One's Own Time Zone, Revisited

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Before my holiday break from writing, I made a mental note to the effect that I would be revisiting various aspects of my routine upon my return. With that in the back of my mind, I found Joel Gascoigne's blog post on "Two Important and Often Overlooked Aspects of Creating a Lasting Morning Routine" interesting.

In order to be able to write, I shifted to sleeping on a 9:00 p.m to 3:00 a.m. schedule shortly after my daughter arrived a year and a half ago. (Did I mention that she turned eighteen months old on the day the Mayans predicted the world  would end? I enjoyed jokingly apologizing to people for "all the confusion" that day.) I have had little trouble sticking to that routine, but will be reconsidering its value for reasons that I'll note shortly. Also, despite my lack of difficulty, I wanted to see whether I could still learn anything from Gascoigne, or come up with any worthwhile additions.

Gascoigne's advice boils down to (1) making sure one's evening routine is conducive to getting enough sleep, and (2) waking up at the same early time on weekends, or at least one not so different that it will make waking up early harder to do on Monday. I saw both of these potential pitfalls myself when I started and agree with his advice. Fortunately for me, even on non-writing days, I enjoy solitude enough that it typically entices me more than the temptation to get extra sleep.

Gascoigne offers his solution for dealing with late social events, but I don't recall anything about holiday breaks or dealing with other long periods that make it difficult or impossible to maintain such a routine. Usually, it's easy to see these coming, and plan for them. The basic options are to find a way to continue with the routine (or at least wake up less late) or plan the shifts out of and back to the routine to be as painless as possible.

I have nothing earth-shattering to offer here, but I do have a couple of personal observations. Regarding the first basic choice, I have observed that, at least with vacations, for example, almost everyone sleeps very late, making five-o'clock almost as good as three in terms of being well-rested and having solitude. Regarding the second choice, I am afraid that all I can offer is what will sound little better than a boast: I just decide to yank myself into the new routine at a certain time, and just do it. Perhaps breaking down how I "just do it" might help a little: I decide when I want to reestablish my regimen, and make sure I am well-rested before the day. This I do by thinking about how tired I stand to be, and retiring earlier in the evening or taking short naps during the day on the day or so beforehand.

But Gascoigne properly starts his post by asking, "Why wake up early in the first place?" Under normal circumstances, his answer is mostly sound, and this part of it particularly strikes a chord:

Why do it after 8 hours of work? You're going to be exhausted and struggle to be motivated. I advise you to think about what is a higher priority for you - your dream ... or your work for someone else?
This is great advice for someone whose morning time lends itself to uninterrupted, distraction-free effort. The quality of my morning time is usually not so good, and is typically interrupted by having to resettle the baby at some erratic time. (For example, this morning, she woke up at 4:05 (See P.S.), before I'd even finished breakfast, and took until 4:45 to go back to sleep.) Worse, I have also found that even just the threat of a distraction harms the quality of the (remaining) time I am gaining by waking up early. I often find that I can blog, but do little else. I will be looking for ways to get more, and better quality time, even if doing so involves experimenting with being a night owl again.

-- CAV

P.S. I did tweak my schedule after the move to St. Louis: I now go to bed about 9:30 p.m. and wake up at 3:30 a.m.

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