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!