Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cracking the Code

I've had a breakthrough.

I've found a way to make serious progress on my book while holding down a full-time job. My stress levels have dropped dramatically, my productivity has soared, and I have more leisure time to share with my family and friends. Not only that, this technique should be sustainable even through fatherhood! It's nuts!

All I have to do, it turns out, is wake up at 4 a.m. every day!

This is not a joke, though I was half-joking when I first proposed the idea. Just the words "4 o'clock" -- they give you a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. I think that's why more of us haven't attempted this. But here's the secret about 4 o'clock: it's not that hard!

The only tricky bit is getting to bed by 9. Not because you won't be sleepy (because you will if you're getting up at 4), but because nobody else in your life will be sleepy. This ties in with what I said last week about learning to say "no." The 9 p.m. bedtime might actually be a bit easier for folks with kids, since that's a pretty common bedtime for the young 'uns already.

So why is this new schedule such a game-changer? The biggest difference is that you're giving your freshest, most creative hours to your project, and you're doing it at a time when there are few distractions. If you postpone your project until the evening hours, it starts to feel like an unwelcome obligation. It's that thing that stands between you and a few minutes of relaxation. But when you've got four hours squared away before you even leave for work, you can rest easy in the knowledge that you've already made your dent for the day.

I've noticed I feel physically lighter since I made the change. When I get home, I may only have three hours before bedtime, but they're three free hours. I can linger over dinner, chat with my wife, read an actual book made out of paper.. it's awesome.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, it seems that this schedule has increased my productivity at work, as well. It turns out that being happier means being a better employee. 

And there's one other bonus: the whole arrangement makes you look like a total badass. You have harnessed the dark power of "4 a.m." and made it yours. You have tamed it, and now it makes you dangerous. Look closely into the eyes of those with whom you share your new time of waking. That slight widening is a sign of fear.

I want to try an experiment. Let's start a thing called the 4 a.m. Club (first order of business, figure out a new name for the club -- the Holy Order of Viking Draftspeople or something). Every morning, before I set to work, I'll give a little holler on Twitter to my fellow morning-folk (#HOVD?). Sort of like Robot Roll Call, but without robots. Then we can all set about our morning's work, safe in the knowledge that there are others out there fighting the good fight. And yes, the honor system is in place: if you live in another area code, you can give your shout out at local 4 a.m. and I'll do my best to believe that you're not a total fibber.

We could even set up a tumblr or sumpin' where the members of the Holy Order can share the work that they're doing. All of us folks with day jobs, actually making cool stuff. How energizing would that be? I promise that if we do something like this, I'll post a little something every week, too.

Really, guys. I highly recommend trying this out for a week. It sounded insane to me the first time I tried it (and the first couple of days were tough going), but now I'm just annoyed that I didn't think of it sooner.

HOLY ORDER OF VIKING DRAFTSPEOPLE, ASSEMBLE!

33 comments:

  1. Are you for real? Because is usually 4am when I go to bed and I almost have nothing done, then I get up around noon so... I love the idea of a secret society, I recently moved to Asia so my time zone is way different but is so so crazy that I may just work. Seriously this could be a life changing for me.

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    1. How's it going so far? I could be wrong, but I feel like I've seen you #HOVDing a few times over the last couple of weeks.

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  2. Bryan Hitch has said in interviews that he does the exact same thing, starts work at 4:00 a.m. He finds he's at his most productive when he does that. And he has many, many children.

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    1. Yeah, it's definitely a good way to go. As we enter week 3, I am still confident that this new approach will completely change my life. Where have you been, by the way? Last I remember, you were making some beautiful, beautiful work! Interested in joining us Nordic Art Warriors in our quest?

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  3. When my son was born 4+ years ago, I started waking up before 5:00 AM to squeeze in a daily workout. Sometimes it's tough getting out of bed when it's dark and nobody else is awake, but it's worked out pretty well for me and it's pretty much second nature now. Good luck.

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    1. It's pretty amazing how long it takes to fool your body into being okay with getting up in the dark. Three weeks in, and the first few minutes are still pretty bleak.

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  4. Do you eat breakfast, have coffee? Or you just get up and go while everyone else is asleep? It's be cool if a bunch of people started doing this and making comics in the morning, it becomes the time of comic creation.

