Monday, August 1, 2011

Morning Reflections

I've been re-thinking my morning habit. Up until five or six years ago, I started my day with a cup of tea that I took back to bed, settling in with whatever book I was reading. Somehow this very pleasant routine has been replaced with time on-line. While the kettle's boiling, I'm checking e-mail, Facebook, and, for the last two weeks, Twitter. As the tea steeps, I move through CBC news headlines, check the Globe for their take, look at the weather forecasts. Bringing my cuppa to the keyboard, I answer comments on my blog and then move into Google reader to see what my favourite bloggers have to say, either commenting on their posts right away or saving them to come back a bit later when I've thought more about the conversation. My big (fine bone china, I'm picky about this) mug of tea is long finished by the time I'm ready to push my chair away and I'm increasingly aware that I'm squandering more productive morning time than I can afford.
I've been thinking about how to change this pattern, getting ready to make some commitments, and at least two mornings this week I even forced myself to write a few paragraphs of an academic article before I went online. And then Lisa (of AmidPrivilege) tweeted a link to this very relevant post about habits and willpower. It's helped shape my desire for reform into a gentle action which I hope will nudge me forward into a more conscious use of my time.
I've decided to start by creating breathing room rather than immediately demanding more work from myself. Rather than insist I write first thing in the morning, I'm simply going to take my first cup of tea back to a space where it's open for whatever possibilities I choose . . . later. For now, I'm leaving the computer off until I've had my morning cup. Instead of drinking it in front of my monitor, I'm taking it down to the beach. I'm not even reverting to my old pattern of tea and a book. Tea, sky, moving water, my breath, and whatever creatures choose to swim, scamper, or fly across my field of vision.
And perhaps, occasionally, my camera.
This was the result of my quiet teatime two mornings ago.
This morning, recovering from a meal whose last hours were marked by the opening and emptying of a gorgeous bottle of single malt Welsh whiskey, my teatime solitude inspired a rousing swim in invigoratingly not-warm water with my similarly hungover husband. A very good idea I probably would not have arrived at in front of the computer keyboard.

So the habit is being laid down. I'll let you know how it goes, crossing my fingers against relapses. What about you? Any new habits you're trying to create? Or old ones you're trying to lose? And how much are yours in response to technology?


  1. Interesting that you post this. I allow myself 30 minutes first thing in the morning to check email and read blogs/comment, then the computer is put to sleep for a while until all of my morning "chores" are done. I was finding that first 30 minutes was stretching into an hour, meaning that I'd either have to skimp on time making breakfast/lunches, walking dogs, OR end up being late getting out the door. Habit, yes, that's the key. I've been forcing myself to shut the computer off at 6am and proceed with my day, and I think the habit is taking hold again.

  2. I have the same issue, and don't really know what to do about it, but like the idea of limiting morning time online to 30 minutes.

  3. I think it's a good idea to restrict time online - and definitely something I need to consider. I am spending far too much time on the blog/Twitter/sorting through emails which impacts on other work so something's got to give! I'll check out the habits & willpower post. Thank you.

  4. Interesting. I always start my cup of tea in bed (brought to me by Spouse), but then emerge into the full chaos of mornings with school-age children. Once lunches are packed and breakfast has been consumed, I go straight to my computer and check/clear my email and stop by my favourite blogs (which is why I'm here right now). Lately I've been making more of an effort to limit the time I spend in the office before the kids go to school, but I'm more productive in the morning - and I like, when possible, to 'log off' work in the afternoons when they get home. It's a juggling act ... Your beach visits sound wonderful. My fantasy is to start each day with yoga and meditation, but it's not feasible right now.

  5. I am glad you liked the article. I have always liked to spend 30 minutes browsing the world as I eat breakfast. Used to be the paper, now it's Twitter/email/blogs. Then I move on to writing posts, first a final edit if I have a post for that day, then more meaty writing for future posts, then try to answer comments from previous posts. I'll do stuff like Polyvore and photography later. My problem is exercise. I used to go to the gym before work. But I now I feel like early morning is when the last vestiges of my creative brain are humming.

    I also have come to view the online communities as real friends, so that catching up is good. It's when catching up verges into "insane useless clicking on various sites hunting for god knows what or someone to answer whatever I said last" that I know I have to shut it down.

