The Odd (And Effective) Routines of Famous Minds like Beethoven, Maya Angelou, and Francis Bacon

87 Comments


Wine is part of my creative process. How I use it has been influenced by other writers. Why reinvent the wheel?

Sometimes, peculiar routines are the key to sanity… and productivity.

For years, I wrote from 11pm-4am or so, fueled by carefully timed yerba mate tea, Malbec, and Casino Royale left on repeat in my peripheral vision.

But who am I? Let’s explore the odd and effective routines of several creative icons: Maya Angelou (author), Francis Bacon (painter), W.H. Auden (poet), and Ludwig van Beethoven (composer).

Here’s an appetizer, before we get to the full routines:

Maya Angelou rented a “tiny, mean” hotel or motel room to do her writing;
Francis Bacon preferred to work with a hangover;
W.H. Auden took Benzedrine the way many people take a multivitamin; and
Beethoven counted out 60 coffee beans (exactly!) each morning, and developed his compositions through walking and obsessive bathing.

Enjoy the detailed profiles below.

All were excerpted from one of my favorite books–Daily Rituals: How Artists Work–which contains nearly 200 routines of some of the greatest minds of the last four hundred years: famous novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians…

Maya Angelou

Angelou (b. 1928) is an American author and poet best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which began in 1969 with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Angelou has never been able to write at home. “I try to keep home very pretty,” she has said, “and I can’t work in a pretty surrounding. It throws me.” As a result, she has always worked in hotel or motel rooms, the more anonymous the better. She described her routine in a 1983 interview:

“I usually get up at about 5:30, and I’m ready to have coffee by 6, usually with my husband. He goes off to his work around 6:30, and I go off to mine. I keep a hotel room in which I do my work–a tiny, mean room with just a bed, and sometimes, if I can find it, a face basin. I keep a dictionary, a Bible, a deck of cards and a bottle of sherry in the room. I try to get there around 7, and I work until 2 in the afternoon. If the work is going badly, I stay until 12:30. If it’s going well, I’ll stay as long as it’s going well. It’s lonely, and it’s marvelous. I edit while I’m working. When I come home at 2, I read over what I’ve written that day, and then try to put it out of my mind. I shower, prepare dinner, so that when my husband comes home, I’m not totally absorbed in my work. We have a semblance of a normal life. We have a drink together and have dinner. Maybe after dinner I’ll read to him what I’ve written that day. He doesn’t comment. I don’t invite comments from anyone but my editor, but hearing it aloud is good. Sometimes I hear the dissonance; then I try to straighten it out in the morning.”

In this manner, Angelou has managed to write not only her acclaimed series of autobiographies but numerous poems, plays, lectures, articles, and television scripts. Sometimes the intensity of the work brings on strange physical reactions–her back goes out, her knees swell, and her eyelids once swelled completely shut. Still, she enjoys pushing herself to the limits of her ability. “I have always got to be the best,” she has said. “I’m absolutely compulsive, I admit it. I don’t see that as a negative.”

Francis Bacon

Bacon (1909–1992) was an Irish-born British painter whose abstract portraits of grotesque, distorted figures made him one of the most distinctive and controversial artists of the postwar era.

To the outside observer, Bacon appeared to thrive on disorder. His studios were environments of extreme chaos, with paint smeared on the walls and a knee-high jumble of books, brushes, papers, broken furniture, and other detritus piled on the floor. (More agreeable interiors stifled his creativity, he said.) And when he wasn’t painting, Bacon lived a life of hedonistic excess, eating multiple rich meals a day, drinking tremendous quantities of alcohol, taking whatever stimulants were handy, and generally staying out later and partying harder than any of his contemporaries.

And yet, as the biographer Michael Peppiatt has written, Bacon was “essentially a creature of habit,” with a daily schedule that varied little over his career.

