the early mornings

The afternoons are for being a professional and doing work on work days, or, on non-work days, going on long walks with my wife and kids, grinding out non-creative tasks and admin, catching a quick nap to recharge, and generally not doing anything that requires too much brain power decision making.

A favorite afternoon productivity tool, the forest.

The evenings, in general, are best left to spending time with my wife, reading, music, watching or playing something good, or catching up with friends.

I’ve noticed that the times when I tend to feel anxious, distracted, or like I want to be doing something other that what I am doing right now are are when I don’t follow this general flow of the day, and try to force things when they shouldn’t be forced. Rather than pushing myself, I’m grasping and trying too hard. There’s a big difference between being driven and overexerting, but despite that it’s hard to notice sometimes which side I’m on.

“Over the years I have established my own set of creative rituals. I noticed early on in my career that my best ideas come in the morning and evening and less so in the afternoon…” (James Whittaker, The 7 Stages of Creativity)

There are exceptions to all of these so-called ideal timings. I occasionally get energy and ideas at times I normally wouldn’t and can get a burst of good creative burst late in the afternoon or later at night, but these happen so rarely that they should be considered outliers. Also, all of this is predicated on the fact that I have two little kids and all of this routine and doing things when my “energy” is right holds no weight when my three year-old wants to play transformers or my seven year old wants to read a new book.

I’m still at the early stages of learning how to actually get done what I want to get done at any given point, and the fact that I expect I have some say in the matter most of the time might betray my naivety. I’m not currently in a position to have lots of discretion over my time, and when I do again (once the kids get bored with me), I’m guessing I’ll be crippled by a longing for the days when I couldn’t get them off of me.

For the time being though, it’s late and I need to get back to trying to pay attention to what I said I should be doing above.

(turns on music and closes laptop)

Illustration of a child with a helmut
Yes man!!!

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