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Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” Mark Twain
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« "Secrets of Productive People" now available for pre-order | Main | What my new book "Secrets of Productive People" will be about »
Wednesday
Feb112015

Daily Rituals

There’s an interesting interview on the Evernote blog with Mason Curry, author of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.

I particulary liked his description of Maya Angelou renting a “tiny, mean” hotel or motel room in order to do her writing, and surrounding herself with a dictionary, a Bible, a deck of cards, and a bottle of Sherry.

Back in the far-off days before computers that’s probably exactly what I’d have surrounded myself with, except I’d have had a bottle of whisky rather than sherry.

Reader Comments (6)

Endless cups of coffee would by my choice. I read somewhere about a guy who used to chain himself to his desk to force himself to work. A while back I had an idea for beating resistance: either do the task I was resisting, or sit doing absolutely nothing, with absolutely no distractions, for as long as I was in discretionary time. I reckon that boredom and panic would set in, and doing the task would become more attractive - in fact maybe having to STAND doing absolutely nothing would work even better.
February 12, 2015 at 17:43 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret1
I liked this quote:

<< Because so many of us get lost in the noise and constant cascade of information hurtled at us from every direction, do you have advice for modern workers who want to be successful? >>

<< My advice is to figure out at what time of day you do your best work. For me, it’s early in the morning; for others, it may be late at night or in the middle of the afternoon. And then do whatever you can to arrange your schedule in order to carve out some focused working hours at that time every day (including weekends, if at all possible). This doesn’t have to be a huge block of time—many successful writers, for instance, only actually write for a couple hours a day. The key is doing it at the same time every day; there’s something magical about that repetition. >>

When I've managed to do something like that for any extended period of time, it's always been really fruitful. I can still picture those quite working sessions early in the morning before anyone else arrived at work, the sense of freedom and focus, and the breakthroughs I made during those sessions. Trying to re-establish that routine in the midst of the daily chaos is a big challenge.

BTW, I have the book on Kindle, and it's really inspiring to read.
February 13, 2015 at 4:41 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Seraphim:

Although I agree with you that the early morning is an excellent time to establish a major continuing project, I don't think that a routine like that necessarily has to be tied to a specific time. Of the four books I've written, none have been done that way, though I have used the early morning very effectively for physical exercise, such as walking.

My own experience has been that if I consistently work a time management system (any time management system) it will eventually lead me into establishing a certain routine, or perhaps it would be better to say a rhythm of work.

That is one very good reason for not constantly changing time management systems!
February 13, 2015 at 9:24 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
The only "ritual" that continues to produce fruit is a muse. Someone who can do the things I can't, but shares an interest in the project and/or end goal. The laughter alone is worth engaging in the work.

For example, without my buddy Gabe, there's no way I'd be working on my 7th comic... book deal or not: http://www.learningtocommit.com

Same thing with Slaves on Dope: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slaves_on_Dope

I could go on and on
February 15, 2015 at 15:33 | Registered Commenteravrum
And here is a culinary version on the secrets of productive chefs:

http://www.americastestkitchenfeed.com/curious-shortcuts/2011/09/5-kitchen-tools-that-moonlight-as-other-things/

or the more familiar intellectual mise en place

https://hbr.org/2014/06/how-to-spend-the-first-10-minutes-of-your-day/
February 16, 2015 at 23:08 | Unregistered Commentermichael
Interesting post - and he definitely has a point about there not being one right way. As long as you can come up with a routine that works for you and you can stick to it, you're on the right track.

Re: Margaret, it would be endless cups of tea for me!
February 27, 2015 at 12:15 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

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