The Daytime Continuum

The Daytime Continuum

For those of you just tuning in, I’ve been determined to wake up early every day for two weeks to see what happens; the theory is that I’ll somehow get more done in the day because I’m deliberately pacing myself, sort of like a long distance runner. This went pretty well during week 1, but over the weekend I’d stayed up waaaay too late, and have been paying for it.

It’s taken a few days to get back on track after last weekend’s schedule collapse, and each day has been marred by small imperfections in execution.

Just for fun, I’m going to spend just 15 minutes to write this post and not back-edit it after I’m done. Not quite as dramatic a concetp as that live episode of E.R., but heck, it’s plenty enough for me this morning. One moment while I fetch my notebook…

Flaws in Execution

The main success of the experiment, so far, has been getting out of the house and hitting the coffee shop every morning. This has been helped that a friend of mine was actually there too, so I had someone to talk to for a few minutes every day. This underscores the importance of having real people involved in habit-changing activity. I will have to arrange for something next week, and for after SXSW.

Although I’m feeling good about getting to the coffee shop every morning before 8AM, the execution part hasn’t been very clean. My alarm clock goes off every morning at 6:30AM, and I usually end up getting out of bed later between 6:45 and 7:15. I’d like to spring out of bed, but a few factors—undersleep, coldness of the morning, inconveniently-positioned slumbering cats—have undermined me. If I am well-rested, as I was over the weekend when I was sleeping in, then getting up is much easier.

This brings me to the second inconsistency: going to bed early enough to get enough hours of shuteye. I am finding that I need about 8 hours of sleep currently, assuming I’m drinking enough water. If I forget to drink, then I tend to sleep longer. One advantage of drinking enough water before going to sleep is that it forces you to relieve yourself in the morning; I understand that this is also a trick used by soldiers on watch. But I digress…I haven’t been going to sleep early enough, because I’m starting my work too late and am working into the red zone, which I’ve defined as any time after 8PM.

I tend to need a few hours to wind down, so after I’m done working I watch some TV. I’d cancelled my extended cable some time ago, having been distracted by all the interesting programming on the various specialty channels. I kept basic cable because it ends up being cheaper, and the Tivo does its thing by capturing the good programs. However, we’re in a new golden age of television, and there are tons of great shows. Sigh. I end up watching a few back-to-back episodes, then I’m still wired because I’ve been sucked into some storyline and am filled with ideas. Gah. So I still end up having to wind down, and I fall asleep later than I want.

(4 minutes to go)

The Connectedness of Everything

Although I’ve been waking up “early enough” and have been doing some kind of exercise, I’ve also been under-charged. I end up taking a nap sometime in the early afternoon…can’t help it, I just conk out. Also, in the morning my head has been fuzzy and this has put me into that weird trancelike procrastination mode, where the productive part of my brain refuses to go into gear. Instead of gating rapidly through the gears and getting work done (eek, 2 minutes to go) I end up chugging in 1st, checking email and doing other low-hanging, instantaneously interesting things like organizing my notebooks. Maybe these things make me FEEL productive because my brain is at least working, but it’s also an example when my conscious will isn’t engaged at all. Starting the work on time, when I have scheduled it out (this is part of the morning routine), is increasingly becoming critical to me. And I have to make sure that everything that’s happened in the previous 24 hours has gone to plan to maintain the mental alertness that makes it happen.

So I’ve realized that a lot of what I do every day is not just a discrete task, but part of a continuum of activity. My time and energy is part of a zero sum game of resource management, and I’ve got to get my head into it.

(10 seconds! Closing out! Done!)


  1. Lauren Muney 17 years ago

    “Also, in the morning my head has been fuzzy and this has put me into that weird trancelike procrastination mode”:
    Drink water in the morning also. Seriously. If you have eaten the right stuff and drunk enough water, you should be alert for a long time in the morning. If you are drinking coffee at the coffeeshop (especially Starbuck’s, which is double-caffeinated even in the drip type) that may be dehydrating you and you’ll get the drops.
    MHO—but I’m just a wellness/fitness coach :)


  2. Dave Seah 17 years ago

    Hey Lauren! I’ve been drinking water first thing in the morning, after exercising anyway. I’ve been drinking this chai stuff in the morning, which I’m finding to be about right…I wonder if it’s still too much? Thanks for the free coaching tip! I BELIEVE! :-)

  3. Virginia 17 years ago

    You’ve already identified this as a problem, but I second it: Cut out the TV/computer after a certain time (for you and me both, that’s 8 PM). It really does work.

