Photo via Pixabay.

Hold off on that morning coffee. Write while you’re still groggy.

You may be wasting your best creative output

Listen to an audio version of this article (MP3) »

I’m one of those annoying people who has never drunk coffee. But if I did drink coffee, I like to think I wouldn’t drink it first thing in the morning. I would write first.

Like most of you who are reading this article, my success at work isn’t measured by the volume of my output, but by the quality of my thinking. We have to connect disparate ideas, and figure out ways to do things that we don’t yet know how to do — or things that nobody yet knows how to do. We aren’t making widgets all day. Then we’d need coffee.


This kind of thinking is called “remote associates thinking.” Ideas and information from different parts of our brain bounce around the rest of our brain like blue balls in a racquetball court. When some of these balls collide — that’s when we have an idea.

You probably have already heard about the prefrontal cortex, and how this little part of our brain is what really makes us human. It’s the CEO of our brain. It’s frantically waving around a racket, trying to make sure every blue ball hits the front wall before hitting the floor, and doesn’t bounce twice before hitting the front wall again.

Basically, the prefrontal cortex is a real sourpuss when you’re trying to have fun. It’s too busy trying to corral all of those blue balls to care whether they collide.


This is why research has shown that people with damaged prefrontal cortices are actually more creative.

Now, don’t go driving a railroad spike into your forehead. If you have a choice, you’re much, much, much better off without a damaged prefrontal cortex.


But, are you a little groggy in the morning? Say, before your morning coffee? Then you have a precious little window of opportunity to do creative work each morning.

Here’s some things you could do:

  • Sit down with a notebook and brainstorm about a project you’re working on.
  • Write a short article every morning (like this one).
  • Try James Altucher’s “10 ideas” exercise: Just write 10 ideas each morning. You don’t have to pursue any of them. You’re just exercising your idea muscle.

The goal isn’t necessarily to create a well-polished finished product. If mornings aren’t your best time, you may struggle with details like spelling and grammar.

The goal is to give the disparate regions of your brain a chance to play with one another before the boss shows up.

You’ll improve the quality of your creative thinking, and have better ideas to refine later in the day. And, hey, you might just decide to skip the coffee. (Like me. Did I mention I don’t even drink coffee?)


I’ve never been a morning person, but I make the most of my mornings. Learn how with my recent My Morning Routine profile.