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    1. So far, the routine involves hitting the can and then right to drawing. I do brew some tea -- the whistle of the pot makes the house feel a little more alive.

      You should join us!

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    1. ughuhhh...you've got me facing my fear here Nate. I'll see what i can do. #HOVD

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  6. I'll join. That sounds like a better idea than the reverse, trying to do stuff after work.

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    1. Where you been, Honster? I've been keeping an eye out for you.

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  7. Not every schedule works for every person -- The Muse is fickle. Some people really do work better late at night, others early in the morning. It's more important to experiment until you find what works best for you. (But I like your rationale that late at night one might come to begrudge work as an impediment to sleep.)

    Anyway, if you're interested in this topic, I recommend the book _The Midnight Disease_ by Alice Flaherty.

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly. Though one thing I've found is that stuff just tends to come up in the evenings. Visiting with friends, or just eating out... In the old days, I probably lost 30-40% of my work nights to unforeseen schedule changes.

      Nothing unexpected ever, ever happens at 4am. Except for the unexpectedly rad art that flies out of the collective drawing instruments of the Holy Order!

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  8. Sounds like a pretty interesting way to go, I hope you guys keep it up!

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    1. So far, so good. You should give it a try!

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  9. Sounds like a good idea. I was thinking of giving it a shot, but it all depends on how much I bother my wife. We have a small apartment, so I typically only work when she's awake. I'll just sketch and ink quietly. =)

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    1. Our place is tiny, too. I have gotten really good at tip-toeing.

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  10. I am all for this. I have been waiting for my tablet to arrive so i can start working and it came this weekend so i will start tomorrow.

    On Chris Oatley's artcast he talked about this very subject that got me wanting to do this for a while now. seems like a good day to start.
    here is the link to the podcast--- http://chrisoatley.com/artcast-58-artistic-growth-is-not-a-goal-how-to-become-an-early-riser/ --- the after that you can peruse the site cause he all sorts of goodness. (of course, all this is if you have not heard of chris oatley or his podcast)
    Let's do this, my body is ready

    HOVD UNITE!

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  11. With my cyclical sleep schedule, I'm fairly often hitting a wake-up of 4AM, or even earlier. I've been loving the 9PM sleep time for years, now, but my body's incapable of keeping a regular schedule, so I invariably end up falling asleep later than nine within a few days or a week.

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    1. Oof. That sounds rough, man. But I have been seeing you quite a bit among the HOVD ranks! You macho man, you.

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  12. Sounds interesting!!! That might solve my problem as well!!! I'll see if I can give it a try too!!! :D

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  13. I guess the secret society wont be available for someone who live in other side of the globe? because we have different time zone? ;_;.

    anyway, I usually woke up at 3AM to do my private comic project. also because Im a Muslim I have this morning prayers around 4-5 AM so I wont be late.. but because I'm also a freelancer.. I have the urge to back to sleep again at 6 AM lol.. the weather are perfect.. and not like my night sleep while Im always dreaming about my workload, this morning sleep are awesome, I sleep dreamless, and peaceful like a baby..
    and then wake up again at 10 or 11 AM and start working ^^a

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  14. Gah! this sounds brilliant!(strangely enough)
    I'm going to trial it this week and see how it goes.

    Even created a twitter account to exercise my Danish battle cries! ...now I just need to work out how to use it...

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  15. Man, I just came hom, sitting in my studio after a shitty day fixing goddamn datacenters (who pays these useless admins ... doesn't matter as long as they pay me right?) and stumble accross this amazing entry! I used to work lateshifts and got up at 6 a.m. to work be more productive. Since I have family it became impossible. After all I want to have some time with my family! But 4 AM? I gotta get a sound proof cabin, or schedule actual recording work to weekends. This will be discussed at dinner today :D Looking forward to the next episode of nonplayer, enjoyed the first one a lot!!

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  16. I'm in! Though I'll have to start at 2 am instead of 4 am, since 1) I take a long time to wake up and 2) I already get up early at 5 am for work, and I don't want to have to start getting ready for work when I've gotten into a groove.

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  17. It's about stinkin time! Haha. That is the ONLY way I was able to finish reMIND. Although I woke up at 5AM instead of 4. Another brilliant way to keep you working fast in the wee hours is to livestream your screen for those early hours. ;)

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  18. This is just crazy enough to work.

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