#labrat: Become a Morning Person

Rat Race designed by Luis Prado from The Noun Project

Rat Race designed by Luis Prado from The Noun Project

My name is Sasha, and I am not a morning person — but I wish I was.

Every new study seems to be on the infinite benefits of waking up early, with endless examples of historical geniuses to prove it. They all seem to get their best work done in the early hours. And while some studies claim that there’s a gene needed to be an early riser, more say that it’s just a matter of resetting your internal clock. 

So, for a week starting on Monday, November 4th, using a set of specific rules and lessons learned previously (see our article on “The 1-Step Plan for Super Productivity”), I am going to do what my mother swears is the impossible; I’m going to become a morning person. And if any of this is feeling awfully familiar to you as well, I want you to join me. If you’re game to take part in the experiment, bookmark this page and follow us on Twitter, and use #labrat on your tweets so others will be able to find you. I’ll be updating and tweeting daily, so why not give it a try? We can do this, or cry through it, together.

Taken from those linked articles above and a bunch right over here, here are the rules:

  1. Must wake up at 6 a.m. You hardcore people can go earlier, but any later and to me it’s just normal wake-up-for-work that the masses have, not real “get sh** done” time.
  2. No snooze button. Not even once. If you are like me and will often hit it, or even turn off your alarm entirely, in your sleep, this will mean putting your phone or alarm clock across the room so you have to get up to turn it off.
  3. Must be exposed to sunlight. This can be difficult if you live in a place surrounded by outside lights at night, but getting natural light in the morning is key. You can also buy “dawn simulator” alarm clocks to fake it for you.  For the sake of my sanity (I live in NYC), and this experiment, I purchased this one.
  4. No working allowed in the bedroom. No laptop or cell phone left next to your bed. If your cell phone is your alarm clock, just put it at the farthest point of the room from you before you go to sleep.
  5. A strict-bed time. Since I’m getting up at 6am, in order to get eight hours, I am pledging to be in bed by 10pm. Oof.
  6. A routine starting an hour to half an hour before bedtime, so you can make the most of your early morning. Deciding and planning out what you’ll be working on with your extra time (this is super important!), laying out your clothes for the next day, as well as some down-time before turning off the lights. No blue-screens allowed though, many studies show that looking at laptops or TV screens before bed can make it harder to fall asleep. If you’re gonna read, you’re gonna have to do it the old fashioned (though better for reading comprehension) way — paperback! 

Note: You’ll have noticed through reading any of the links above, that most suggest waking up a little bit earlier every day until you hit your desired time, and that you need a full month of sticking with it (weekends included!) to properly switch your cycle over. For experiment’s sake, and because I’ve never been one to “ease” into anything, we’re just going for it.

Make sure to check back here starting on Monday for daily updates all week and a final conclusion on Friday! Follow #labrat on Twitter to see how others are keeping up and offer some encouragement, though something more along the lines of a cup of coffee would be very much appreciated.

Monday: Failed miserably. It start by missing my bedtime. I ended up turning off my alarm in my sleep and going back to bed! New plan for tomorrow: switching out phone alarm for a fake-dawn simulator one.

Tuesday: Woke up on time, no snooze button! It was a slow drag through the morning though. I felt like I was operating with only 20% of my brain on (for some reason it took me around 45 minutes to make and eat breakfast). I did get some work done though, and the major thing I noticed was feeling of no pressure. There’s a lot of freedom with that. I wasn’t hurtling through the street to reach my subway stop or grimacing at every slightly-slower moving human — I was one of those people strolling, taking my time to really look at the surrounding shops and people on my walk. The only downside is I just got to work but feel like half the day is already over, with 8.5 more hours to go!

Wednesday: I started this AM using a fake dawn-simulator alarm clock (this one here). It was really wonderful. I woke up naturally, on my own, with 5 minutes left before my alarm was set to go off. I tried to snooze for those last 5, but found myself wide-awake. Unfortunately I had to leave earlier for work today, so I barely got anything done on my side project, but still started the day at work feeling great.

Thursday: Stuck to my “bedtime” Wednesday night. I dragged myself there, muttering about how this was dumb and I wasn’t even tired, and yet ended up falling asleep minutes later. This morning was a bit of an outlier though, because I had to get some blood work done at my doctor’s before work, which meant fasting from midnight until then. Waking up was fine (up at 5:45am), but trying to stay awake with no coffee or food did not go well. To summarize: I fell asleep on the kitchen table. This seems obvious and like common sense, but today’s lesson is that for morning people, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. 

Friday: I feel like I’m finally getting into the swing of it. I was in bed by 10pm and read ’til around 10:30pm. Woke up 5 minutes before my alarm went off and, inspired by a #labrat tweet I saw yesterday about staying offline, I didn’t even look at my phone or computer until almost 8am. I sat in front of the kitchen window and enjoyed my breakfast while reading a book. Probably the most relaxing weekday morning I’ve had yet.

