The saying goes “The early bird catches the worm” but for some of us, the only thing we catch in the early hours is the snooze button. However, whether you’re an earlier riser or a snooze-master, there are a handful of quick exercises you can add to your morning routine which will spark your creativity and productivity. The Morning Pages, is one of our Productivity Ninjas‘ favorite exercises and complements the techniques we discuss in our productivity training.
The Morning Pages exercise has been introduced into our lives through Julia Cameron’s book, ‘The Artist’s Way’ and is a great technique, not just for artists, but really for anyone who needs to create value out of information, be creative, avoid procrastination or just work out what is bugging you at the back of your psyche. All you need for the exercise are: 3 pages of A4 paper and a pen. The techies and app geeks among you might try to find a more elegant solution..don’t. The primitive nature of the tools are part of why this works.
How it works
It’s early in the morning. You’ve poured your coffee or tea. Sit down with the pen and paper and write. Write whatever comes to mind. Don’t stop writing until you have filled 3 sides of A4. That’s it.
This is an exercise on listening to your mind. Some may find this is a gentle form of meditation, others might find this a bit stressful at first, but you will get there. If you can’t think of what to write, you must continue the rhythm of the writing anyway. Just write “I can’t think of anything to write” over and over again until something else arrives in your mind.
Once your 3 pages of A4 paper are done (which in our experience usually takes about 20 minutes), you put them somewhere no-one else will read them.
We would also recommend this little add-on task: You might find lots of new ideas and actions that you thought of during your Morning Pages exercise. Chances are these might not already be captured in your second-brain system, so after you’ve completed your 3 A4 pages, go through everything you’ve written down and highlight, or put a star next to all the bits and pieces that need to go in your second brain and capture it all in one place after.
This sounds so simple, so why is it so powerful?
Well, first of all, any artist will tell you, the hardest part of creativity is showing up to the page. Getting started. This acts as a ritual to show you that you have the motivation to start. Secondly, it allows your mind the time to blurt out all the gunk and release it – all the worries or anger, ideas or excitement that might otherwise preoccupy you all day are gone, and you feel much more focused. Thirdly, you’d be amazed what you find going on in there when you really listen to the voice inside your mind. You’ll find amazing creative ideas you never knew you had in you and you’ll find things you might have been stressed about that you can easily address.
In the information-overload culture we live in, we so rarely spend time listening to ourselves, and valuing our own thoughts and instincts. The Morning Pages is a really simple tool to help us do just that.
We’d love to hear from you if you’ve had experience of using this or any other similar tools.
By Hannah Urbanek
Hannah is Think Productive UK’s Head of Marketing and the voice behind much of our social media and editorial content. You can connect with Think Productive North America directly here or with Barbara Green, our President, on LinkedIn.
This post was originally published in September 2010 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.