What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
If you answered “check my phone” you’re not alone. Yes, you may use the washroom or kiss your spouse good morning, but what’s the first real step in your daily routine?
Whether it be a phone, iPad or laptop, the vast majority of people start their day looking at some type of screen, and it’s absolutely killing their creative potential. Here's why:
Break it down
If you break down your typical daily structure (i.e. hour-by-hour) what does it look like?
For example: up at 7am, start work at 9am, look busy for 8 hours, home by 6:30pm, watch Netflix, in bed by 11pm.
This is the typical daily structure for most people, and it’s pretty jam-packed, so where did people like Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos find the time to create and build multi-billion dollar business ideas?
The answer lies in the way they’ve structured their day. Here’s what I’m talking about:
So many of us live a purely reactive lifestyle. What does that mean? It means each of us is waking up, checking our email, and then instantly reacting to the “fires” that we think need to be put out right away.
Looking at your phone creates inputs with which your brain becomes instantly occupied, not allowing your mind the clarity or focus to deliver it’s potential.
Instead of giving your brain the time to be its own boss and think creatively about potential business ideas (or whatever else you’re working on), you’re immediately throwing it into the daily rat race of keeping up with your inbox and dealing with other people’s problems, resulting in hours of lost time and mental energy.
This is why the vast majority of people never maximize their creative potential or reach peak performance.
So many people never tap into their creative mind; it’s a true tragedy.
Perhaps you just aren’t aware it exists in such an amazing capacity - I know I wasn’t until I discovered what sets us 99%’ers apart from that illustrious 1%.
Here’s the key: in order to maximize your creative output (whether it be thinking of ways to make money online with a great side hustle, writing a song if you’re a musician, or writing a book if you’re an aspiring author), you need to structure your daily routine so that your peak energy periods align with your peak creativity periods.
What does this mean? This means instead of waking up and immediately letting your brain get bombarded by trivial emails and text messages, give it space and time to explore its creative freedom and be its own boss, even if it’s only for 5 minutes.
For me, this meant starting a morning journal where I literally write whatever comes to mind – simply letting my brain wander, that’s it!
You’ll be amazed at what starts to come out. You may start off mentioning the weather, or how you’re trying a new type of coffee, and before you know it your neurons are firing on all cylinders and pumping out amazing creative ideas you never thought possible!
Process over Content
The important thing to remember: it’s about the process, not the content.
There's endless psychological evidence that I won’t get into, but in short, simply writing whatever comes to mind, no matter how initially trivial or seemingly unimportant, opens up creative pathways in the mind that go from small streams of trickling water to raging rivers.
Since you haven’t yet let your brain get sidetracked with email or other external inputs, the mind is free to flow in whichever direction it pleases.
When are you most energized?
When we talk about aligning peak energy periods with peak creativity periods, for me, this means first thing in the morning or sometimes very late at night.
Think about when you feel most energized throughout the day and purposely schedule creative time during those periods. Even if it’s only 5 minutes in the middle of the afternoon, take a short break from your work and give your brain the chance to run wild.
For additional reading on this topic, I highly recommend "The Art of Learning" by Josh Waitzkin.
Josh walks through the various principles of learning and performance that lead him to win his first National Chess Championship at the age of nine and later winning a World Championship in martial arts. He has meticulously deconstructed the learning process to help anyone achieve peak performance.
How this has worked for me...
Since restructuring my daily routine I don’t look at my phone for the first 1-2 hours of my day.
When I wake up, the first thing I do is my morning journal. Sometimes it’s short, other times it amazes me the creative outputs I generate; things I had no idea I was capable of.
Since redesigning my daily architecture to allow for this undistracted moment first thing each day, I’m no longer living a purely reactive lifestyle, but rather a creative proactive lifestyle.
Instead of waking up and being distracted by all the noise, I’m now creating beautiful music of my own.
This also sets the tone for the day, allowing a solid creative dump thus freeing the mind to focus on daily work tasks; something which I’ve found has drastically increased my effectiveness and productivity at the office.
Since adopting this routine I now accomplish more between the hours of 8 am and 11 am than I would previously accomplished in an eight-hour workday.
What time of the day do you feel most energized? Let me know in the comments below.
Key takeaway: stop living a purely reactive lifestyle. Take back control and give yourself the opportunity to reach your full creative potential. Even if it’s only 5 minutes each morning you’ll be amazed at the creative power you discover.