Monday morning wasn’t offering me any free rides today. The well of creativity felt tapped out. I looked through the 27 drafts I had going and wasn’t inspired to pursue any of them. I tried sitting in my favorite reading chair and read Seneca’s On the Happy Life for inspiration, highlighting many passages yet finding no inspiration for today’s blog. I put on headphones and listened to my favorite create something of substance song (Wild Theme) on repeat. Nothing yet… but getting closer. Coffee cup drained. Walked outside and sat on my favorite outdoor muse capturing device and waited. And finally it came to me.
“One of the most effective ways to reduce the friction associated with your habits is to practice environment design…. “resetting the room”.
The purpose of resetting each room is not simply to clean up after the last action, but to prepare for the next action…
How can we design a world where it’s easy to do what’s right?” Redesign your life so the actions that matter most are also the actions that are easiest to do.”
– James Clear, Atomic Habits
It occurred to me that I’ve set a few spaces to optimize productivity. Sit/stand desk, noise-cancelling headphones, proper lighting, indoor and outdoor spaces at the ready. All of this is setting the room, as Clear writes about. And it’s setting the mind as well. When I hear Wild Theme I get creative. When I sit in a specific chair my mind focuses on writing. And eventually it clears the fog and I get to it. These are all methods of flipping the switch. Want to work out first thing in the morning? Put your workout clothes out so they’re front and center when you get up. Writing is the same way – take the necessary steps of setting the “room” to prepare for the next action.
Ultimately resetting the room means resetting the mind for the actions you wish to prioritize. Having a dedicated workspace is important so personal time and work time don’t bleed over into one another. I think that particular point has been hammered home by just about every business or lifestyle writer out there. I won’t regurgitate the key points here. For me it’s not about the space you place yourself in but the mindset you achieve. Monday mornings are generally difficult because you’re transitioning from weekend activities to the work week. I don’t recall having a similar challenge with Friday nights or the first morning of a vacation. It’s all in the mind, this calendar mentality, but the uncertainty of which hat am I wearing at the moment? is valid. So in times of transition, to reduce the friction, the question how do we make it easy to do what’s right? is paramount to actually getting things done effectively.
And that brings me back to Seneca, which didn’t seem at all connected to this topic when I started writing this morning. In speaking about virtue, Seneca’s pointed out that he hadn’t quite gotten to a virtuous life just yet. To which his critics pounced, saying why should we listen to a man who hasn’t mastered the very thing he lectures us on? But Seneca turns this around on his critics, pointing out that:
“I make this speech, not on my own behalf, for I am steeped in vices of every kind, but on behalf of one who has made some progress in virtue.”
We all tend to think that everyone else has it all figured out, don’t we? And it can be unnerving when someone who is “showing us the way” admits that they’re a work in progress themselves. But I’ve come to a point where I view anyone that tells me they have it all figured out is a con artist – be it a fundamentalist, politician, overly aggressive business person: you know the type. Like you I’ve learned to be skeptical of people who say they have it all figured out. Instead, I write to show myself the way. On behalf of one who has made progress in the things that I myself strive for. Finding a way to flip the switch on a misty Monday morning, and sharing in the process for arriving at the desired state. The well feels a bit less empty even as I tap from it. Funny how that happens.