My daily routine

Working independently means the burden and opportunity of creating my own structure. I’ve found ritual and routine essential to guide me.

When my days don’t go well, it’s often because something derailed me in the morning, and I never really got back on track. The high-order bit for my productivity is whether I complete a deeply-focused morning creative block. So my day is structured around making intense creative mornings happen.

  • ~7:00: Wake; shower; walk, train, feed my dog; make coffee
  • ~7:45 – 13:45: Uninterrupted morning working block
    • Default environment: WiFi off; Forest on my phone; alone at my desk (It’s hard to hear yourself think)
    • No meetings; working in 25m/5m pomodoros (see notes on Pomodoro technique); no extended breaks (I find maintaining momentum is more important than combatting fatigue)
    • Start a Daily working log, write for a minute or so about how I’m feeling and my intentions for the day; look at my Menu for the week, get a sense of what I’d like to dig into.
    • Dig into whatever seems most exciting creatively, usually sticking to one task for the entire block
    • Details here vary depending on my projects and their status. Sometimes it’ll be My morning writing practice; sometimes it’s designing or building prototypes; sometimes it’s reading through a stack of material about something I’m trying to understand.
    • If I start to run out of steam (usually around pomodoro 10), I’ll switch to administrative and procedural tasks, like email time: I’ll spend ~30m ~3 times a week replying to email (and generally ignore it otherwise).
    • I eat lunch at my desk. It’s usually Chopped salad or Quiche.
    • After this block, I think of my workday as effectively “done” and free myself from any further sense of obligation.
  • ~2 – 3: Decompression walk with my dog. Often also walking with a friend or taking a meeting by phone at this time.
  • ~3 – 6:30: Unstructured time. Napping, socialization, meditating, exercising, reading, more walking.
  • ~6:30 – 8: Cooking, dinner.
  • 8 – 10:30: (If a friend wasn’t over for dinner) piano, reading, time with Sara.

My morning writing practice

As part of my My daily routine, mornings are often spent writing and revising Evergreen notes. This is typically the most challenging work I do all day, so I like to do it when I have the most clarity and focus. It’s not for “note-taking” in a traditional sense—writing down other people’s ideas, or recording things that happened—it’s for developing ideas. (i.e. Most people use notes as a bucket for storage or scratch thoughts vs. Evergreen note-writing helps insight accumulate)

Unless I have something in mind that I’m particularly excited to write about, I usually begin by opening my writing inbox (A writing inbox for transient and incomplete notes) and flipping through those prompts and incomplete notes. If any strike me, I’ll draft Evergreen notes about them. This may happen over multiple days: I may flesh out a note considerably, then run out of steam and leave it in my inbox to finish another day.

If my inbox is relatively low, I’ll get out my memo pad (Pocket memo pad to capture into writing inbox while out) and fill my inbox with those notes. I don’t force it: if none of the prompts seem interesting, I’ll archive the ones which seem most boring and move on.

After working through my writing inbox, I’ll focus my attention on my primary creative projects and ask myself prompts like:

  • what are the most important unknowns for this project?
  • what new ideas am I excited about?
  • what are the most interesting things I know about this project?

For these prompts, I’ll use my Daily working log as a scratch space, splatting a dozen or so one-liners into a haphazard bulleted list. After emptying my head, I’ll write about any that seem interesting. Usually that leads to rabbit holes which consume the rest of the session. I’ll add promising stragglers to my writing inbox for future days.

If those prompts don’t feel fruitful, I’ll use the time to Write about what you read to internalize texts deeply. I’ve usually got a backlog of books and articles I’ve read but for which I haven’t yet written Evergreen notes. If the prompts don’t feel fruitful for several days in a row, that’s a sign that I need to shake things up: my inputs aren’t high-variance enough, or I’m not giving myself the right kind of creative space, or I may need to re-evaluate my projects. My writing inbox should always feel like a cornucopia.

I take 5-minute breaks to get up and move around every 25 minutes, but even with those breaks, I usually can’t continue this practice longer than 2-3 hours. Sometimes I can do another session later in the day.