Simple things that get me in the flow
If you think there is nothing to write about, write about that you have nothing to write about.
Creative professionals often talk about a magical state of burying themselves in work and losing track of time. Whatever you call it — peak state, the flow or being in the zone; the best and most productive work happens during these mythical sessions of our days.
“Peak experiences as rare, exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilarating, elevating experiences that generate an advanced form of perceiving reality, and are even mystic and magical in their effect upon the experimenter.”
— Abraham Maslow
I used to think there is no way of affecting the come and go of the flow. I thought it just happens. Then I read about Tony Robbins’ priming, morning routines of Ryan Holiday or Tim Ferriss. In fact, many successful business people attribute their effectiveness to their morning routines.
What’s so magical about the morning? What is it about this part of the day that it seems so essential?
Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
— Benjamin Franklin
It seems that the morning is the single part of the day of which you have full control. When you get up early, you can pick your activities carefully — you can prepare your mind and body for the day. You can get your little things done like making your bed and writing in your journal. As Admiral McRaven, said in his speech below, if you get your little things done, it will give you the confidence to get your big things done.
In the morning, there is no pressure of responding to email or phone calls. When there is no one else there, you can’t look weird when you sit at the table with your eyes closed. Or when you do jumping jacks, pushups or headstands in the office.
There seems to be a pattern in the morning routines of high performers. It may contain some sort of mindfulness minutes or meditation. Then there is exercise — high-intensity workout or aerobic training. Lastly, it frequently includes some kind of writing, whether it’s planning or review, gratitude journaling, or morning pages journaling.
The following is my take on the morning routine — an essential part of the process of getting more productive and clear on my goals. I try to avoid ambiguity as I didn’t like that when I was researching on how to do this myself.
1. Get up, turn on the coffee machine and force a large glass of water down my throat.
The water is refreshing and gets my kidneys working, which apparently is a good thing. Also, the smell of fresh coffee satisfies my senses and it there is no way of going back to sleep.
2. 30 seconds of jumping jacks and hygiene
Seriously, I don’t change my clothes and start jumping around in the kitchen. It used to be so difficult to wake up that I’d have no other choice than to force my heart to start pumping. After this exercise, I’m up.
Then, I do my stretching. This is a bit relaxing, so I do it before initiating the flow sequence, which requires adequate intensity to work.
3. 5–20 minute guided meditation
I started using Simple Habit app for guided meditation. Headspace is another good one to help you start. I appreciate that you can toggle background noise in SH so you can concentrate even if you’re not in a perfectly quiet environment. This allows my mind to calm down and increase alertness. Writing after meditation comes naturally.
4. Morning pages and daily planning
It can work as therapy; it can serve as a note-taking exercise. Whatever my brain produces that morning, it helps me organize my thoughts.
I also try to plan the tasks for the day. Although I’m still struggling with this one, it’s much better than it used to be. More on this later.
5. Coffee, seeds and coconut oil
Meanwhile, I have my coffee. One cup of espresso gets me to the right level of alertness. Most of the time, I have my portion of coconut or fish oil, with sunflower or chia seeds. The seeds are an excellent source of fiber, and the oils provide a whole variety of benefits. For me, it made a big difference to keep my immune system intact. Since I added the oils to my morning routine, I am able to stay healthy and feel well.
6. Specific music and high-intensity work out
I teach my brain a sensory response to the tracks on my peak state playlist. It’s a mixture of some intense electronic music:
I listen to it exclusively when I’m trying to get into the flow. My brain then processes the input to initiate the state of increased concentration. I’m thinking it’s the same process as when my nine-month-old daughter learns how to swim. She gets a specific input, a signal, and she dips her head into the water. I don’t know if this is scientifically factual but it works for me.
From that place, heart and brain aligned in high alert, I can focus on work. And it’s beautiful.
When I read various guides on how to create a routine, it felt so overwhelming. How do I keep track of all this? There are so many activities, do I have to keep the specific procedure?
I used to be so messed up, staying up late, going out and drinking regularly. I couldn’t grasp the morning routine and in effect never have been too productive. When you get up at 11 am, you get something to eat and respond to all your messages, there isn’t too much time left in a day. The answer though is simple. Just start.
But, be strict with yourself. Whatever happens, you must sit down and take that pen in your hand. If there is seemingly nothing to write about, write about that you have nothing to write about.
If you keep at it, it will get easier. Suddenly, you will have more time to write, more things to write about, and the routine will evolve by itself. It will turn into your own simple routine.
You just have to keep doing it.
Thanks for reading!
During the next month, I’m challenging myself to publish one article every weekday. I’m writing about my struggles, acceptance and the tools that help me on my journey.
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