    I’ve been tracking my sleep on an Excel spreadsheet for about a year now. On average, I’m getting 19 minutes more sleep per night now than I was a year ago. My sleep is more consistently good, and when it’s not good, I know why (I take notes if something’s off, or if I go to bed after 9 pm (my target bedtime, as I get up a 5 am)). I’m still not very good about going to bed earlier on the weekends, but I aim to do better.

  4. Lynn O'Connor 17 years ago

    I too had a minor relapse this weekend. Saturday night I couldn’t sleep so I just stayed up all night, and definitely crashed out early Sunday night. But getting up early on Monday was absolute torture, and Tuesday and Wednesday I didn’t make it up until 8-9PM. Today I’m up at 7AM. I’ve been seeing clients as usual, and a few mornings I’ve done as planned—7AM to 11AM is for WRITING, before the phone starts ringing with clients and students and I feel like everyone’s mental kleenex.

    Today is different, my husband is staying home and I have RAs (Research Assistants) coming over and for four days we’re going through the unbelievable piles of papers all over my house (its like the house is a giant inbox) and doing the David Allex stuff sweep. I am sort of excited that we’re finally doing it. As for staying up late, I know for me its been creeping in again because I simply coudn’t get enough done in the regular day hours. I think as I”m facing things, I make too many committments and until I figure my way out of that, I’m going to keep having this problem. I don’t watch TV but I sure do surf the web, that is my form of entertainment that I have to stop. That and trying out every new GTD application that appears for the MAC. I haven’t yet started the morning notebook, I’m just trying to imitate that picture of the resource scheduler to see if I can learn somthing about at least three week planning.

    Maybe today, like right now, I’ll start the morning notebook. I am very impressed by the idea of an excel file on sleeping for a year. I need to learn to plan. Everyday I start out with a plan but before I know it the endless emails that I have to respond to, and endless phone calls that demand the same, eat up my time and my plan is in shreds by the end of the day. Does anyone have any planning recommendations? I ithink I’ll listen to the new Allen Seminar that presumably touches on project planning (I got it because I joined Connect). Have fun at the conference Dave, I went to one on learening and the brain a few weeks ago and it was great. Conferences can provide something close to a vacation, without being boring. Hang in on the new schedule, at least that is what I’m doing, and I think I just hit the end of week two and the beginning of week three. It is not yet a habit.


  5. Linda 17 years ago

    Thanks to you, I’ve also been trying to get up earlier, even when I don’t have to. It’s hard for me because I was never a morning person, and I like to lose myself in a good book before bed. I also snooze A LOT, and it’s coooold! It’s been 1-1/2 weeks so far, and I record the time I get up (it ranges from 6:30 to 9). It’s been difficult but I think I’ve been able to get more done? It’s definitely not a habit yet, and I don’t know if it will ever get to that point, but it’s great reading about how it is going with you. =)

    A tip about the TV: I usually limit myself to an hour of those sitcoms at night and no more, 30 minutes or none at all if I am really busy. If I find myself wanting to watch more, I just set the VCR and watch it when I need a laugh break or when I have more time. Sometimes, I forget about it and end up never watching it and not missing a thing. Or when I do, I get to fast-forward through the commercials.

  6. Devin 17 years ago

    Creepy, I’ve been doing the same (getting up early, establishing a routine) for the last two weeks, too. Good read, I’ll share mine soon. :)

  7. Alex Shalman 17 years ago

    Hey David,

    One thing that I have done to help me get through such days that you are describing is writing and planning. Just having a fully planned out day when you go to sleep will give you more reason to get up and start being productive first thing in the morning. Incorporate a daily preview into the morning routine, where you go over exactly what you wrote down from the night before, and get your brain fired up for the day ahead!

