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Continuous self improvement and the morning ritual

Reflecting on my morning ritual, journaling for clarity, and podcasts for your morning walk

I haven't always been a morning person, but I've grown to love it

Every day, I get up around sunrise, and groggily wander down to my kitchen. I have an automation set up that plays some chill tunes at a low volume, and gently turns up the lights as the sun rises.

Next, I open the blinds to let in the morning light while my espresso machine warms up. I put out some food for my cats, and then I make myself a double shot of espresso.

While I sip my 'spro, I fire up the Headspace app for 5-10 minutes of meditation (use that link for a free 30 day pass). After that, 5 minutes of focused, uninterrupted journaling to further clear my mind (more on this below). If the weather is nice, I'll go for a walk and listen to a podcast.

After all that, I check my emails and Slack notifications. It's an intentional choice to give me some time to wake up and get my mind right before I start my day.

Benefits of my morning ritual

I've found that this ritual helps me start my day with a clear mind, and I'm able to focus on the things that matter most to me. I'm not perfect, and I don't do this every day, but I've found that when I do, I'm more productive and happier.

Do you have a ritual that helps you start (or end) your day with a clear mind? If not, I'd encourage you to try it out. It doesn't have to be complicated, and it doesn't have to take a lot of time. Just a few minutes of intentional, focused time can make a big difference.

photo of a sunrise over a white brick building with a graffiti portrait painted on its side
Benefits of early morning walks: breath-taking sunrises. Mural by artist Nick Napoletano.

Morning pages: Journaling for clarity

I mentioned above that I journal every morning. I've been doing this for a few years now, and it's been a game changer for me. My habit is loosely based on morning pages, a concept created by Julia Cameron, a writer and artist.

The task is simple: I spend 5 minutes writing down whatever is on my mind. I don't worry about grammar, spelling, or punctuation. I just write. I don't even worry about complete sentences. I just write down whatever is on my mind.

I've found this especially useful in times where I've got a lot on my plate - writing down the first few things that are on my mind can help me unravel the tangled mess of thoughts in my head. It's a great way to clear my mind and start the day with a clean slate.

On days where I'm not particularly stressed, these 5 minutes are often spent reflecting on my goals, and the the people and circumstances in my life that I'm grateful for.

It may seem silly, but it's incredibly powerful. Give it a shot - you might be surprised at what you learn about yourself.

Podcasts for your morning walk

According to my podcast app of choice, I've listened to 161 days worth of podcasts in the last 5 years. Most of what I listen to falls into two categories: comedy (entertainment), and non-fiction, educational shows. I subscribe to a reasonably large spread of shows, so that I can pick and choose what I listen to based on my mood.

Since october 26, 2017, I've listened to 161 days and 15 hours of podcasts.
Can you overdose on podcasts? Asking for a friend.

Here's a few I've enjoyed lately:

  • 99 Percent Invisible: Shade redux 99PI is one of my favorite podcasts. It's a show about design, and it's always fascinating. This episode is about the importance of providing shade in public spaces, and how it's often overlooked.
  • My Brother, My Brother, and Me: Sure thing, Dave Matthews MBMBaM is almost certainly my all-time favorite podcast. I was introduced to it by my sister (thanks, Kris!) and I've been hooked ever since. It's an "advice" show, where the hosts "answer" questions from listeners and Yahoo Answers. It is unlike anything else. So good.
  • Citation Needed: Fordlandia Citation Needed is a podcast where the hosts pick a topic, and become experts on it by reading exactly one article on wikipedia. This episode is about Fordlandia, the absolutely bonkers story of Henry Ford's attempt to build a utopian society in the Amazon rainforest. What a nightmare.

From me this week

  • 🎙️ My interview with Sebastien Lorber from Docusaurus on the Software Engineering Daily podcast is out! We talk about the history of Docusaurus, its next major release, and how it makes the creation of docs sites easier for developers. Check it out!
  • 📰 If you're a newsletter junkie and you're in the API dev world, you're going to love The DevX Revolution is here - the latest edition of APIs You Won't Hate (the newsletter).


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