I know it’s Friday, and the last thing you want to be doing is thinking about personal productivity. I don’t blame you – it’s another beautiful summer day here in WI, and I’d much rather be hanging out on my deck with a lemonade instead of sitting here, staring at my computer.
But, business is business, and – as usual – there’s work to be done. Plus, I’ve been experimenting with a new personal productivity habit lately, and I’m loving the results so much that I couldn’t wait to share it all with you. 🙂
The habit is called “morning pages” and it comes from Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way.” Basically, morning pages is a set of three pages of content written daily – preferably in the morning, although personally, I think it’s more useful to focus on writing every day than to worry about the specific timing. There are no set topics, and the pages can be about anything and everything that comes to your mind – ideally, it’s supposed to be a very “stream-of-consciousness” style writing.
The reason this habit is so effective is that it’s essentially a daily brain dump that gets your thoughts and ideas flowing. The idea isn’t to write perfect prose or to critique yourself on the words you write – it’s simply a way to clear your head of all those half-formed ideas, miscellaneous items to add to your grocery list and other pieces of clutter that clog up your subconscious. Once your mind is clear, real productivity and creativity can begin.
At least, that’s what Cameron’s book would have you believe. At first, the concept sounded a little too “touchy-feely” for me. I’m not always a big believer in the more abstract elements of personal productivity and development (I’m looking at you, daily mantras and the law of attraction!), but I do love case studies and experimentation, so I figured that – given all the rave reviews for this habit online – I could at least give it a try.
And now that I’ve been doing my morning pages pretty regularly for a few weeks, I’m a believer. Honestly, it’s pretty amazing. It’s like talking to yourself, but better – there’s something about committing even the most random thoughts and ideas to text that helps you sort through problems logically and see solutions more clearly.
Just as an example – you know those days where you wake up in a total funk? The ones where there could be blue skies, bright sun and birds chirping outside, but you’re grouchy for no apparent reason and can’t seem to shake the bad mood?
Having one of those days used to kill my productivity, because really, who wants to sit down and be productive when you’re feeling inexplicably mad at the world? But using morning pages, I’ve found, is a great way to dig down to the root causes of what’s bugging you and sort out the solutions on paper so that you can get on with your life.
It’s also great for identifying the small, actionable tasks in an enormous, seemingly overwhelming project. When you sit down and free-write about everything that you need to get done for the project, it’s pretty easy to see which tasks should take priority and which ones can get scheduled for a later day.
Best of all, getting started with this personal productivity habit is simple. In her book, Julia Cameron recommends writing these daily pages by hand, and I know that some of you will appreciate the ritual of putting pen to paper each morning. If this is the case, all you really need is a pen and a stack of notebook paper to get started.
But personally, my handwriting sucks and it takes me much longer to write out my thoughts in longhand than it does to type them on the computer (they don’t call this the digital age for nothing!). So for me, there are two tools that are essential for making morning pages a habit.
The first is the website www.750words.com. It’s a private blogging service that tracks your morning pages by creating a fresh post every day that counts the words you’ve written and notifies you when you’ve hit 750 words (the digital equivalent of three pages of handwritten text). There are also a bunch of cool analytics tools that measure elements of your mood and personality based on the words you write. It’s free to use, and I highly recommend checking it out.
The other tool is the Targus bluetooth keyboard I bought to go along with my iPhone. Because I work a day job, adding a task like morning pages to my morning routine means getting up earlier. Even though it usually only takes me 15-20 minutes to finish my 750 words, that’s still a big chunk of time when you’ve got to clock in at work by 8:00am!
And since my laptop can be pretty slow to load, I typically write my morning pages on the Safari browser of my iPhone. All I have to do is pull out my keyboard (which I dearly, dearly love and use extensively while doing business on the go), connect it and get writing – a process that saves me 5-10 minutes over writing my morning pages on my laptop.
So, enough of me rambling about how cool morning pages is and how much it can contribute to your personal productivity. It’s absolutely worth the time each day, but don’t just take my word for it!
Commit to trying it yourself for the next week and then come back and let me know how much more organized you feel and how much more productive you are. 🙂
Image: J. Paxon Reyes