Edited and updated version of Spring 2022 post.
I doubt this is useful to anyone but me, so I can see it in front of me, or those people like me who are generally interested in process and knowledge work. But, as of right now, this is how my days go:
I rise at the entirely arbitrary time of 10am. I immediately extract a double ristretto from a machine and sit in my back garden with my phone. I have already glanced at my lock screen to see if there are any emergency messages, and flicked it open to the home page to look at the weather, but that’s all.
I sit outside for the duration of two double ristrettos, with noise-cancelling earbuds in (we keep loud chickens who want to be fed), playing ambient music. I have to start the day softly and gently, scanning the overnight email and messages, and reading a topslice of the news on the phone.
Current news apps: BBC News, The Guardian, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Reuters, BreakingNews, AP, France24, DeutcheWelle, EuroNews and Deadline. Need to experiment with more, maybe take some off rotation.
I was telling someone the other year: I have become the old man who reads the papers in the morning and then watches the news analysis show on tv at night. The phone is now “the papers.” Alternately, I grab the Kindle and read some of a book. Sometimes I’ll just ignore the email. If I don’t get this quiet time to wake up properly and centre myself, the whole day is fucked.
After the coffee, the chickens are fed, and after that, the clock is ticking. I fill a water bottle, make another coffee, grab a jar of overnight oats (made with oat milk, a handful of frozen blueberries, plant-based protein powder and cacao powder) and go to the office.
First, I put music on: podcast, BBC Sounds, something from my CD collection, something I’ve been educating myself with on Amazon Music, whatever. Something I don’t need to fully focus on. I go through the overnight email and messages properly, and mark up the boards: Pending, Status, To-Do, Calls and the big one is whatever is immediately on deck to write. The two paintings were done by my daughter when she was very little, and the print is by Lordess Foudre.
I go through the RSS feeds and newsletters, and compose a morningcomputer post here to condense what I’ve learned that morning that I consider worth retaining and processing. So some days there isn’t one. And usually that’s the end of my news/novelty input for a while.
There’s no social media patrol or use here, no engagement with or management of the outside world. No intrusions. Organisation is simple and physical – marks on whiteboards and paper, as you can see. I put some visual noise on the big screen if I’m not using it for work, usually an art film or a landscape documentary, muted. I play music over the top.
No news. Once I’m done with the morningcomputer post, no new news enters my space. This has become very important to me. I’m no longer on social media, so I don’t have any intrusion from that whole thing, and access to my email is limited.
Organisation is simple and physical – marks on whiteboards and paper.
I work until I get hungry. I’ll watch something – a tv episode, part of a film – while eating lunch, which is either cold meats and flatbreads or salmon with vegetables or something with eggs. I keep it simple and repeatable. Also I have constant access to eggs, as mentioned above. At some point in the afternoon I’ll have an apple with walnuts and cheese. Eight espressos a day, two litres of water. I mention the food because the one thing productivity notes tend to forget is that thinking burns calories, and the first things to kill thinking are thirst and having no calories available to burn.
I do leave email on in the background at this point, and it pops the occasional notification in the bottom right hand of the screen. (Hi there, The Bloomberg Close.) I treat it like a stray thought in meditation – acknowledge it happened, let it pass, go back to what I was doing. It’s probably not ideal? But I’m still me, and still working on it.
Around 5pm, I down tools, go downstairs, pour a drink, and that’s it for a few hours. I’ll catch up with news, spend time with some of the longer articles, cook dinner and generally do nothing except make a few notes if I have a brainwave. Creating a hard break with work posture for a period.
But at 8pm I pick up tools – the notebook, the iPad, the ultralight ThinkPad Carbon X1 on a lapboard, and get back to it. Never continuing what I was doing in the office, but working on something different, thinking of something new or just emptying my head. If that’s not working, I’ll pick up the Kindle and read a book. Never wasted time. I’ll generally watch as much of Newsnight or Peston as I can stand, but I’m still writing. At midnight, I airplane and DND the phone, go to bed and read on the Kindle, making notes and highlights as I go, until 2am tops. I usually get through a book a week like that.
And that’s it. Sixteen hours on, eight hours off.