Here’s how today went for other lab rats:











Conclusion: Though I only got one work-week of this experiment in, the “extra” time I had was surprising. The separation between that, of work and creative side projects, was refreshing too. I do think the bedtime (and thus the start time) has to be pushed back a little bit for myself, as 10pm can be hard to stick with. I also wish I had been able to do it the gradual way, of moving up fifteen minutes every few days until you hit your desired start time. Regardless, as a previously sworn night owl, there’s been something really inspiring about seeing the sun rise and get brighter as I wake up; a kind of lightness that I carry with me for the rest of the day.

If you’re coming to this #labrat a little late and just reading this now, please still feel free to join! There’s a large amount of other lab rats using the #labrat hashtag on twitter with their updates, which I’m always looking through, and I’ll still be checking the comments section as they come in. You can do it!

load comments (62)
  • timeoutofmind

    go. do it .. i have constantly tried to evolve myself to turn into a morning person …when i get up early, i feel great. when i sleep in late, i feel like guilty dogshit.

    good luck.

  • misterparker

    The trick is discipline to get to sleep early, or taking power-naps (15min) during the day, when you feel your energy level dropping

    • Sasha

      Or coffee! So much coffee. It made me realize that I don’t know anyone who is a morning person that doesn’t love caffeine haha.

  • calvinalibra

    I was having a bit of a problem getting up in the morning due to some serious insomnia. Like up at 3am insomnia looking at the stupid green blinking light on the smoke alarm (wide awake). I’d doze around 4:30 or 5, then try to get up and do an early morning workout but i’d be miserably dogging it in the gym because i was so tired at that point. It was pretty miserable. I’ve since decided to embrace this insomnia problem and when I’d wake up with that “can’t go back to sleep” feeling, i’d just head straight to the gym (even if it was at 3am), i wouldn’t even try to go back to sleep. So if you can try doing something to get that blood pressure going you’ll do ok. Doesn’t have to be the gym obviously but anything that will knock those cob webs out (stretch, washing your face with semi cold water, turning on all the lights, having an early morning playlist assuming you won’t wake up people living with you) all of that works.

    The alarm on the other side of the room is a great idea. Maybe put it close to the light switch and turn that light on as soon as you turn your alarm off. The burst of light should be a nice punch to the gut of that sleepiness you’re feeling. Just whatever you do, don’t stop, you definitely got this!

    • Sasha

      Thanks Calvin! Has that helped you so far — just getting up and going no matter the time?

      • calvinalibra

        Yep, till this day. My time is usually 4am but I get up and go whenever i get up. You always know when you wake up during a sleep cycle, I think naturally my sleep cycle ends around 3:30/4 if i go back to sleep at that time and wake up around 5:30 or 6 (via alarm clock), it almost feels like my eye lids are incapable of opening. I have to really struggle to get up. So for me it’s best to just get up naturally and start my day. Honestly, getting out of that warm and cozy bed is the hardest part. Once you stand to your feet, you’re good. Try it tomorrow and let me know how it goes.

  • Rocky Roark

    I get up every morning at 6am already, before I moved closer to work I was driving an hour and a half to work each day and so getting up past 6am wasn’t really too much an option (at least to me). Then after I moved closer I still got up at 6am and started coming into work way earlier to get more things done and be more productive which really really works!

  • http://www.midnightcheese.com/ Cale Mooth

    #5 is really the one item that has to happen. That’s the only way I’ve been able to adjust to my 5am schedule. It’s not going to happen in a week, either. It’ll take several weeks to adjust, but if you keep at it, it will happen.

    Feeling yourself get tired at 8pm is an odd thing, but it makes sense if you’re getting up that early.

    • Sasha

      Very odd for sure, might be one of the hardest parts of this experiment! However it has given me and my Nana a lot of new things to talk about. Haha.

  • Mario

    For a head start, do this cheat:

    1. Don’t eat dinner. If anything have a weak portion/soup/salad (for dinner eat like a peasant, remember?). This will do two things, 1) will allow your body to not through an all out digestion and 2) you’ll wake up to break-the-fast. Try it, its not for everyday but it’ll give you a head start.

    • Sasha

      I also read that you can swap out your after-dinner dessert or snack for ones that will make you sleepy: popcorn, cherry (w/no sugar) juice, and cereal.

  • J.W. Jessy Forsyth

    I started getting up early (4-5am) this summer to get a jump on the day. It has worked out great. There are a lot less distractions and I get to leave early :)

    • Sasha

      I always seem to wake up (a little) earlier in the summer too, those mornings are so bright but still cool and comfortable. Have you been able to keep that now that’s it’s getting colder out? I struggle with leaving my warm bed the most.

  • Lou Shackleton

    Great experiment! It’s something I’ve played with myself recently.

    I agree with Cale that it takes longer to adjust – seven days is a great start to see if it’s actually possible for you, but to really get your body to shift to the new habit I’d say you need the recommended 30 days. I recently completed my own 30 Day Sunrise Photo Challenge. You can read my thoughts from seven days in here: http://theyoucanhub.org.uk/2013/10/08/why-danger-lous-goal-is-to-get-up-earlier/

    You can also see the full photo set here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/loushackleton/sets/72157636079840105/

    I’m in the progress of writing up the thirty things I learned in those thirty days – the biggest is that it’s funny how changing one thing can lead to a lot of unexpected changes.

