How to Have Consistently Productive Days


“Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morningcan often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.”  Lemony Snickert, The Blank Book

"I am not a creative person."

This was one of my most consistent self-descriptors. Seriously.  I argued when people called me creative.

I don't recall how I reached this conclusion, but I think I linked it to my Myers-Briggs scores (ENTP).  I thought creativity was gifted to those high on the "feeling" side of the test. Since my "thinking" side is in 90+ percentile, no WAY, I concluded, was I creative!

For those of you familiar with this personality test, the scores have nothing to do with creativity. Still, my impression persisted until six years ago when I took the class (which is in book form!) The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. In this "class" not only did I learn that EVERYONE is creative, and I'm part of "everyone," but the only way to maximize your efficiency is actually to be your creative skills.

Think of it as similar to the well known truth that muscles burn more calories than fat.  If you want a strong body, you can't merely lose fat, you need to increase muscles.  If you want to be productive, you have to exercise your creative muscles!

The challenge is figuring out HOW.

The Artist's Way gives plenty of ideas, but the foundation starts with the practice of writing Morning Pages.  Ms. Cameron describes the pages well:

"Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.

*There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art.  They are not even “writing.”

They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only.

Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow".

Pen on paper for three pages. Daily (I define this as "weekdays"). Write whatever comes to mind.

That's it.

I admit, I hated the exercise for the first 7-8 weeks.  HATED it.  I didn't see the point and did it simply because my friend Sue was taking the "class" with me, and I knew she'd call me out if I wasn't keeping up.

And so I wrote. And wrote. And wrote more.

Here's the truth of how the process unfolds.  First, I resist writing, but then I remember some of the good from the previous day, so I sit down with my book and a pen.

The first page was and still is always, always, ALWAYS a bunch of drivel.

I mostly write about being tired, under caffeinated and cold (I'm always cold in the morning).  Then half-way into the pages, something happens -- I have an interesting idea.  I think about starting a mentor group or running a scavenger hunt with my kids or starting a blog.

I would dream about something I had never thought of before.  By week 10, I was sold.  Now, six years and 19 books into writing Morning Pages (pictured above), I see clearly how this habit improves my creativity at work and at home.

If you decide to give this a try, you'll find at least six ways Morning Pages will help you.  They will...

  1. Unclog your brain
  2. Uncover new thoughts
  3. Create a source of encouragement
  4. Document what you learn and how you grow
  5. Create a habit of pausing
  6. Establishes a discipline that makes the rest of the day productive

A funny thing happens: when you're productive in one area of life, you become more productive in others.

One of the most common arguments against this habit people's claim that they don't have the time.  I get that point.

I don't have time to write three pages every morning either.  When I started this habit my kids were 3 and 4, my job was crazy demanding, and I was on the road every week.  The whole world is busy.  No one has time to spare.

Still, when I don't go through the exercise, my productivity suffers, my creativity dwindles, and innovation feels impossible.

And so tomorrow morning, I'll knock out the pages again and maybe someday soon you'll join me!