Painting came first. Despite his late nights, Bacon always woke at the first light of day and worked for several hours, usually finishing around noon. Then another long afternoon and evening of carousing stretched before him, and Bacon did not dawdle. He would have a friend to the studio to share a bottle of wine, or he would head out for drinks at a pub, followed by a long lunch at a restaurant and then more drinks at a succession of private clubs. When evening arrived, there was a restaurant supper, a round of nightclubs, perhaps a visit to a casino, and often, in the early-morning hours, yet another meal at a bistro.

At the end of these long nights, Bacon frequently demanded that his reeling companions join him at home for one last drink–an effort, it seems, to postpone his nightly battles with insomnia.

Bacon depended on pills to get to sleep, and he would read and reread classic cookbooks to relax himself before bed. He still slept only a few hours a night. Despite this, the painter’s constitution was remarkably sturdy. His only exercise was pacing in front of a canvas, and his idea of dieting was to take large quantities of garlic pills and shun egg yolks, desserts, and coffee–while continuing to guzzle a half-dozen bottles of wine and eat two or more large restaurant meals a day. His metabolism could apparently handle the excessive consumption without dimming his wits or expanding his waistline. (At least, not until late in his life, when the drinking finally seemed to catch up with him.) Even the occasional hangover was, in Bacon’s mind, a boon. “I often like working with a hangover,” he said, “because my mind is crackling with energy and I can think very clearly.”

W. H. Auden

Auden (1907–1973) is widely regarded as one of the twentieth century’s greatest poets. Born and raised in England, he became an American citizen in 1946. Auden won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for his long poem The Age of Anxiety.

“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition,” Auden wrote in 1958. If that’s true, then Auden himself was one of the most ambitious men of his generation. The poet was obsessively punctual and lived by an exacting timetable throughout his life. “He checks his watch over and over again,” a guest of Auden’s once noted. “Eating, drinking, writing, shopping, crossword puzzles, even the mailman’s arrival–all are timed to the minute and with accompanying routines.” Auden believed that a life of such military precision was essential to his creativity, a way of taming the muse to his own schedule. “A modern stoic,” he observed, “knows that the surest way to discipline passion is to discipline time: decide what you want or ought to do during the day, then always do it at exactly the same moment every day, and passion will give you no trouble.”

Auden rose shortly after 6:00 a.m., made himself coffee, and settled down to work quickly, perhaps after taking a first pass at the crossword. His mind was sharpest from 7:00 until 11:30 a.m., and he rarely failed to take advantage of these hours. (He was dismissive of night owls: “Only the ‘Hitlers of the world’ work at night; no honest artist does.”) Auden usually resumed his work after lunch and continued into the late afternoon. Cocktail hour began at 6:30 sharp, with the poet mixing himself and any guests several strong vodka martinis. Then dinner was served, with copious amounts of wine, followed by more wine and conversation. Auden went to bed early, never later than 11:00 and, as he grew older, closer to 9:30.

To maintain his energy and concentration, the poet relied on amphetamines, taking a dose of Benzedrine each morning the way many people take a daily multivitamin. At night, he used Seconal or another sedative to get to sleep. He continued this routine–“the chemical life,” he called it–for twenty years, until the efficacy of the pills finally wore off. Auden regarded amphetamines as one of the “labor-saving devices” in the “mental kitchen,” alongside alcohol, coffee, and tobacco–although he was well aware that “these mechanisms are very crude, liable to injure the cook, and constantly breaking down.”

Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven (1770–1827) was a German composer and pianist, and one of the most famous and influential composers in classical music.

Beethoven rose at dawn and wasted little time getting down to work. His breakfast was coffee, which he prepared himself with great care–he determined that there should be sixty beans per cup, and he often counted them out one by one for a precise dose. Then he sat at his desk and worked until 2:00 or 3:00pm, taking the occasional break to walk outdoors, which aided his creativity. (Perhaps for this reason, Beethoven’s productivity was generally higher during the warmer months.)