    Sleep hygiene is key, and sticking to the regular earlier bed time. I’m still seeing the benefits now. Having an incentive that wasn’t just about starting work early was also a key part of it, and being kind to myself. Good luck!

    • Sasha

      Thanks “Danger” Lou! :) Do you try to switch around your incentives? That’s such a good point; if I didn’t have a set project to work on or chore to do, I spent a lot of time trying to make excuses for why I should go back to bed.

      • Lou Shackleton

        Hi Sasha!

        I have to say that this is the first time I’ve tried this incentive approach. And I think you’ve hit on the essence of it. You say in your response to my comment, “If I didn’t have a set project to work on or chore to do” you would find it hard to get up and in your learning at the end you say “there’s been something really inspiring about seeing the sunrise and get brighter as I too wake up, a kind of lightness that I carry with me for the rest of the day.” Some of your fellow #labrats agree – what awesome photos!

        This is exactly what worked for me – I had a real sense of lightness and space from being outside at that time of the morning. And it’s a case of “What are you getting up earlier for?” So for me, there’s no way I’d get up early for a chore – but getting up earlier to do something else gave me more focus which meant I got more chores done over the course of the day.

        The early start combined with the photo challenge was a statement of intent – this is my time, just for me, to give myself a creative space. I put myself first – not my work, or my emails, or my chores – me. And that gives me greater focus in my day, and a greater sense of achievement at the end of it.

        Thank you for prompting this reflection Sasha! Really helped me to think more about what I gained from my experience!

    • Mary Maru

      Danger Lou! I so thought of you when I saw this article so not surprised to see you here. Sasha, great ideas. Bookmarked and ready for Monday.

  • Jalmari Eskelinen

    Love this idea. Coincidentally, I started this very same experiment this week, and only now stumbled across your article. I’ve been surprised how easily I’ve been (so far) able to adapt to waking up a 6am, since I’ve always considered myself an anti-morning person. I think the key is to get to bed early, latest at 10pm, so you’ll get enough sleep (and keep it constant, so your body and brain develop a habit of it). My morning trick is to prepare my coffee machine in the evening and put my alarm clock next to it, so when I get out of bed I can just switch the machine on and wait for the sweet caffeine to wake me up properly. I definitely recommend this, it’s been great to be able to work in an absolute peace for a couple of hours before other people start waking up and contacting you.

    • Sasha

      Genius!! I tried a version of this last night (since I’m using that fake-dawn alarm to wake up) by leaving my cell phone next to the coffee, as that’s the first thing I always want to check in the morning. Thanks for the tip!

  • Pål Strøm

    I’ve also tried a similar experiment, getting up early to work on side projects. But I did it with a biphasic sleep pattern, which lets you not go to bed at 10pm, because that sucks. So basically you go to sleep at 12:30, and get up at 5am. That’s 4.5 hours of sleep. Then you sleep for 60-90 minutes at 5-6pm. Which in total is about 6 hours. I did this for about 4 months, and it worked really well. I would recommend this instead of just getting up early and going to bed early. The reason I fell off the pattern was after work activities, which wouldn’t let me get that one hour nap in the afternoon. http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2011/03/biphasic-sleep/ <- some more info on the biphasic sleep pattern.

    • Sasha

      That’s super interesting, but seems really difficult to hold when working the eight-hour work day! I always wish we could have nap-breaks at work, especially right around 3 or 4pm.

  • Hillary Steinau

    I am just joining now, great convo and idea. I find if you stop eating after 7 pm it is easier to get up early. And NO screen time after 8pm period. It is paper books for me.

  • Nicola Murphy

    Great idea! I got up early this morning and did a 30-minute aerobics DVD before coming to work – I think I’m still buzzing and it’s almost the 3pm slump! :-)

    • Sasha

      Dang, you are hardcore! I’m trying to get to that place, of having so much motivation, but still fighting the zombie-brain all morning.

  • Paulo Mrcookie Blanco

    I´m a brazilian one, that receive the brieffing and payed attetion.
    Think there are something for me.
    I use to procrastinate and wake up early is a part of this morbid desease
    I´ll try to read all the thing …
    Thanks !

  • Kevintnguyen

    Oh snap, I want to hop on this experiment

  • Phil Winkel

    Struggled with this forever but you can do it if you stick to it. It’s going to take longer than a week however.

    First of all, if you’re on the computer or phone late, the light from your monitor can be affecting your sleep and keeping you awake. I would highly recommend installing F.lux (http://justgetflux.com/) on your computer. If you’re on Android phone there’s Twilight (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.urbandroid.lux).

    All of the standard sleep hygene stuff applies, some of which you mentioned – don’t work in your bedroom, don’t lay in bed for a long time reading or watching tv before bed, etc. Don’t drink caffeine too late in the evening.

    Light therapy can help, get one of those natural light / full spectrum lights.

    Another thing is don’t do anything that really works your brain before bed – like for me, I can’t play an intense game of Battlefield or Starcraft before bed as some games get your adrenaline going.

