Wake Up ’n’ Work: Productivity for the Rest of Us
It’s okay to just try to get things done
Three years ago, I wrote a blunt Quora answer about “the best early morning habit for success.”
I thought, “Success means money, and the fastest path to money is work” — and that’s exactly what I said. “Forget fancy routines. Remove the friction between waking up and starting to work. That’s a useful habit for success.”
Money certainly isn’t everything, but I still believe in the underlying principle: Your outcomes in life are determined by a variety of factors — luck, talent, circumstance — but the only one you control is how much time you put in. You can move that lever up or down, but it’s the only one you can move at all.
Of course, right now, no one is thinking about success. We think about surviving, about getting through this crisis, about how we can save our finances, our careers, and our businesses. Ironically, the advice I gave back then now helps me equally as much, albeit for different reasons.
I’m not a work-from-home kinda guy. I thrive on getting ready in the morning, leaving the house, and arriving at a place dedicated to work. As a corollary, when I shut the door of my tiny apartment in the evening, I can easily switch into relax mode. For now, the invisible devil haunting our streets has made that impossible for me and millions of others, maybe for you too.
As a result, productivity tactics abound. Should you keep your alarm or embrace your inner night owl? Should you get dressed to sit at your kitchen table or rock your jammies all day long? What about timers? Your calendar? To-do lists? The truth is what it’s always been: You should try all those things if you think you’ll benefit, and ditch them if you find out they don’t work.
In essence, our new work-from-home environment has reset our productivity rulebooks to zero. The maps we have formed on how we best navigate work have been wiped clean, and now, it’s on us to find a new path. At least your previous efforts haven’t been for nothing. Chances are, you’ll save a lot of time. You’ll need to run fewer experiments and conclude faster which ones to cancel. But you’ll still have to run them. You still need to draw a new map.
One of these experiments — and whether this should be your first or last is up to you — is to forget the map altogether. Sometimes, a lack of routine is becoming, and chaos inadvertently brings out our best. Sometimes, it is also the only mode of operating we can muster. When the sandstorm is at its worst, the explorer is happy to get from marker to marker. Set one objective. Attain it. Repeat. Until the dust settles, that’s all you need.
For over half a year now, I’ve meditated every day. I usually do a daily workout. I like showering early in the day. Since starting to work exclusively from home, I’ve moved around all these parts more than once, and I’ve occasionally dropped some of them to accommodate for the simple fact: We’re stuck at home, but we still need to get our work done.
Right now, it is perfectly okay to wake up ’n’ work. It’s okay to worry about your level of output, to just want to keep your shit together, and to let productivity slide when you don’t absolutely have to work. Get up, get things done, and then go back to bed. Get things done in bed if that’s how you roll. My memory foam pillow has served as a back-rest for the past three weeks.
“Work first,” Darius Foroux says. Remove friction where possible, skip the chase for the perfect day, and commit to doing your job so you can get back to handling all the other adulting demands life is placing on you right now. This may not make you successful, but it might get you back to the point where you have the luxury of worrying about that rather than making it to the next day.
And if all of this lacks inspiration, I offer you the same, anonymous quote I included in my answer way back when: “My favorite productivity hack? Sit down and work.”