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From the Muse

Good Morning, Good Morning

Looking to maximize your productivity? Honor thy mental peaks and valleys.

There’s a specific time of day when each of us is most focused and prolific. Knowing your personal optimum time will serve you well, especially if you’re a writer — a writer of music, lyrics, books, journals, blogs, anything.

Woman sitting on a deck with a cup of coffee and her guitar.For me it’s MORNING MORNING MORNING. While my brain is calm and clear. Before that little voice in my head starts bossing me around and the clutter of extraneous thought accumulates. Thoughts such as:

  • I wonder if these eyelash extensions are working for me?
  • I’m so tired of throwing money away on bad watermelons
  • I can’t believe he didn’t consult me before he “machete’d” my bangs
  • What’s the weather like? Where am I? What year is it?

Ya know — life.

This clutter is to my brain as plaque is to my teeth.

The ideal order of all-things-morning for me (after a few minutes of enjoying the ceiling fan whirling overhead) goes like this:

  • Slippers or Clogs?
  • Coffee (with 1% milk microwaved for exactly 60 seconds)
  • NPR
  • Play a round of Words With Friends with my buddy Kevin Cronin

Then I glide into my office and fire up the laptop. I tap for about an hour. A lyric. A blog. Whatever needs release.

As soon as there’s a lull in enthusiasm I remind myself to STOP. Because sometimes I forget that in extending that first hour, I pass the point of optimum productivity.

Protein shake? Yes, please, at least on weekdays. Yogurt +  banana + coconut water. That’s it. I don’t need other stuff. There’s too much kitchen choreography involved in chopping parsley and juicing apple cores. Having the same breakfast five days a week saves me the three minutes involved in making a decision about an alternative. Time is precious. There’s never enough. Especially on days when I’m inspired. Eggs are something I save for the weekend.

Then … to the gym I trudge. It’s a hate/love thing in that order. I dread having to allocate the hour, but it doesn’t take long before I remember that movement helps digest work (and protein shakes). The “love” part is when I’m finished — when I return to my computer and realize everything is flowing more freely. Thank you, treadmill. It’s all your fault.

Next … errands. I suggest doing the one you’re resisting the most first, lest the procrastination hold you back in more ways than one. If you have no errands (who has no errands?) then go for a drive. If you live in a city, go for a walk. In other words, give your brain a break.

The irony is that our brain is working extra diligently during the break. I’m no psychologist but I’ve been writing long enough to have noticed. When I pull back into my driveway I’m searching madly for a receipt on which to scribble details that emerged from within while sitting at a red light: a superior verb, a rhyme I hadn’t considered before I left the house. It’s the letting go. I’m sure of it.

Hand poised with finger extended above a laptop keyboard ready to press a key with the sun going down in background.Soon it’s time for shutting down. Hey, a girl’s gotta rest.

There are tons of us who would reject the morning as their creative sweet spot in favor of the mid-afternoon, following a cat nap. Good luck to you. That’s when I’m thinking about my martini.

Others would prefer the evening — after all the chores are done, dinner dishes washed and school lunches packed. Good luck to you too. That’s guilty pleasure TV time for me, followed by a bubble bath, after which I go directly to sleep so I can rise again at 6 a.m. and start again.

So these are my Words of Wisdom for the month: Pay attention to and honor thy mental peaks and valleys. And if you have the freedom to do so, arrange your schedule around them. You’ll get more done and have more fun doing it.

That’s it for now. 5 p.m.? I’m ready for my cocktail, Mr. DeMille.

Talk to you in the morning.

 

You can read a new From the Muse blog on the second Monday of every month. Check out Shelly’s other postings:

Don’t Disturb This Groove

Lyrics 101

 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shelly Peiken has been a behind-the-scenes force in the music business for more than two decades. She is best known for penning female-empowerment anthems such as Christina Aguilera’s Number One hit “What a Girl Wants” and Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch.” Her book “Confessions of a Serial Songwriter,” a memoir that chronicles her journey from a young girl falling under the spell of magical songs to writing hits of her own, earned her a second GRAMMY nomination for Best Spoken Word Album. Shelly is a fierce advocate of creators’ rights with her grassroots organization, SONA (Songwriters of North America). She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter and two cats.

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