I’ve had people ask me about my morning routine, (okay, one person, hi Gill!), so I thought I’d blog about it. Like most blogs about anything, you have to wade through the story before you can get to the stuff you really want to read. If we didn’t tell story, blogs would just be bullet point lists of the good stuff and what fun would that be? So…
As many of you know, I’ve had one good cancer scare and two actual cancer events and there’s nothing like facing your own immortality to crystallize what’s really important in your life. Of course, being a slow learner, it took me several tries. There’s nothing unique about my priorities and goals–humans, at their core, mostly want the same things: love, connection, a feeling of self-worth, financial autonomy, etc. Two things vital to me are making a positive impact in the world and creativity. Being an activist is as natural to me as breathing, (I actually have news footage of me in the eighties protesting trapping in Prineville, Oregon carrying my three week old son), but creativity is something I’ve had to work at. Writing is my chosen outlet, though I’ve become quite a good cook, as well. But being somewhat greedy about life, having one or two creative outlets aren’t enough for me. I yearn for creativity in every aspect of my being. I want my own personal brand of creativity to be reflected in my home, my relationships and my jobs. I want to live my whole life with a think outside the box mentality. It came down to a single question, “How can I approach my life in a way that not only infuses my writing with creativity but permeates through the rest of my existence?”
So I’m on a multi-year exploration of what creativity is, the brain science behind it and how to get more of it. As some of you know, when I was teaching up at PCC for their community education program, I offered creativity classes. In my after-school program, I use brain science to approach things like empathy, social skills, and pretty much every subject. At my job as a transition specialist, brain science and creativity helped me develop assessments to help students learn about themselves and plan for the future. I LOVE this stuff. Though I have a TON to say on this topic, I’ll leave it for later and share the routine I use to promote a think outside the box, problem solving, creativity infused outlook on life. As I put together my morning routine, I tried to incorporate scientifically backed activities… I’m not much into expending energy with actions that do nothing but take up my precious time.
Also, before anyone freaks out about how early I get up and feel like they could never do that… I go to bed about 8:30. After dinner, I’m done, finished, wiped out. There’s nothing creative about that time period because I have nothing left. In the morning, though… that’s when I’m at my most productive and creative. Plus, I’m at work by 6:30 am, so in order to have my morning time, I get up in the wee hours. I get an average of seven plus hours of sleep because it’s difficult to be creative when exhausted.
I actually have two routines… one for when I get my 30 minute walk in before work and the other when I walk at lunch with a friend.
Walk at Work Routine
4:00- 4:15 Wake up, start coffee, meditate. There is a strong connection between meditation and creativity and I think it has to do with how meditation helps control anxiety, though there may be a deeper connection. I actually wrote on this topic for Writer’s Digest.
4:15-4:35 Journal/free write/coffee. This is how I check in with myself. I jot down my goals because it’s a powerful reminder of your overarching priorities. Then I journal my thoughts on how I’m doing on reaching those goals. Sometimes I do a timed free write ala Natalie Goldberg style.
4:35-4:50 Mobility exercises. This is a routine that I got from the book, Younger Next Year, the only fitness book recommended to me by a health care professional… my endocrinologist told me it was fantastic and recommended it. The exercises can be used as a warm up or as a standalone routine to keep all your moving parts moving.
4:50-5:20 Eat breakfast and go over the plans for the day. I use the Best Self Journal for this. I don’t use a regular paper planner anymore because electronic is just so much more convenient, but the journal has a place a to do list, a gratitude component and a place to write your main goals for the day. I believe in the power of gratitude and in most studies on happy people, gratitude comes up again and again. I think it’s important to get really specific about what I’m grateful for instead of remaining general. For instance, instead of writing, I’m grateful for my home, I write, I’m so grateful for the new kitchen we put in after Born of Illusion sold. It makes me happy just being in it. Being specific evokes more powerful emotions of gratitude and the point is to really feel it. In time left over, I read a book on the writing craft, self-improvement, history or current events. I also use this time for resistance, which is why you’ll often see my activism posts during that time.
5:20-6:00 Shower, pack lunch, take care of the dog, leave for work, blah blah blah.
Walk at Home Routine
My walk at home routine is similar except I get up early and cut some of the other things. In other words, I have less time for dawdling on walk at home days.
4:15-4:35 Mobility exercises
4:35-5:05 Walk on the treadmill.
5:05-5:25 Breakfast and planning
5:25-6:00 Get ready for work.
When I first started my routine, I felt anxious about being so scheduled so I really focused on flow-simply moving from one thing to another without obsessing about it. I focused on the activity instead of on the time. This is really freaking hard when you’re on the treadmill, so I listen to books during that time to distract myself from watching the clock.
The most important aspect of my morning routine is that the entire thing would fall apart if I haven’t already prepped for success. I make most of my breakfasts at the beginning of the week—they just take a few quick minutes in the microwave. You already know that most of my lunches are also premade. I’ve laid out my clothes, wrote my to do list and planned for my morning the night before. All of this prepping creates a morning routine that increases my chances for a positive and creative day and it’s those days that slowly build a creative life.
Success in almost anything lies in the planning for it and living creatively is no different.