After a midday dinner, Beethoven embarked on a long, vigorous walk, which would occupy much of the rest of the afternoon. He always carried a pencil and a couple of sheets of music paper in his pocket, to record chance musical thoughts. As the day wound down, he might stop at a tavern to read the newspapers. Evenings were often spent with company or at the theater, although in winter he preferred to stay home and read. Supper was usually a simple affair–a bowl of soup, say, and some leftovers from dinner. Beethoven enjoyed wine with his food, and he liked to have a glass of beer and a pipe after supper. He rarely worked on his music in the evening, and he retired early, going to bed at 10:00 at the latest.

Beethoven’s unusual bathing habits are worth noting here. His pupil and secretary Anton Schindler recalled them in the biography Beethoven As I Knew Him:

“Washing and bathing were among the most pressing necessities of Beethoven’s life. In this respect he was indeed an Oriental: to his way of thinking Mohammed did not exaggerate a whit in the number of ablutions he prescribed. If he did not dress to go out during the morning working hours, he would stand in great de?shabille? at his washstand and pour large pitchers of water over his hands, bellowing up and down the scale or sometimes humming loudly to himself. Then he would stride around his room with rolling or staring eyes, jot something down, then resume his pouring of water and loud singing. These were moments of deep meditation, to which no one could have objected but for two unfortunate consequences. First of all, the servants would often burst out laughing. This made the master angry and he would sometimes assault them in language that made him cut an even more ridiculous figure. Or, secondly, he would come into conflict with the landlord, for all too often so much water was spilled that it went right through the floor. This was one of the main reasons for Beethoven’s unpopularity as a tenant. The floor of his living room would have had to be covered with asphalt to prevent all that water from seeping through. And the master was totally unaware of the excess of inspiration under his feet!”

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To download the nearly 200 daily routines in Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, click here.

Posted on: December 16, 2013.

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87 comments on “The Odd (And Effective) Routines of Famous Minds like Beethoven, Maya Angelou, and Francis Bacon

  1. You said “wrote.” Does this mean that you don’t write from 11-4 anymore?

    I find myself a huge fan of your routine. I do have one twist. I like to wake up after writing all night, chug some coffee, and get writing done.

    During the afternoon I usually rest, train, or just waste time.

    Like

  2. It’s funny how quirky we really are when in intense concentration, our natural child-like states come out. Steve Jobs said something to the effect of “some of the best times he has had was while working crazy hours, laboring to launch a new product” and I have the same experiences looking back at times I was probably suffering but also enjoying what I was doing.

    Like

  3. Great excerpts! I’m also very fascinated with the routines of artists and those who inspire… am heading to buy the book after this. Question: how do such artists support themselves, and their odd schedules or lavish lifestyles, financially? Also curious as to their ages during these periods of strict routine, and whether or not many have children!

    Like

  4. I’m really loving this book club.

    One possible SMALL addition that could make it awesomer…? Maybe you sharing your own kindle highlights? (if you have them)

    Dunno if that’d be realistic/useful, but I’d certainly be super interested in seeing your highlights on the books you recommend.

    if not, I still fucking love your shit.

    Like

  5. Big fan of waking up at 5-5:30 am and working till 11-12 with a walk and snack at 10. I used to be a night owl but find these hours much more productive. Making electronic music these days and I am much more focused and creative working in this time frame. Stand up desk helps too.

    Like

  6. Benjamin Franklin took “air baths”. He spent time in the nude in his room.

    Penn Jillette and Teller would work together in Penn’s bathroom, as Penn sat naked in the bath tub, with Teller sitting on the toilet seat, and they hammered out an act.

    So interesting. My process as a father of two is different. 4 minutes here writing up a script for my Kickstarter project. 7 minutes there programming for it. 3 minutes again to to make some art for it. All while bouncing my daughter on my knee, or getting dinner ready for the family. Getting “present” quickly is what it takes, I suppose. :)

    Thank you Tim for the article.

