I was reading something…

I was reading something Jed linked to, about getting important things done by turning them into rituals. Which is not news to anyone who parents a small child, since the only shot you have at getting them to bed at a reasonable hour most nights is by giving them a regular bedtime ritual. Also, Ben Franklin has a great bit on this in his autobiography. He made a chart, and checked off things as he went, week by week, trying to install habits of diligence, chastity, modesty, etc. By the end of his sequence, he concluded that he'd made great progress on everything except modesty, and since he was doing so well at everything else, he didn't really need modesty. :-)

Okay, I got distracted by the Ben Franklin thing. My point is, I woke up this morning, checked e-mail and blogs, and then spent an hour cleaning the first floor. It's almost clean now -- I stopped only because it's past time for Anand to get up. But I kept thinking that this wasn't the way I wanted to start the day. I mean, it's great to start the day with a clean house -- it feels fresh and orderly and like everyone will enjoy themselves more in it. I'll be able to cook with ease (instead of having a clutter of stuff on the counter and dirty dishes in the sink). The kids will play better, because their toys will be neatly organized in stations, and they'll actually see them and be interested and engaged. That's all good. But I only have about an hour free most mornings before the kids get up, and I think it probably ought to go to either exercise or writing -- the two things I feel like I'm never doing enough of.

My office is set up now, finally. I have a clean desk, a chair, a soft rug from IKEA, and a lamp. I could wake up and just start writing. I think I probably should. I think even five minutes of checking e-mail is an interruption, a distraction. After all, the e-mail checking can happen after the kids wake up; I can do e-mail while watching them, and I can't write then. Similarly, while it's more pleasant and easier to clean while they're not around, cleaning certainly is something that can happen around them. Writing I just can't do while I'm on kid-duty. Exercise is a little less clear, because when the weather's nice, they'd be thrilled to go for long walks, and it's just my inertia that keeps me from taking them. So I can combine exercise and kid-watching if I want.

It'd help if Kev can do some straightening up / dishes at night -- he was doing that for a while at the condo, but we've lost that in the move. If it's not overwhelmingly messy in the morning, it'll be easier for everyone to face the day.

I'm mostly thinking out loud here. But my vacation is officially ending tomorrow, and along with starting teaching, I want to start writing regularly again. The house (and unpacking) isn't done, but it's in good enough order that house-finishing things are now a daily task or two, rather than all-encompassing. I think my conclusion to all this is that I need to make it easy to write first thing, and a priority. So a sequence on waking @ 5:30:

  • brush teeth, shower, dress
  • go downstairs and make tea, take meds
  • write for an hour
  • wake the kids @ 7:00
  • check e-mail while they have a half hour of tv and milk
  • get them dressed and fed
  • either take them to school and then prep for class (MWF) or (TTHSatSun) clean up while they play or take them for a walk
I wonder if I can turn that into a ritual. Of course, I've made such plans before, to no avail, but they've tended to be vaguer -- write first!. Maybe a concrete sequence will help?

Do you ritualize your morning? Any tips or suggestions? Frustrations and complaints also welcome. :-)

2 thoughts on “I was reading something…”

  1. Thanks for this interesting entry. My immediate reaction both to your proposed morning ritual and his is that “it depends”. Taking the exercise-first-thing example, I think that’s ideal in the summer when I want to run in the cool morning, but not so much in the winter when I want to be outside at lunchtime. So it helps to build a small menu of choices. Same thing with writing – I’m not sure if an hour is a big enough block of time, and you might want to have rituals for weekday/kids in school vs weekend/ kids sleep in vs weekday/ kids home for example. I don’t like the idea that habits are how we do everything, but they’re a learning tool, like learning to put one foot in front of the other walking before you can skip and jump and run.

  2. An hour of writing every morning can be life changing. Also, if you just write (and don’t try to edit), you can get 1,000 words or more in an hour. You could write an entire book that way.

    I’m in the process of figuring out this very issue. Can I get up earlier in order to write? Not sure yet.

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