Back on 2 January 2013, I decided to get up at 5am to write. Not just for that one day – oh, that would’ve been marvellous – but every working week day. So that is Monday to Friday, every week bar holidays. And when I’d have man flu, I could book a day off. If I were travelling or I was due to finish a talk late or early or something, then I could book the day off. But it had to be booked in advance, it had to be for a specific reason.
What it could not be is decided in the morning. Alarm goes off, I get up. No snoozing. No turning over.
I even bribed myself. Each morning I got up and worked, I would put a pound coin in a jar. And I stated to anyone who would listen – I even stated it in my book The Blank Screen – that if I ever did turn over or did lie in, I would empty the jar. Not just fail to put a coin in, not just take one out, but I would empty the lot and give it away. Probably to Angela, but certainly I wouldn’t profit from it myself.
And it worked. I got up and wrote at 5am for a total of 186 days in the year. I could’ve done another 75 and it shocks me how many fell under the allowable booking-off category. (I did have a three week holiday and I have done about 25 talks plus a couple of colds, but still, 75 is a lot.)
It has been tremendously productive for me. The entire Blank Screen project grew out of this and I wrote three books.
So I’m going to call this a success. And now I think I’m going to call it ingrained.
Which means that I need something new to ingrain for the next year. Something to add to my 5am starts which I obviously need to keep doing.
I don’t usually think in terms of new years’ resolutions because I only break them but after the 5am success, I’m going to try this.
The Pattern Week.
The term comes from US television where a drama series will have what is called a pattern budget: this is how much each episode has to spend on it throughout the season. If the producers want a big opening – and they always do – then more money can be spent on that but it has to come out of the cost of a later episode. Same with the finale. Or any special episode. This is why you always get visibly cheaper episodes at various points in the run.
For me, I’m going to set a pattern for my week with what I’m doing when. This will change as I’m away but I am going to try allotting time to the many projects I have to juggle and I’m going to see if it helps me get through the work better.
I think it will also help me coping with those wretched 5am starts: I’m going to set pattern end times for the day.
It’s all a bit nebulous now but I’m noodling through it and I am planning to make that week pattern be a replacement for the wallpaper on my iMac. I’ve tried whiteboards before and struggled to find room for them. I’ve also just never looked at them once they’re up.
When I’ve got that image, I’ll show it to you here.