    Don’t exercise before bed, etc. It can be done but it takes discipline (and more than a week of it). The only way I ever switched over to the morning was when I got a “real” 9-5 job, instead of freelancing at home.

    • nina76

      Yeah, I think your eating habits affect your sleep a lot. I’m not a morning person by any means (I get to the office about 11.30-12 am! Luckily I’m my own boss) and I usually stay up late until 2 am. I really hate mornings and I feel groggy right up until midday. I don’t drink coffee but I’m addicted to Red Bull. However I’m discovering that my eating habits and what I eat at every given time matters. Digestion rules our bodies. You feel more tired and sleepy if you’re not digesting well, like myself. I have a new found intolerance to gluten, so that might be it. Investigate your body and give it what it wants. However I think I’m at disadvantage since I’m Spanish. Here everyhting is late by default. We have lunch at 2.30-3 pm, we finish work at 7-8.30 pm and have dinner around 10-11 pm. When we go out at nights, clubs are not full until 3am! So you get it now… very difficult to be a morning person when I get home about 8.30pm, prepare my dinner an hour later and end up eating at 11pm! Of course I won’t go to bed until digestion is done which means at least 1am!

      • Sasha

        That kind of schedule sounds both lovely and frustrating. My boyfriend studied in Madrid for a summer and always struggled with being hungry right during the “siesta” hours where everything would close down because of the heat!

    • Sasha

      I love Flux! And the no video games or “thrilling” things before bed is a good call. I use to think I could read one of the books from the Song of Ice and Fire series (also known as Game of Thrones) before bed, but then wouldn’t be able to sleep for hours!

  • Saundra Davis

    Willing to start on 11/11. I was a morning person for the first 30 years of my life, now…not so much. Looking forward to this.

    • Sasha

      What changed to shift you off that schedule?

      • Saundra Davis


        I realized that I had “become” an early morning person as a result of external influences (my mother, the military) and found that I actually did my best work in between 10 and 2. So, being self employed I started working in blocks of time based on my “creative ” or “operations” needs. That has worked but I find the I now need to adjust to meet the changing needs of my business.

  • RoxStar

    I decided 3 years ago that i needed to be a morning person. I am a very joyous person and pleasant to be around, of coarse after I have been awake for at least an hour. It took me around a year of getting up a little earlier, going to sleep a little earlier(which by the way was the hardest for me), and changing my morning eating habits before I can honestly say that I shed the grumpy morning routine. People who have met me within the last two years would automatically think I was a morning person. I am one of the few who are in the office before it opens, ready to greet with a smile!
    I would still say that I am a night owl, but my attitude in the morning has changed for the better. If you want to change, that is half the battle. It is possible, stick with it!

  • deniz

    I am in the in between period of finding a job and leaving my past behind and cleaning my mind in progress. I was sleeping till very late since I moved back to my parents place because things went very bad:( and since two-three days I have been thinking about and trying to wake up a bit earlier but I need a big transformation and this seems the most radical one. Thanks for the inspiration. I am starting immediately. :)

    • Anneke

      How did it go this morning Deniz?

  • sarcasticprincess

    i move to a new place this sunday afternoon, its a big room with a lot of natural light in the morning and have no curtain yet —-> but i read this post and wanna be a morning person too, so im sure i will let the sunshine…. :))

    • Sasha

      Nice! A good trick our Editor-in-Chief does is she has lighter colored, kinda breezy curtains so she still gets privacy but they won’t block the light.

      • sarcasticprincess

        moved into this nice room for 8 days, and love it! i didnt have any curtain yet, but can get privacy, cause its on the 5th floor. :D every morning – since i moved in – get up early, and have a lot of time to study before work, and what is really important: im not more tired at the end of the day, just have 2 plus hours a day :D :D but, you are right, if later i wanna have a curtain, i try maybe a white or pastell coloured light curtain. :D

      • sarcasticprincess

        #jj #gizi #bp #hungary #mik #fotd #morning #view

        A photo posted by @virimokus on

        i see everymorning this from my window

  • Alex

    Absolutely disgusting. Our society feels a need to enforce a notion that morning people are good, productive people and night persons are somehow lazy. This is despite scientific knowledge of circadian rhythms and the physical and mental benefits of waking naturally.

    I get far more done in the peaceful stillness of the night than mornings in the company of holier-than-thou morning people. The early bird gets the worm, but the night owl is an apex predator.

    • Anneke

      You’re right Alex: morningpeople are not “better” people then “evening/night-people”. Stil… the people I know who are not morningpeople (including myself) are also procrastinators and have problems with “discipline”/persistance/endurance. And therefore have a bit trouble in achieving longterm goals. Maybe the whole getting-up-early is also an exercise in the acceptance of not feeling comfortable every minute of the day. It helps with a positive active mindset throughout the whole day :-)

      • Jillian

        I wouldn’t say it is about good or bad either. But certainly owls are nocturnal and being up all night is natural for them. Humans…not so much. I would think for most humans, sleeping at night and waking in the morning is most efficient.

      • Sasha

        Agreed, when I follow my natural impulses of being a night owl, very rarely are those late night hours spent doing anything productive.