    Mostly I think I will have to start exercising first thing, and write posts in my mind as I walk. Either that or join a gym again and go to scheduled classes, because the schedule tends to "trigger" my attendance:).

  6. Sue: I'm toying with a similar limit. Before my research leave, the demands of ferry catching got me going, but time at the computer has stretched lately. I love my online connections, but I want to be more mindful of my time.
    Susan: I like Sue's idea as well and hope to come up with something similar that works for my day.
    TNMA: It's tricky, isn't it, as we get so much out of these various media.
    Tiffany: Mine used to bring me tea in bed as well, until my habits and schedules shifted both with the kids leaving home and then with us living apart as he worked in a different city through the week. It's a lovely way to start the day, especially for a mom who does so much nurturing -- that little act of grace from someone else caring for you. . . Now I get up first, almost always, and I quite enjoy the time completely to myself.
    And I like you pointing to the meditation as that's rather what my tea and the beach will be aimed at.
    Lisa: Should have known that you would get to the heart of the dilemma. Because truly, there's so much about my on-line connections that I value, that replaces activities I've long appreciated in their analog form (newspapers, coffee with friends). So I don't want to cut out, perhaps not even cut down. I just, for now at least, want to be mindful, to be aware that I have a choice, that willpower and habits relate to each other (as the article you pointed me to so helpfully outlines).
    As for the exercise, I have found it a good way to refresh a writing or research session. After an hour or so of writing, I like to head out for a run (could as easily be a walk or elliptical trainer or whatever). It's usually a good chance to sort through a structural problem or to anticipate objections to an argument, but sometimes it's just a chance to let go, trust the unconscious to do some work for me.
    You're obviously quite disciplined -- I'm sure you'll sort out a system that works for you and perhaps you'll even tell us about it.

  7. I am actually relieved to hear of another who recently suffered a hangover...I celebrated a wee bit too much after I turned in my grades.

    Your post hit me at an appropriate moment. I've had a fairly relaxed schedule this summer...and don't get an early enough start to my day. I have three weeks to get my act together.

  8. I may sound a little pompous here, but the last thing I do is check my blog! In fact my pattern would be to post and then check other blogs and only then catch up with comments.
    At work I have got into a bit of a routine logging on, but that is the nature of the beast, as much of the information I work with is on my computer and I have to check emails from colleagues for deadlines etc. My main drug of choice in the morning is to sneak a peak at the Daily Mail (trash) website! Not pretty but oh so bitchy and goes down a treat with my morning coffee. I think that I have to be at work by 7.30am allows me a tiny treat.
    The habit I need to break is my consumption of teacakes for breakfast. Cheap crap slathered in butter washed down with a coffee which, like you has to be in a certain thin rimmed mug. I have tried porridge and hope when I return I can keep that going for a healthier option.
    I confess had I your view I would always gravitate to it it during daylight and save the blogging for the dark, although I would then be sidetracked by the tele then!
    Either way that view, I have said it before, is just amazing, you are so lucky.
    I am going to be really cheesy and quote William Henry Davis.
    What is life if full of care...we have no time to stand and stare!

  9. I begin with a long walk (or run, depending on how I feel), during which I compose utterly brilliant but often unrememberable bits of prose. Then I go to my computer and grade my online course. And *then,* oh joy, I make myself a large cup of coffee with decadent foam (chez my MIL), and enjoy people's blogs.

  10. I've fallen into the bad habit of eating when bored, as well as getting online as soon as I get home... The hours I've lost!

    Now I'm making a serious effort to be more aware of my hunger. I'm also limiting my time online in the evening. Sometimes, I just avoid the computer entirely.

  11. Terri: one thing about academic/teaching life that I both love and find tricky, the drastic shift in schedules.
    Alison: Sometimes cheesy is just right . . that's a great quotation and yes, I'm taking the time to sit and stare. . .
    MissC: Delayed gratification, so very mature! I'm impressed. Last year for a while I was doing my run first thing, but my schedule's shifted away from that. It's another possibility I'll be pondering over my morning tea.
    Gina: Nice that you link the eating and the online time because, yes, to me they can both be responses to boredome and both can benefit from mindfulness, from sorting out what I'm hoping for when I click or nibble.

  12. obv. "boredom," not "boredome," please excuse. . .


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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