I copied Thomas Mann’s morning routine for a day

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Here’s how it went … 

As we all know, or should know, a routine is the number one principle to follow, if you want to maintain a healthy and balanced life. In “12 Rules for Life” Jordan Peterson argues that “we need to stay on the straight and narrow path, in order to not drown into chaos” – in other words, we need to regulate our own lives with routines, so that we can allow ourselves to be free. It might sound like a contradiction, but then I would advice you to think again. Remember that you are creating your own rules, when choosing a daily routine. No one else is enforcing them on you. It’s all on you now. YOU choose wether you’ll win or loose – wether you’ll follow your routine with explicit punctuality, or yield to distracting temptation. So you ARE free! You’re free, because you’re your own boss. Sounds scary? Oh, you can bet my life it is … Because theres no hiding behind the notion that FREEDOM – can be the most frightening feeling on earth. As Søren Kierkegaard put it: 

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom 

We are scared, until we try it out, and then after the deed is done, we look back and find it ridiculous that we even hesitated to start with. That’s generally how it is, is’nt it? We’re scared of failing, of being more lazy than we thought we were, of questioning our ability to be focused, to be dedicated. I was there once. But then one day, I shook my head and realised how unproductive all these thoughts were. So I took a leap. I dived into the world of writers and their unique way of structuring  their lives. My intention was to get some clues, compare some of my own habits with theirs and reorder my own schedule – I basically wanted to track down that one little missing ingredient (which I’m sure the most of us need) in order to get the most out of your day. As I did my research, I discovered that there are some key habits in which all successful people have in common. Here, I have made a list of those habits: 

  • Waking up early, and at the same time everyday
  • coffee 
  • write as much as you can in the mornings, for several hours straight, with no distractions whatsoever
  • exercise and fresh air (walking, running etc.) 
  • including tiny rituals that will add joy and serenity into your life (being with your spouse, drinking an alcoholic beverage, listen to music etc.)
  • read something every day, preferably an hour before falling a sleep in the night
  • not paying attention to anybody else’s needs before your own (that means, get your writing of the day done, before answering emails, phone calls, meeting up with friends etc.) 

So there you have it! It’s not impossible – in fact, all of these things are very easy to do, when you’re a work-from-home writer. You just have to be dedicated enough to do them, every day. 

Now, (although I found many great morning routines of many admirable authors) I chose  to copy Thomas Mann’s routine, because it was the only one that could really challenge me. Why? Because he is definitely NOT a late riser (like I am guilty of being). At least not according to http://www.englishecho.com:

The German, Nobel-prize winner novelist, author and author of “Death in Venice”; Mann was always awake by 5:00 am. After getting out of bed, he drank a cup of coffee with his wife, took a bath, and dressed. Breakfast, again with his wife was at 5:40.

Then, at 6:00, Mann closed the door to his study, and would not receive visitors, telephone calls, or family members.

The children were strictly forbidden to to make any noise between 6:00 and 10:00, what Mann described as his prime writing hours.

Before I start narrating my experiment, I have to let you know, I never wake up as early as 5 am. In fact, in my family, I’m known for being the late sleeper – always wanting to stay up past midnight, always eager to catch up on what everyone else is doing or talking about during late parties or philosophical gatherings in my parents home, and then sleeping like a little baby in the mornings, waking up around 12-1, when everyone is having lunch. Usually, I would feel physically unwell every time I awoke. Either my muscles would hurt, I’d have a headache, or I’d just feel guilty about missing out on so much work. However, I always seemed to brush these feelings off by reminding myself what a blast I’d had the night before. I was convinced that time wasted in the mornings, was not really time wasted, because .. technically, the day hadn’t started yet. Well … turned out I was terribly, terribly wrong. Mornings are the most precious of times, and I’ll tell you why:

That morning, when I had decided to copy Mann’s ritual, I heard my alarm go off at 5am, and my initial reaction was; “God, this is stupid … why am I even doing this? For another blog-post? I can write about something else!” 

So I hit the snooze-button and went back to sleep. My head touched that lovely pillow again (a place I used to call home) and my body was slowly preparing itself to bring me back into that oblivious dreamland, where the worries of wasting time did not exist. But then all of a sudden, I opened my eyes, rose up from the bed and rubbed my eyes awake. “Wait a minute …” I thought. “I’m not doing this for another blog-post, I’m doing this for myself!” And in that moment, my ability of waking up early, had changed forever. I had a purpose now. My purpose was to write – to win as many hours as possible back, from the ones I had lost from before. So I stood up tall, with my shoulders back, had some coffee with my man, took a shower, dressed, had breakfast and started writing. All this happened within forty minutes time, and I have to tell you – it was a total eye-opener for me, seeing how efficient I had already been, just by waking up and preparing for work. And as I was writing, I suddenly noticed … I wasn’t tired at all. My imagination was going in all sorts of directions, my vision was clear, there was no headache, no stiff muscles, no moodiness. It turned out, I felt better physically that morning, than I had done for at least a couple of years back! Which ultimately leaves me to the conclusion of this experiment; We all know that sleeping too little is not good. But what some of us fail to comprehend is that sleeping too much can be equally bad. As Aristotle said:

“Virtue is the golden mean between two vises, the one of excess and the other of deficiency”

I have found that a perfect seven hour of sleep works for me. That is my Aristotelian golden mean. So if I wake up at 5am, I would naturally go to bed at 10. And I know that going to sleep early sounds dull and tedious. TRUST ME. I thought the same, before I started embracing the act of early-rising and before I realised how those few hours for yourself during an early morning, can be equally (if not more) pleasant than the hours of staying up late. This is because it’s an entirely different world – waking up early. The sun hasn’t come up yet. The air is still, the streets are empty. You get the feeling that everyone else is a sleep, but you. Therefor, your brain starts thinking that you’re in power; There are no hinders. No problems. Nothing can stop you, now that you’ve woken up before everyone. Now it’s your time to catch up, while the rest of the world is sleeping – its your time to do all those things that you should’ve done yesterday or a week ago, or maybe even a month ago. Because surprisingly – you’ll feel more inclined to do them. Laundry and dishes and paperwork (and all those things you constantly put aside) don’t seem that laborious anymore. It’s a strange thing, and I haven’t really gotten to the core of what it means yet, but it happened to me, so why wouldn’t it happen to you too? 

Nevertheless … this is just one of the tips and tricks that many successful people do. You might apply another one into your life, and that’s fine. Waking up early is just one of the suggestions, and I have found that it really helped. From that day, I have been waking up early every morning, at the same time, and I feel fantastic. But of course, the important part is getting the work done in the best possible way, but still focus on the daily pleasures and the loved ones around you. How you manage this, is up to you. Again, applying Aristoteles’s golden mean can be a helpful guideline to your life. 

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I hope you all are having a productive day so far! And hopefully, some of you will feel inspired to try out Thomas Mann’s morning-routine too♥

Love, 

Aftur S. Nerdrum

 

 

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