    • Sasha

      I agree completely in that the ideologies attached to each are entirely wrong and was in no way doing this to be a “better” person! But I personally saw that at the end of the day, after coming home from work, I would still stay up late but get nothing productive done. I zoned out – for hours. This was me trying to take that time and put it in a part of the day where I wouldn’t be intellectually spent.

    • Dchocolateman

      Bullshit! The thing is before you claim to be a ‘night person’ what real effort have you put into it to try to be a morning person? If your ‘Im a night person’ is based on being a lazy ass, then you are only looking for excuses to stay lazy. Morning people don’t just become morning people, they put a lot of effort into achieving that due to the understanding of the benefits attached to it

      • ann177

        “Morning people don’t just become morning people, they put a lot of effort into achieving that due to the understanding of the benefits attached to it”

        This may be true for some people, but all the morning people I know just wake up early, naturally. My best friend wakes up very early, all days of the week, and has done so since we were in 6th grade. She doesn’t “work” at waking up early. It’s her natural rythm. Same for my college roommate (who couldn’t stay up late to save her life), my mother, my brother, etc.

        So chill out on the rage kool-aid and acknowledge that some people naturally wake up early, some naturally sleep in, and some realign their “natural” sleep cycle because of perceived benefits or necessity.

  • Fannie Lam

    Starting Nov 2nd, I’d been challenging myself to wake up at 6AM to do a sketch or something creative, taking advantage of the end of Daylight Savings (meaning I didn’t REALLY have to adjust my clock….). So far, I’ve been able to hit it every morning, documenting my progress on a daily blog (www.makosaur.com). There was the temptation to take the extra hour of shuteye the first 2 days….but now I find myself sort of looking forward to rolling out of bed and splashing out ideas. As an inhouse designer, I’ve always found myself creatively exhausted by the time I reach home after work, so I’m learning to treasure that extra hour in the morning. Will be following along with other labrats. Keep it up!

    • Sasha

      That’s awesome, Fannie!

  • sandra jackson

    mom said, “an hour in the morning is worth 2 in the afternoon.”
    So far, she’s right (for me).

  • Sasha

    How did your first day go??

    • http://gsoma.us/ Levi Patrick

      Not a strong first attempt… feeling like I’m ready for tomorrow though!

      • Sasha

        Awesome, let us know how it goes!

  • http://www.weboutsourcing-gateway.com/ Web Outsourcing Gateway

    This blog about productivity seems to be very helpful. Thanks for sharing. Enough sleep can give great result in terms of productivity and creativity.

  • http://michaelxander.com/ Michael Xander

    Morning’s are quite an interesting subject and I’m obsessed with morning routines. This is why I co-created mymorningroutine.com in 2012, which provides you every Wednesday an inspiring morning routines to set you up for a more productive and enjoyable day. I would be happy to welcome you on MMR if you seek further inspiration.

  • http://behance.net/erickmy Erick Mazer Yamashita

    Quite late but I’m going to give it a shot.

  • Daria

    I am a teacher, and off during summers. After reading an article in the Success Magazine regarding some typical routines of over-achievers. I have decided to train myself to wake up as early as possible. 4AM that is. It was easy to do during summer months: I’ll get up at 4-4:05 AM, have my coffee, go for a run, go to the gym, write, work on creative projects, strategize, and read. When winter came, it became much harder to get out of bed, but still manageable.

    I have to say I love those early morning hours. The quietness, no one wants anything from you (just yet), ability to dedicate a full hour or two to think that matter to YOU, clear head to think creatively.

    I am in bed by 8PM most days.
    Great article!

  • Andrea Zanferrari

    Hi all. Next monday I’ll start to try to become a morning person.

    Thanks for this article!

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    The Consumption Of The Famous Key Lime Pies Are Quite Detrimental To The
    Practices Of Divorce Attorneys. But, That’s Not Bad. Hell That’s Good
    News. …Not A Sad Note, A Happy Note! The Pelaez’s Pies Are A Win-Win-Win
    For Everyone Involved! ….I Guess You Could Say What Has Been Said Many
    Times Before,…”AHHH” The Magic Of The Lovely Anita Pelaez And Her Key
    Lime Pies…. ….I Do Know First Hand That The Pelaez’s Famous Key Lime
    Pies Have The Ability To Turn Small Stream Squirters Into Major League
    Gushers Or Some Might Call Them “Niagara Falls”. Holly Molly, Let Those
    Good Times Flow, Baby! ….It’s No Wonder Everyone Believes That Kutchie
    Pelaez Is The Most Interesting Man In The World…..”Damn He Really Is”
    For Sure! …..That “Kutchie”, He Looks Marvelous Dahling!… ….”Hemingway”,
    Had Nothing On The “KutchMan”… ….Someone Overheard The “Kutchman” Say
    One Day That He Thought That He Was A Lesbian!… We Don’t Want To see Him
    Coming Out Of The Toilet With Just His Dick In His Hands! ….If He Ever
    Needs Any Guidance, Who’s A Better Consiglieri Than His Father?….They
    Both Season They’re Garlic With Food! ….And For Our Old Friend, This Key
    Lime Pie Is For You….”HAROLD RAMIS”,….Rest In Peace Buddy….. ….Just
    4-U…007, Who Would Name A Room “Blanche Devereaux” ? Who-Who-Who???
    ….Who Was That Most Interesting Man? ….And Sadly, This Key Lime Pie
    Award Goes-Out To Our Old Friend Jay Trayinor The Original Jay Of “Jay
    And The Americans”. Rest In Peace Old Buddy, We Are Going To Miss
    You….And With A Heavy Heart We Are Also Offering-Up A Key Lime Pie For
    Our Old Buddie “David Brenner”….Rest In Peace Man….
    ….What’s Size Got To Do With It?….Tell Me, Tell Me, Tell Me!!!….

