Check Out This Co-Founder’s Mindful Morning Routine
I have long admired people like Marcus Aurelius, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Edison, and Tim Ferriss. But I’m dazzled by more than their success (though that’s impressive, too): what I really covet is their daily journaling habits.
For a long time I’d wished to start my own daily writing habit but couldn’t make it stick. I think my problem was that I was lacking a clear picture of what I wanted to achieve. Beyond that, I did not use a structure for my writing, so it was hard to start and easy to get stuck. I couldn’t help but conclude that I simply wasn’t a writer.
Then, around a year ago, I heard about Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way and everything changed.
The Bedrock Tool of a Creative Recovery
The Artist’s Way is full of interesting concepts, but the idea that stood out to me was Morning Pages, which Cameron calls “the bedrock tool of a creative recovery.” Morning Pages are very simple: you complete three pages of stream of consciousness writing, first thing in the morning. They can be about anything and everything that crosses your mind.
With a little research I started to get the feeling that this might be my key to building a daily writing habit. The outcome is clearly defined (I can always squeeze in three pages) and writing about anything on my mind would help me to avoid over thinking what to write about. In a nutshell, it would solve all my issues with trying to write daily. I couldn’t wait to try it out.
My Morning Pages Routine
Cameron is very strict about her own Morning Pages routine. If you follow her advice you have to write first thing in the morning and it has to be hand-written. I found some of her “rules” impractical, so I adapted them a bit to fit my schedule. Here’s how:
Tools: Cameron insists on writing long hand, but I use a word processing tool—specifically, 750words.com. This tool helps me to build a habit and they have some nice statistics.
Time: I set a daily recurring task in my personal task manager and it feels great to check it off every day. I also write as soon as I get to the still-quiet office in the morning rather than first thing when I wake up.
Length: I write 750 words every morning, not the prescribed “3 pages” (but they’re about the same).
Topics: I write about everything—sometimes it’s stream of consciousness and sometimes it’s simply a topic on my mind I want to structure for myself.
More Mindfulness, More Focus, More Creativity, More Morning Pages
I like to think of my Morning Pages as a mindfulness practice. Even during a hectic day that is full of meetings and disruptions I still have a feeling of peace and accomplishment if I’ve done my 750 words in the morning.
Writing in the morning also helps me to be more focused for the rest of the day. I can really tune into what is going on in my mind, and then also use that writing time to think out loud, troubleshoot problems, and work out thoughts and anxieties I have. Focusing on your own thoughts and writing them down can have tremendous effects, which Julia Cameron describes:
And then there’s the fact that it just feels rewarding. Writing gives me something to look forward to in the morning and actually puts me in a really good mood. It helps me to think through important issues and decisions I have to make.
Finally, I find that my Morning Pages are a springboard for creativity. Over the past few months I’ve realized that a daily writing routine can be helpful for getting “A-ha!” moments to come more readily. The writing helps me to process my thoughts and build new connections between ideas and concepts. My morning pages became a starting point for new ideas, e.g. new functionality or experiences for our Blinkist products. Often I go through previous written pages and copy some sentences and ideas to get started. It makes me feel great to have a repository of ideas and inspiration at hand.
Of course, writing is not a lifehack. Don’t look at it as a means to an end, but rather as an opportunity to notice what’s on your mind, without judgment and without overthinking. After all, the point of the practise is the practise—you can’t screw up and there’s no right way to do it except to get up, get to it, and get writing.
5 tips to get started with your morning mindfulness writing routine
1. Start writing first thing in the morning, either after waking up or when you get to your office or desk.
2. Try to use a website like 750words.com; seeing your writing stats can be motivating.
3. Write first, edit later (if at all) and don’t worry about language. No one else will ever see your morning pages.
4. Have a list of topics you want to write about at hand, just in case you get stuck while writing or don’t know how to get started.
5. Just start writing and the rest will follow; start with bullet points (btw, this is a trick our resident writer, Caitlin, taught me some time ago).