My morning hack to be more creative
In today's episode, I want to tell you why going on a morning walk will make you a better creative and a better businessperson. It sounds strange, but I promise you I'm going to tell you why in just a second.
Read on for the full transcription or listen to the podcast episode here
If you're anything like me, if you're a creative, if you’re an entrepreneur, you will probably have spent a little bit of time looking at your morning routine. This was something that I experimented with for years, I tried everything, read all sorts of non-fiction books about optimising your morning routine to set you up for the best day, I read books by the most successful people in the world in their respective fields and what they did. I started to notice similarities, a lot of them spent the first hours of the day, even if they were parents, focusing on themselves, having that first hour of the day to themselves, focusing on getting the right mindset, on pumping those endorphins in some way - whether that be exercising or doing ridiculous things like cold plunges or showers, stimulating their mind by journaling, all sorts of things.
There were common factors between all of the things I was reading, but I tried a lot of them, and none fit me. I tried everything - I tried getting into coffee, but I'm still not the biggest coffee fan in the world. I tried journaling and I tried not looking at my e-mails. I tried yoga and meditation first thing in the morning, but I just fell back asleep on the yoga mat. I just couldn't find anything that would stick. I couldn't find anything that I wasn't doing just for the sake of doing it. Because that's the problem with these things, it’s like people prescribe these miracle mornings, people write these books about what to do to change your life forever. But the truth is, you have to find what works for you. During the quarantine of the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 - just in case you're listening to this in the future - I found that I needed to get out of the house first thing in the morning. If I didn't do it I would essentially spend the whole day cooped up inside, not having that much to do because of everything going on in the world, and I would just find that the days blur into each other.
So I started walking around in my garden, wandering around, watching a YouTube video or listening to a podcast I like, just for a bit of fresh air first thing in the morning, for maybe five minutes, and then I grabbed myself a cup of tea and started my day. But I started to really enjoy it; I started to look forward to waking up and just walking around the garden. And then I thought: ‘maybe I'll just go for a little wander around the village, take five minutes just to walk around the block for fresh air, to get the blood pumping’. I went out, and it felt like a good start to the day, felt like I was defining a new day. All of a sudden, I started to notice that there was a direct correlation between how creative I was feeling and this morning walk - which seems ridiculous, because it wasn’t a crazy intense, cold shower; it wasn't 15 minutes of journaling and exploring my mindset; it wasn't a full-blown weightlifting or fast cardio session. No - it was just simply putting on a podcast I liked and going for a little walk. And that's how it started, just five minutes, as soon as I got up. Well, I mean, I brush my teeth first usually… Actually that's an absolute lie, because I hate brushing my teeth before I've had my first cup of tea, that's just facts. So I get dressed fast because it'd potentially be a bit problematic if I actually did it first thing. You get my point. So, the first thing I did, before I did anything else in my day, was to go for this walk, and I actually started enjoying the walks so much that I would get up and be super excited to go out, and the walk started getting longer because I found that I was doing my best thinking whilst walking. And isn't that interesting?
That is literally why I record these podcasts; I think, pacing back and forth, because I've realised that I get in my best creative flow whilst walking. And I don't even have to be the one thinking I don't even have to be the one talking for that kind of creative part of my brain to start turning; I could be listening to someone else, I could be listening to something completely unrelated, as a bit of background stimulation. For you, it might be music, or it might be an audio book, or whatever it might be. I personally find that I gravitate more towards business-y, motivational, kind of marketing type content first thing in the morning. I'm not a massive fan of fiction or escapism content in the morning, for me it's either music or some kind of podcast that's really going to get me going. Realistically, my brain kind of takes over and I'm not even really listening to the conversation that's happening on the podcast anymore - I'm actually just in a creative state. And I wonder how much of that is because of the fact that I'm walking, and I'm outdoors, and I'm getting that kind of stimulus first thing in the morning, versus actually listening to something that might spark an idea. I'm not sure to be honest, but even just building that habit gets me in the mood to create. And that could be diving into some creative business work, it doesn't necessarily have to be ‘Oh, I'm now inspired to go sit down and write a work of Shakespeare’. No, I'm considering creative as all spectrums of everything we as entrepreneurs do, as very creative work; you constantly have to find new ways to reach out to people, find new ways to communicate a problem or communicate a solution, new ways to innovate within our medium, think of new ideas that you want to try and test out. I've written the treatment for three new VR projects in the last couple of weeks, purely from going on these walks, and letting my brain spark up these ideas, and I just find that so fascinating. It’s something that I’d never thought of, after reading all those books, after trying all those different extreme things that I read about for years… Who would have thought that the actual thing that would get me excited to get up in the morning, the thing that would get my brain into gear, no matter what, would be going on these little morning walks?