    The Kind Of Medicine No Doctor Can Prescribe…..(Anita and Kutchie’s
    World Famous Key Lime Pies)…..Get It In “Kutcharitaville”!!!…..

    Called “Goody Goody” The Original “Cheeseburgers In Paradise”!….Only
    Place You Will Ever Find Them Is At “Kutcharitaville”. Yep That’s It
    Pilgrim, Only At “Kutcharitaville”!

    ….Thanks,…..Mr. Big Stuff,…..Who Do You Think I Are?….

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Information Overload? Embrace “Intentional Ignorance”

Close-Minded by Luis Prado from the Noun Project

Close-Minded by Luis Prado from the Noun Project

The availability of information in the digital age is overwhelming. For every mesmerizing Instagram profile you browse, there are hundreds of millions more. For every page of search results you scroll down, there are thousands upon thousands beyond that one. For every article you read or RSS feed you subscribe to on a research topic, you could spend the rest of your career consuming more where those came from, and never reach the end.

Writer Sarah Von Bargen discovered the magic of “intentional ignorance” when she clicked “mark all as read” in her RSS reader:

[T]his temporary ‘opting out’ has increased my productivity and cleared my mind like nothing else.

You see, I’m deep in ‘creation mode’ at the moment… And all those great articles and clever blog posts and super helpful tutorials that I usually read aren’t helping me get any closer my goals. In fact, they’re distracting and misdirecting me. …

So I’m making the decision to safeguard my focus and productivity. I’m putting the proverbial blinders on and keeping my eyes on my own paper. …

Intentional Ignorance gives you space to do your best work. It frees up mental energy for big, exciting projects. It allows you to focus – with laser-like intensity – on one or two things. …

We all cycle through seasons in our lives and businesses – times when we’re seeking inspiration and insight and times when we need quiet single-mindedness and uninterrupted time. Take a look at where you are and what you’re doing and if you need to turn down the noise, go ahead and click ‘unfollow’ or ‘unsubscribe’ or even just ‘mark all as read.’

The internet will still be here when you get back.

Taking an information sabbatical is like giving yourself the gift of ignorance-as-bliss. What you don’t know that you don’t know can’t hurt you. You can adopt the principle of intentional ignorance even when you’re not in need of hyperfocus on a certain project. Set a monthly calendar reminder to scroll through all the content you’ve saved using your tool of choice—Pocket, Evernote, Pinterest, Google Docs—and delete anything that you’re not going to read right this second. Think you’ll get to those articles or videos at some point? As von Bargen points out,

I’m here to tell you that a) that won’t happen b) all those unread newsletters carry an immeasurable psychic weight. They make you feel bad just sitting there, all unread! Dude, delete them. That’s what Google is for.


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Stop Ending Your Client Emails With This Phrase

Remove email icon by Lloyd Humphreys from the Noun Project

Remove email icon by Lloyd Humphreys from the Noun Project

Over on the InVision blog, freelancer Robert Williams shares some valuable intel on how you can strengthen your client emails. He gleaned serious insights when he found client after client backing out or not replying to his messages, leaving him without work and increasingly stressed:

[T]here’s one huge problem that almost every freelancer I’ve met suffers from: they use a phrase that hurts their credibility and repels clients.

“Let me know how I can help.”

When I said this I honestly thought I was being helpful. I’d close almost every email with some variation of “Just let me know…” It felt like the right way to end an email. …

By ending my emails like this, I was dropping a wheelbarrow full of work on my client’s desk and saying “Here. You deal with it.” It reeked of incompetence. …

So I began to do the complete opposite and prescribe solutions at the end of every email. … Just by suggesting a next step at the end of my email, I was able to double the amount of people who responded to me.

This next step was different for every email, but it always followed the same 2-step structure. I would include:

– My suggested next step
– What we could do in the event they don’t want to do that

… If someone wanted a meeting, I’d suggest a time and instead of saying, “Let me know if this works for you.” I’d switch that out for, “If not, then X time/day also works or I’m free at X time/day.” …

You’re not just saving yourself the extra time of writing 2 separate emails, you’re saving you (and your client) the time in between these emails.

Williams suggests writing every single client email with whatever your next step is going to be in mind. Make every sentence reinforce that next step, whether it’s a confirmation of the deliverable you’ll be sending on a specific date, a request for feedback that you need by the next week, or an agenda for your upcoming call.

