Athlete of the Mind

League of Wildness,

Get up and do the work.

When I want to get work done highly efficiently and effectively - I get up early and crank out 1-2 hours of focused, intense, and incredibly productive work.

This typically involves a wakeup time between 5am-6am where I essentially get up, make a quick cup of decaf coffee, and start pounding keys.

Many of you reading this likely spend an inordinate amount of time performing a similar task. I often stop to think about how many hours I spend pressing plastic buttons while staring at a screen. If I focus purely on the physical act, it can cause a bit of existential angst. However, once I refocus on the reality that what I’m actually doing is creating - my psych increases dramatically. 

Mindset is everything.

I reserve this type of work for tasks that require creativity, critical thinking, and benefit from exceptional clear mindedness. Don’t waste this opportunity to respond to emails.

I’ve talked to my good friend, Mark, who uses a similar practice. He gets up at 4am and takes care of his business. We both agree that we are 3-10x more productive when we work in this manner.

Have you noticed how a task will fill the time that you allow for it?

My kids are usually up by ~7am. This creates urgency and more importantly - focus. I’m not even tempted to go on social media or check my email - I’m fully immersed in the task. 

The constraint of the clock makes work effortless.

During extended work sessions I can feel my mind fatigue in the same way my body does during a long workout. That’s where the beauty of work-rest sets come into play. You go hard during the work set, recover, and then bring the same intensity over and over and over.

Why not apply the same concept to knowledge work?

I have been playing around with taking quick 10-minute walks (outside of course) to reset my mind and recenter my focus. This allows me to go harder and be more productive knowing that there will be a respite ahead.

Like training - absolute volume of work does matter. But the quality is what matters most.

The same is true for work.

I’ve always been confused at why I could be such a dedicated athlete, but struggle to bring the same consistency and discipline to work. Specifically - creative work.

I believe that a significant problem I created for myself was a dysfunctional routine. My mind performs best in work-rest sets. The ratio and time of these sets can vary widely, but what’s important is focused, intense work, followed by true rest. 

I’ve done this a few ways:

  1. Working extremely hard for days, or even weeks at a time followed by several days of even a week or significantly reduced intensity and volume.
  2. Working in 20-90 minute blocks with 10-20 minute breaks throughout the day.
  3. All of the above.

Key point: When you do take breaks - reduce or eliminate inputs.

Don’t spend that time on your phone.

Don’t listen to music or podcasts.

Don’t read.

Go for a walk and let your mind wander.
This is active-mental-recovery.

I hate wasting time - there’s too much wildness to be had.
I find no salvation in working hours that provide no value or meaning.
I feel the most full of life when I have purpose; when I’m working towards a worthy goal.

I’ll end with a quote from Mark Twight,

“Sometimes you must sacrifice yourself on the altar of effort to be reminded of what and who you could become if you applied yourself.”

Become an athlete of the mind.

-Wildman Dan

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