So I guess what I want to say to you is that obviously a lot of this is trial and error, and a lot of this is acknowledging that everyone is different. After I've spoken to so many different people, after I've said ‘hey, you know what, I've noticed that I do my best thinking whilst I'm like walking’, so many people have said to me ‘oh my God, I've noticed that too’. And I wonder how much of it is because during quarantine, especially in the UK, while we were on a full lockdown, the only thing you could do was to go out on a walk once a day, or go and walk to the supermarket, and you used to absolutely rinse the shit out of that walk, because it was the only bit of the outside world that you are going to have. There was actually something about absorbing the environment, and really enjoying it whilst you could, because you knew were going to have to spend the next 10 hours cooped up inside – I wonder how much of it was that and having our eyes open. But to some extent, I also think that there's just something about getting up and walking, even if just for five minutes. I would say that I'm equally as inspired from doing five minutes of walking and listening to a podcast as I am when I do a nice solid 40 minutes. I have the same route and I see the same people every day, and that in itself is quite nice, it gives me a sense of community, and I really enjoy going through the park and seeing this beautiful little brook. I like that routine now, I know that my walk is about 40 minutes long in the morning, and I know that I've set up my day and I've accomplished something already from going on a walk, like getting fresh air and some exercise. The bonus is that I'm actually the most focused, the most geared up and ready to start my day after having that little bit of time.
So my challenge for you, if you've not tried this yet, is to try it. I don't know if it's something about the morning as well, maybe to some of you the morning is unrealistic, maybe you're more of a night owl and you fancy going on an evening walk after you've had dinner. I would really urge you, if you can, and don’t already do this, try it this week or the next - just five minutes, just get up, grab your coffee and see how you feel. See if your brain works better when you're moving, there must be some kind of science behind getting that blood flowing, those endorphins rushing. I definitely read something recently about how getting vitamin D directly into your eyes first thing in the morning has all of these brilliant physiological benefits that they're starting to look into. So just try it for this week, if it's possible and if the weather permits, if you have 5-10 minutes in the morning to try this out. Find something that motivates you, something that's going to inspire you. I've got a playlist on my Spotify called ‘the cinematic playlist’, and it's basically just songs that instantly transport me to some kind of movie set in my head, and I can just imagine these cinematic scenes playing out – that’s just the way my brain works. Maybe you've got something similar to that, maybe it’s trial and error, but commit to it for a week minimum, just see if you notice a difference. See if you notice the benefits, because I found it's absolutely invaluable to the point where, if it's a mandated routine, then you go do it Monday to Friday, and then on the weekend just have it off. Now, I still do it on the weekends, but I do it because I absolutely love it, and I just feel like a better human being, I feel better for myself, I feel better for the people around me - I just feel overall better when I do it, I really enjoy it and it's something that I think I will try and continue.
I mean, we'll see what happens when it turns to winter, but I just don't think I've ever felt like this about anything before; I've never found something that could so habitually trigger creativity. So give it a go and let me know how you get on. I will hold you accountable and I want you to be accountable to this because I'm guaranteeing that it's going to change some of your lives. Reach out to me, let me know how that goes.
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