When you hack the trick and end up better for it

There are hacks and tips abound when it comes to work management. Make lists, stop checking email or take more breaks, they say. I once read an article that suggested ignoring everything and everyone until the afternoon.

While these solutions work for some, I have to accept that my willpower is nonexistent when it comes to ignoring people, and in the freelance world, clients don’t generally take to well to the whole not responding to email thing.

Whenever I try to implement any work productivity tips, it doesn’t take long for me to fall out of habit to be forgotten entirely.

It wasn’t until I picked up The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron that I found a daily practice that changed the way I worked.

Recommended to me by a friend, The Artist’s Way is a workbook to unleash your creative unicorn (my term, not hers.) Cameron refers to artists in the book, but I think her advice can help anyone looking to fuse passion with productivity in their daily life.

Morning pages are a daily ritual recommended by Cameron. At the start of each day, before you do anything else, you handwrite out three pages in a notebook. You can write about anything, just as long as you take the uninterrupted time to write.

When I first started the practice, I figured this could be an excellent way to knock out my work first thing in the morning. I thought I had hacked the hack when I realized I could handwrite assignments or grocery lists. Clearly, this was not as Cameron intended.

Morning pages are meant to be a stream of consciousness for your eyes only. While I thought the pages might be ground zero for my memoirs, they turned into something entirely different. My morning pages are generally ugly, scribbled outlines concerning weirdly petty problems or questions. I write about how bad my sleep was, how so and so hasn’t answered my email, or how I was nervous about an upcoming meeting with a client–subjects hardly worth mentioning in published work.

I’d race through my pages and on to the rest of my day. At first, they seemed inconsequential, but I quickly realized my pages made me more productive. By writing out my petty fears, anxieties or general observations, I could get on with my day. I put them down on paper, and promptly forgot about them.

By giving my distractions and anxieties a few minutes of my time in the morning, I was allowing myself to focus on my work without fear the rest of the day.

The pages have also created a space to be thankful and appreciate what I have. When I look back on my morning pages, I realize that “my bedhead that makes me seem like an unprofessional ghost” wasn’t the end of the world. By writing these thoughts and worries down, I give myself space to reflect, be thankful and move on.

Morning pages aren’t some cure-all tonic for me when it comes to getting work done, but it’s also not the snake oil I try to pigeon-hole into my life. Writing pages each morning has shown me the importance of healthy habits and confronting my problems head on. At this point, my pages don’t seem like a chore, but rather a moment of peace and quiet at the beginning of a busy day.

I recommend morning pages to anyone hoping to boost morning production. When my practice came into full swing, the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon occurred and I saw them everywhere. I’m not the only one practicing this hocus pocus, real successful humans swear by the morning ritual as well.

The key to making the most of your morning pages is making sure you find a way to write them every morning that fits into your routine. If I miss a morning, I find my productivity suffers and I’m more likely to burn through a dozen Buzzfeed quizzes and neglect that email I should’ve sent out first thing.

While Morning Pages aren’t your typical hack or “one quick tip,” the practice has saved my daily work productivity.

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