Regarding Quiet

The First 22 Minutes of the Morning

Recorded on May 15th, 2016

One thing I left out of my notes from listening to Mark Fernandes was this nugget (paraphrased):

Most of how your day goes is decided in the first 22 minutes of the morning. What do most people do in the first five minutes? Check their phone.

“Check their phone” has been me ever since I got an iPod touch in 2008, and the iPhone only made things worse. Weekday or weekend, I wake up, turn off the alarm, check various notifications, and peek at email. On my weakest days, check Facebook, and there goes an untold number of minutes. Fernandes suggested trying something different. Instead of reaching for the nearest electronic device after waking up, let your brain spin up to speed on its own time. As you go about your routine, think about how you want the day to go and what you want to bring to it, before taking in a bunch of new input (or expectations) from the outside world.

I did that this week and I noticed immediately how much more mentally quiet the morning became. I was less artificially harried, and able to think thoughts at my own slow pace. Besides that, I actually got much more time back every morning because I wasn’t wasting minutes idly poking away at links on the web. Not having the phone (or laptop) available as a pacifier for that initial chunk of time forced me to think about what else I could do that would usually be crammed into the last few minutes before heading out the door.

The only phone use I allowed myself in those first 22 minutes was opening Drafts to dump a task in the inbox if it occurred to me. I figured that small bit of device use — to get something short out of my head and then shut it off — would be worth breaking the rule.

I wondered where the “22 minutes” idea had come from. I didn’t remember Fernandes citing the source for that number, but I searched a bit and found some references to Robert Cooper, a neuroscientist with some books about harnessing hidden powers of the brain. I haven’t looked deeply into it, but his theory of “aiming the brain” in those first few minutes seems to line up with what I observed the past few days.