Over the summer, I read a blog post on Life Hacker by James Clear: You Have 25,000 Mornings as an Adult. Here’s How Not to Waste Them.
As a guilt-ridden midwestern girl, I had to read it. In the article, Clear offers much of the same advice I’ve shared here in the blog: manage energy not time, don’t check email until noon, prepare the night before, and move your cell phone to another room.
All of this is well and good for those of us who use mornings for intellectual and creative work. But in one of the comments, a reader criticized the tip: What about folks who work third shift and sleep in the morning? I’d add: What about people who work days and cannot use their mornings to write? What about those who don’t do their best work in the morning?
This is where genius time comes in. Genius time is that part of the day when you are best able to work on your primary purpose. Mine is writing—and my genius time is mornings. That doesn’t mean I cannot write at other times of day, it just means that I don’t do it as well or as fast in those hours. So I’m with Mr. Clear—I don’t want to waste my mornings with email, social media or meetings. I need to use those precious hours to write. But your genius time might be in the afternoon or just before bed or while you’re eating lunch. Your job is to protect and nurture your genius time no matter what happens. Here’s how:
Step 1. Map your energy. Take a look at your most productive days. Map when you have performed like a genius at social, intellectual, creative, and physical tasks. Pro Tip: Your genius time for each type of activity will probably be at different times of day. I’m a writing mastermind at 7:00 AM but don’t make me talk to anyone. (Mornings: Social Dolt, Writing Genius; Early Afternoons: Social Wannabe, Writing Dolt). You might also have genius times that overlap—perhaps you’re good at both social and physical tasks in the mornings. This is okay. Just get it all down on paper, real or virtual.
Step Two: Choose your one thing. What’s the one thing you want to accomplish this week with your genius time? You’re at a writing blog, so I’ll talk about writing books, blogs or stories, but you may want to use your genius time to plan a corporate take over or invent an app that will entertain tweens.
Step Three: Schedule! If possible, match your one thing (writing) to your intellectual and creative genius time. When I say schedule, I mean more than “think about it” – as in, I think I might write tomorrow after work. Note the following information:
When will I work on this project?
Where will I work? Is the setting conducive to what I need to do? Do I have what I need to get work done?
What will I write? Choose your chunk.
Oops: What might interrupt your plan? How will you deal with that? How will you stick to your genius time when the kids are screaming or friends invite you out for drinks or a client needs you or you’re weary and just want to take a nap? Decide now.
Step Four: Honor the genius time and write: no matter what. Some tricks:
+Repeat a mantra like: “When I get home from work, I will write for 20 minutes on my novel.”
+Record your mantra on paper and post it where you can see it. (Cheesy—yes. But it works!)
+Set up your writing space ahead of time—like you might set the table for dinner—so that you are ready to work when you get to your genius time.
+Throughout the day before, imagine yourself in your writing space, successfully creating.
Pro tip: It has taken me a really long time to honor my genius time and NOT feel guilty. So accept that you’re going to feel like a fraud when you tell people you cannot meet to plan the Queen’s visit because you are writing. If it helps, don’t tell them what you’ll be doing (and definitely don’t confess that you can’t take a meeting because you’ve got “genius time”). Just say: I can’t meet. I’m in another meeting. And you are: with your muse.