I was checking out some new podcasts while travelling yesterday and listened to an episode of Tim Ferriss’s show where he interviewed Josh Waitzkin, on whom the book and movie Searching for Bobby Fischer are based. Waitzkin mentioned several habits that keep him productive and help him maximize his day. Two in particular stood out because I’ve found both extremely helpful when I practice them, but had not consciously thought about why that might be. Waitzkin helped clarify the why.
The first is simply to begin the day with writing or some other kind of creative activity. Do your creative work first, before checking emails or social media. Those tasks and inputs will put your mind in a reactive orientation. Once in react mode it’s very hard to keep the creative part flowing and it can make for a more stressful, chaotic day. If you create first, you orient your mind creatively and then when it’s time for the inputs and tasks, you’re less reactive and more creative.
The second habit is to finish the work day with high quality work. Whatever task or project you end the day on, make it your best work. This not only gives a sense of pride, completion, and accomplishment that helps you transition away from work and unwind, it also leaves you in a productive, high quality mindset. Your subconscious will carry that over into the night. When you awake the next morning to create, you’ll already be in a good frame of mind to do so.
I’ve not always been consistent with these habits, but both essentially formed on their own as I found how valuable they were to getting and staying in the zone. As I said, I hadn’t actually pondered them as explicit habits and discovered why they worked until the podcast, but they definitely do for me.