As Elizabeth Grace Saunders pointed out in a past 99U piece, effective people “always add value” with their email. She suggests that replying just for the sake of replying is a waste of time. Per both Williams’s and Saunders’s guidance, aim to always add something of communicative value to your email correspondence with clients. If you don’t, you’re making yourself more of a burden than a help.


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How to Be as Productive as Your High School Self

You in high school: a dramatization.

You in high school: a dramatization.

Impossible Ventures founder Joel Runyon was one of those high school overachievers who balances sports, extracurriculars, a social life, and an advanced course load all while making great grades and still having free time to, as he says, “jack around.”

Since you read 99U, you probably have at least a little of the high school overachiever in you, too. The challenge is tapping into that high-gear productivity DNA as an adult in the working world. It was so much easier to have it all back in high school. The barometer of success was much more clear-cut, and there was a substantial safety net just one stumble away. There were letter grades to measure your performance, and standardized tests to evaluate how capable you were compared to your peers. You had a much stricter schedule with less control over your daily routine, which established boundaries and limits that fed productivity.

With all that in mind, Runyon took a critical retrospective eye to his habits as a 16-year-old powerhouse, and came up with some helpful tips:

Make Your Lunch The Night Before

… Packing your lunch the night before is a good ritual. It helps you wind down for the evening and gets your body mentally ready to fall asleep, so the rest of the week can go according to plan. …

Get In Bed By Midnight

You can stay up as late as you want, as long as you’re in bed by midnight.

If you’re in bed by midnight, you’ll have no problem getting up at 5:30 or 6. If you’re in bed at 1am, you’ll sleep till noon. …

When School / Work Is Over, Leave

Don’t stay at work longer than you have to. I don’t stay at school longer than I have to. It’s practically a race out the doors. …

Schedules Make Things Real

… Practice? Write it in.

Hanging out? Know when your free time is (schedule it). …

Bonus: make sure you have people at each place who will hold you accountable. Show up late and you’ll be running suicides. …

Do It With Friends

Anything you do with friends will be 2x as much fun and will have 1/2 the stress than if you do it alone.

Even AP Physics can be fun – if you’re with the right people.

It may seem unattainable to reach your high school productivity levels given the added pressures and responsibilities of adulthood. But science shows that during high school you are poised biologically to be deeply impressed by your experiences while you also form your first sense of identity. So today, those helpful habits are primed for the plucking somewhere in your mental makeup. And this time, you can adopt them without the teenage acne and traumatizing bad haircut.


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How Pessimism Can Improve Your Life And Work

A new video by The School of Life explores the unappreciated wisdom of pessimism. Negative thinking gets a bad rap, but in fact it can ironically have a positive effect on your productivity and creativity. As The School of Life argues, pessimism prepares you for the worst, reduces your expectations, and protects you from disappointment—all helpful for your psyche as well as your creative output:

We live in an absurdly and painfully optimistic world. Mostly, that’s the result of all the businesses out there trying to sell us things, and understandably using cheerfulness to do it. And partly, it’s the influence of technology, which is always getting better, coloring our view of life as a whole, which often isn’t improving. …

For centuries, religions peddled dark messages. Buddhism told its followers that life was suffering. Christianity spoke of the fallen state of mankind, and of the inevitability of earthly imperfection. That was helpful; it kept our expectations in check.

The psychologist William James came up with an equation: Happiness = Expectations / Reality. So there are two ways to ensure contentment. Change reality, or change expectations. Pessimists know to reduce the expectations.

Writer Barbara Ehrenreich takes the espousal of pessimism a step further in her acclaimed book Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America. As she writes in a piece for The Guardian, it’s not just that pessimism has benefits for us; optimism can actually be psychologically harmful:

Like a perpetually flashing neon sign in the background, like an inescapable jingle, the injunction to be positive is so ubiquitous that it’s impossible to identify a single source. Oprah routinely trumpets the triumph of attitude over circumstance. A Google search for “positive thinking” turns up 1.92m entries. A whole coaching industry has grown up since the mid-90s, heavily marketed on the internet, to help people improve their attitudes and hence, supposedly, their lives. …

[But this] ideological force in American culture… encourages us to deny reality, submit cheerfully to misfortune and blame only ourselves for our fate.

You undoubtedly have, and will continue to, hit roadblocks on your path in life and work. But by recognizing that cheerfully assuming everything will shake out in your favor, and maintaining unrealistically sky-high expectations, is dangerous and unproductive, you’ll be able to clear those roadblocks in such a way that enables you to learn, grow and—most importantly—move on.

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How (and Why) You Should Read More

Book by Mike Ashley from the Noun Project

Book by Mike Ashley from the Noun Project

There’s no question that reading enriches your life. Reading imparts fresh inspiration, keeps your brain sharp, improves your writing, can relax you, and even benefits your health. Devoting the time and mental energy needed to read an entire book, as opposed to the snackable content (tweets, blog posts, email newsletters) that makes up the Internet, is a deeply rewarding experience. You go on an intimate journey with an author, by way of which you become much more immersed in the topic at hand than you’d be able to after a few hundred words of “like”-able discourse.

