Most days I’m at my desk and starting the work day around 7:00 am. That sounds early when I write it down like that, but each morning I feel like I’m getting to work late. When I wake up at 5:30 or 6:00 my mind is usually buzzing about things to research, write about, or read. And by the time 7:00 comes around it’s likely that I’ve already been anticipating starting my work day for the past 90 minutes.
If I really just cannot wait to get working then I will allow myself to beeline it to my office and start work right away. However, I refuse to turn into one of those guys who work from home and forget to shower. A good way to avoid becoming one of those guys is by not starting a habit of jumping to work as soon as my feet are out of bed.
Chances are good that I’ve already checked email and Twitter for anything important before I get into the office though. I usually do this on my iPhone while waiting for the french press to brew.
When I get into my office I first record Shawn Today. Then, my day is somewhat wide open. There may be articles I read and loved in Instapaper the night before which I want to link to. There may be some emails I need to reply to. There may be an article I’m working on that I want to get back to writing. Or perhaps there is some research I need to do.
The two most productive times of the day for me are early in the morning and late in the night. With each time of day offering it’s own type of productivity. The mornings are when I am most excited about the day and most excited about what there is to plan and work on and link to. However, it’s in the evening that I seem to do my best writing.
Or, put another way, I’m finding that I am more creative in the mornings and more focused in the evenings.
I don’t know if this is a natural effect due to the time of day and the light in the room, or if it’s because I have been writing this site in the evenings for the past four years. Before April shawnblanc.net had always been an evening-time side gig, and so perhaps old habits die hard.
As far as specific times for specific things, I do not keep myself to a rigorous schedule. In part because I am still discovering the best times and patterns for working. Also, since my job is so centered around the web and what is taking place — each day has a life all its own — I enjoy being able to have total flexibility with each day’s schedule.
This is something John Gruber talked about during our interview a few years ago. When I asked John what his average day looked like, he responded:
I’m either writing or reading — or, occasionally, hacking on code for some new feature on the site — all day long.
Ernest Hemingway said this:
You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again.
He was talking about writing books, but I find his advice perfectly apt for what I’m doing with Daring Fireball. Without having a boss or editor, I could do anything at the start of the day. Leaving off the day before with something specific in mind for what to do next is an enormous aid to getting going.
John’s answer made a lot of sense at the time. But now that I find myself in a very similar boat I see not just how logical this is but also how vital it is.
Because there is no senior editor telling me what to write about, nor are there a half-dozen other writers available to cover the topics that I cannot, I have to pick and chose what to write about and what to link to.
Additionally, I have found that it can be quite easy to let the Internet dictate what my hours, topics, and priorities for the site should be. I have a list as long as my arm of articles I want to write — some lengthy, some shorter — but that list can easily get ignored in exchange for what is happening online today.
It is certainly important to stay somewhat on top of any interesting and important news, but it is far more important to keep my own agenda for the site. Today’s latest craze will be old news soon enough, and so the most important thing I can do for the long-term health and growth of this site is to stay focused on writing about the things that excite and interest me.