  8. Amanda Himelein 17 years ago

    For the days when you can’t seem to get yourself doing productive things (instead of organizing your notebooks), try an idea posted on lifehack a while back…

    Set a timer for 30 minutes.  For those 30 minutes you can re-arrange notebooks, alphabetize your DVDs, read a blogging-related article, or whatever.

    When the timer goes off, you have to spend 5 minutes doing the absolutely most important thing you need to work on today.  (The example he used was calling prospects).  Then go back to organizing DVDs again.

    At the end of the day, at the very minimum, you’ll have called your prospects.  But usually, after 2-3 repetitions of this, you’ll get sick of the process, and do the important stuff just to get it done with.

  9. Wendy 17 years ago

    Taking planned breaks mid-morning for a protein shake and mid-afternoon for a piece of fruit or something has helped me focus and cut down on the “weird trancelike procrastination mode” episodes (which I’ve never been able to describe -so thank you for that!)

  10. Garth Moore 17 years ago

    I admire your attempts to find an equilibrium. I use your Emergent Task Planner to help me find mine. here’s a few things that are starting to help me find mine (although I failed this week, too):

    —Set alarm for 6:00am and get out of bed right there. Break your snooze button or get a clock without one.

    —Drink water right out of bed, before coffee or food. Then, stretch. A lot.

    —Make sure to get a good 15-30 walk in each day ,even if you go to a gym or have meetings, work, etc.

    —Take 30 min to do one thing you love doing.

    —Try to get 7 hours of sleep.

    When I do these, I’m productive and a bit happier. Otherwise, forget it.

    Thanks for the posts, great stuff.

  11. Dave Seah 17 years ago

    Virginia: Thanks for sharing your experiences about tracking your sleep! That’s a great idea…I’ve just been keeping track of it informally, but it would be good to know for sure. 8PM TV cutoff is a good idea. I almost watched some TV last night before going to sleep, but thought of your comment and went to bed instead. I did end up reading for a bit, but in general it worked out better.

    Lynn: Good job getting up early on Monday after crashing weekend! Awesome! The 4-day SUPER DAVID ALLEN sweep sounds like a lot of fun…there’s that show on TLC called Clean Sweep that does something like that. On schedules: I’m starting to think that just ANY routine might be the foundation for productivity. I’m sure it’s been said somewhere else before. Creating a routine is sort of like conjuring structural support beams out of thin air, and then you can hang all kinds of stuff on it.

    Linda: Your description of not being a morning person fits me to a T! We probably would be bad influences on each other. :-) On the TV: I’ll have to try 30-minute TV breaks. Unfortunately I watch shows like Heroes, Lost, 24, Prison Break, and The Unit, which suck you in. Maybe the lightest thing I’m watching is Gilmore Girls or Ugly Betty. I need more episodes of Family Guy or Malcolm in the Middle.

    Devin: Awesome! Looking forward to reading about it!

    Alex: I like the day of pre-planning the evening before! I used to do something similar when doing software dev…I’d be at a place where I just exhausted, but I would force myself to write down the next few immediate steps in my development log (it’s just a big text file where I ramble to myself about what I’m doing). Didn’t think about doing that for every day. The morning planning routine I do like a lot…it’s relaxing! Gives focus!

    Amanda: That’s an awesome idea! I especially like the finish…“you’ll get sick of the process and just do the important stuff” :-) GENIUS!

    Wendy: Hm, protein shake. I wonder if that would work. I like breakfast sausage, but I don’t like the smell and the mess. Maybe a protein shake would have the same effect. Fruit tends to make me sleepy, and the hard wax-like examples I get in the wintertime make me even less desirious of whatever meager pleasures they may offer. You’re welcome on the “weird trancelike procrastination mode”…glad I’m not the only one :-)

    Garth: Every “failure” helps identify the real challenges, so think of it as just getting closer to finding a solution :-) That list is great!!! Someone else mentioned having water right next to the bed…I think I’ll have to do that.