    Like

  7. This is typically kind of posts I love on your blog Tim.
    Fantastic, thanks for sharing rare and sharp knowledge.

    P.S. My dream is once you share your experiences as business angel, of “best practices” or best “80/20″ pattern you’ve been observing in startups.

    I listened to your interviews and as entrepreneur your advices are extremely useful. Would love now knowing more and deeper specifics.

    Maybe an idea for a book called “4 hour pattern of success in entrepreneurship” ;-)

    Like

  8. Tim, I hope you agree that the most important habit is the habit that works for each of us, it may appear crazy to others but if it functions, it functions well. You I believe pay a lot of attention to how your body and mind respond to foods, environment and other stimulus and that I believe is excellent. If we listen to ourselves we find out what works and what does not for each of us.
    I know I am on track and following my needed path if I still feel happy and energetic after a day of work, managing the home, taking care of the children and everything else that comes along. Continued success to all, David

    Like

  9. This is pretty much my routine, though perhaps with fewer chemicals. I’m awake at 5:30, occasionally write from bed, sometimes fall back asleep, work a little more, then by somewhere between noon and 2:00 my brain is shot and it’s time to eat something. After that I’m pretty worthless. It takes a lot of doing nothing to recharge and maybe a bit of madness to be willing to do it.

    Like

  10. “Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition,” I ? that!

    More than the time of the day I believe is the quality of the time & space; one that defines who you are so you can just be yourself there. Quietness is another factor.

    I read somewhere that chaos has the ability to stimulate creativity. Does this happen to you?

    Like

  11. Interesting! Thank you for the book recomandation Tim!
    I think that daily routine is different form everyone of us: it largerly depends on the environment we’re in and the people we have relationships with. I woke up for an entire week at 530, but then most of my friends and relatives wanted to see me after work and I had to stay up until late night so it wasn’t possible for me. I had to change my sleep routine for them, though waking up very early gives you a boost of adrenaline.
    I think that having a hotel room for writing is really helpful, jk rowling also did that. I just think that from a healthy point of view, drinking too much alcool is just not good, but it’s very interesting to have a closer look at the life of an artist. Thank you for sharing! :)

    Like

  12. Getting up early – what I do best. Since I was a teen I started waking up at 4 in the morning. I love the quiet of the morning hours when my brain is “freshest”. It’s easy to get clear thinking done at that time (which, as a trader, is what I have to do). Wake up early, sleep early. That’s my motto.

    Like

  13. I think the key concept here is “routine” – those repeated patterns of behaviour that your mind associates with getting things done.

    I totally agree on the early morning being most productive – I always schedule my most challenging work for the morning period. Later on I can get through more menial tasks which don’t require the same mental horsepower.

    Not entirely convinced that amphetamines for breakfast is such a good idea, however!

    Like

  14. Great insight here! I’m fascinated by the hierarchy of habits, routines, rituals, and seasons in life. I think they define our life’s time much more effectively than a clock or calendar can do (if we’re insightful and allow them to).

    Also interesting is that each of these examples is so individual. Some thrive on denial, others excess.

    Thanks, Tim. Your content is always so eclectic and thought provoking.

    Like

  15. Great Post Tim,

    I recently was thinking about what do I ritualize in my life, and realized i have none or perhaps one. Nothing I do is a habit. Everything from brushing my teeth to waking up is all spontaneous. Recently, because of this issue of habit and rituals, I have begun to rise at 5am and begin my day a bit earlier. I have become curious about rituals and what perhaps I am drawn to engaging in. Thanks for sharing these…

    MC

    Like

  16. Thanks for the book recommendation, I’m about two thirds through it and really enjoying it. I think the one thing that most of the creative minds in the book had in common was, and is coffee. I can relate to that :-) I can’t even think about writing a song without a cup.