But how to make time for reading books (physical or e-)? From Rype’s blog, a few handy suggestions:

Learn To Read Faster

… Since the average reader reads around 250–300 words per minute, being able to double your reading speed at 500–600 words will allow you read twice the number of books in the same amount of time. …

a. use a pointer

Use either a pen or your index finger to keep track of your speed when reading. This will be useful for the second technique.

b. expand your peripheral vision

Start reading 3 words in from the first word of each line and end 3 words in from the last word.

Schedule It

Reading more books can simply come from making more time for it.

Scheduling your most important tasks can become one of the most productive things you can do, whether you’re making time to read, learn a language, or master a skill. …

It can be as little as 15–30 minutes in the morning before your work, or during lunch hours.

Drop It If You Don’t Love It

… If you want to read more books, retain more, and double your knowledge, you need to have a passion for what you’re reading. …

Don’t be afraid to quit if you don’t love it.

It’s what will lead to what you love.

Keeping track of how many books you read each year can be a huge motivator. You get the satisfaction of adding an item to your list each time you close the cover of a book for the last time, and can challenge yourself to increase your total each year. Sites like Goodreads and Shelfari help you log your read count and set an annual goal.

Reading is one of the three R’s of childhood education for a reason. And assuredly, Sir William Curtis—credited with coining the phrase—had books in mind when he said it.


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The Method Actor Approach to Design


Legendary graphic designer Michael Bierut, Pentagram partner and protégé of design legend Massimo Vignelli, lets the world into his creative process in his new monograph How to Use Graphic Design to Sell Things. A particularly interesting element is his “method actor” approach to graphic design, as he tells FastCoDesign:

[S]omeone says you want to do the signs for the New York Times?… [T]o do the work properly, I have to talk to editors, I have to sit in on the page-one meeting where they decide how page one is going to be laid out…

If you just have a request for proposal where the client says we need X, Y, and Z, that really just gives you the shopping list… It’s sort of like saying, I need a pair of pants and a shirt. But then, where are you going to wear it, how much are you going to spend? I’ll stand you in front of a mirror and you have to feel like you’re the kind of person who can wear those clothes.

So going to all those meetings, if all I cared about were typefaces or colors, I’d be sitting, fidgeting, thinking, “Why am I here? This is boring.” Instead, I was thinking “I can’t believe I’m here, I can’t believe that without ever taking a journalism class I’m actually sitting with the top editors at the New York Times and I’ll know before any other civilian does what’s going to be the story that appears in the first column on the left of tomorrow’s paper.” I had that momentary thrill.

Wrapping yourself up in the topic of your work so that you’re truly invested doesn’t just translate into more effective and impactful work. It also keeps you more fulfilled and motivated as an artist. Because the method actor approach to acting isn’t just about inhabiting the character fully so that you never lift the veil to reveal your true self until after the project is completed. Ultimately, method acting is about just being, as opposed to putting something on or performing. And if you can get to that place in your work when you’re not feigning interest or curiosity, but truly “feeling it,” that’s where the art lies.


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Austin Kleon: How To Be a “Scenius”

By Austin Kleon

By Austin Kleon

Writer and artist Austin Kleon, of Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work! fame, is a big supporter of creatives that can contribute to an artistic community as opposed creating in their own vacuum. In FastCo Create, he borrows the term “scenius” from the musician Brian Eno to encourage artists to change their end goal from being a genius to being a creative contributor:

Kleon cautions against the artistic myth of the lone genius pounding away in a garret somewhere…. He created his own scenius online. Kleon says, “I think what has been the most remarkable in my career is that I’ve never been part of a geographical scene. I didn’t move to New York after college. I didn’t move to L.A. I moved to Cleveland, and there’s not a whole lot of a scene there. But what I did have was the Internet, and I became part of a scenius by putting my work out there. I started blogging in 2005, and back then, we were all connected, we just didn’t have social media in the same way as we do now. You’d just post things to your blog and people would send you comments or emails and you’d slowly find people as they stumbled across your work. When I did work I really liked and put it online, it attracted the people I wanted to meet. For me, being online, that was my scenius. That was my moving to New York in the ’70s. Or Paris in the ’20s.”

Kleon notes that you don’t have to be in the same medium as the people in your scenius. In fact, it helps if you’re not. He says since moving to Austin, he’s fallen in with musicians and filmmakers in addition to writers and artists, and those relationships have informed his work.

The key to being a scenius is to create something every single day. A constant stream of creative outpout ensures that you remain a vital part of a creative community. As Kleon told 99U in an interview:

We all get 24 hours. No one gets more time. Sure, you might have your job, you might have a kid, you might have a family—I had all of those things when I was writing my first book—but when you get ruthless about what you really want to do, there are so many gaps. So many little spaces in the day where you can find the time….

It happens a lot of in creative work that you finish a project and you don’t know what to do next. It can be a bit disconcerting. And I think that’s why it’s so important to have a daily practice that you do no matter what you are working on.

Your work, no matter what it is, matters. When you put it out there every day for your creative scene to absorb and consume, you cultivate your own brand and the community in tandem. That’s what being a scenius is all about.


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