    Like

  17. There’s a fascinating analysis on Kant’s famous daily routines and how they were his key to becoming the thought revolutionary monster he was. The book itself, for anyone interested in Kant, was written by a collective of philosophers from La Sorbonne, under a nickname (Jean-Baptiste Botul). It’s called “La vie sexuelle d’Emmanuel Kant”. I have no idea if the book can be found in English or not, but I don’t think so – the publisher was a small one, and I think they don’t exist anymore. I’m a French person from Paris, by the way :)
    It is fascinating, short to read, and extremely intelligent. I think you’ll like it.
    Cheers
    C.

    Like

  18. Thanks for this Tim!

    I was reading interviews with 10 successful business owners in Forbes magazine last week and one question really struck me as interesting. Forbes asked everyone “what is the first thing you do when you wake up?” 5 out of 10 said “email”, and one of them said it enthusiastically, saying it wakes her up better than coffee.

    As I looked at my own habits, I had to agree, and as much as much my wife isn’t crazy about it, waking up, grabbing my iPhone and checking email does wake me right up.

    Tim, (or anyone else) do you have any experience with this? I found it fascinating.

    Like

    • Hi Dave, it’s very interesting that you should say that email wakes us up. While it’s true, I’ve been observing a new trend – people try to “detox” from email. For example, at least in the morning, some people try to survive without reading their emails in order to get their creative work done. As for the first thing to do in the morning, I try not to get up from bed until I think of a few positive things and get myself into an appreciative, happy mood. Email does not always help in achieving that!

      Like

      • I agree with you Alinka, and maybe it depends on what’s in your inbox. For me, 97% of it is good news, or things I want to hear. If I were running a company and had to read about problems that needed solving or unhappy customers, then I definitely think reading first thing in the morning would be a bad idea.

        Like

  19. Recommendation:
    *This is also useful reading for PROGRAMMING.

    Read for inspiration to make your ‘writing ritual’ more exciting, and hopefully productive.

    TF: Please make TFX available in Europe! (None of your channels allow it.)

    Like

  20. I also feel more energetic and creative when I’m supposed to be having a hangover. It all started a year ago, about the same time I started low carb dieting and IF. Tim, have you heard of anyone else feeling more energetic, creative and even social after a night of excessive drinking? It’s the most amazing feeling ever, like I took the “Limitless” pill, but it only lasts a day. Do you know what’s causing this? Is it just the excessive calories?

    Like

  21. Sorry that this is off topic but I’ve read your book and had great success but I have a friend that has been doing this “Yoli” thing and it just seems so much like a pyramid scheme that I was curious if you had any input on their methods if you are aware of them?

    Like

  22. Nice post. There is something to be said about the effectiveness of a daily ritual, though not many people are let in to see them in the making. I find somethings stick better for me than others. Sometimes I try so hard to change just a little thing.. and at ends, it either works or it doesn’t. Thanks for the tips, tricks, and titles. I’m definitely going to put ‘Daily Rituals-How Artists Works’ on my Christmas list.

    Like

  23. I got the book, after I read your first post about it, and there is really some, let’s say, striking rituals.

    I haven’t read the whole book yet, but so far Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartr really impressed me :)

    Like

  24. I was hesitant on buying this, hoping I’d be able to find a little more content on what I am investing in. (I’m a broke student) Thanks for the info Tim, short excerpts like this is what I, and I’m sure many people, were looking for.

    Any way to get the book with the coffee cover elsewhere on the internet? I’ve searched and I’ve come up with nothing. Otherwise, this is going to be in my own stocking this christmas.

    Cheers!

    Like

  25. Hey Tim,

    I wanted to share with you that I am giving T4HC to customers for the 2nd year in a row. There were a lot of customers of ours… chefs and foodservice professionals alike, that did not receive this book last year.

    These guys look at T4HC like porn for foodservice guys & gals. It was/is one of our most popular gifts we give out (along with the ecosphere with live shrimp in it).

    Our customers include, The Cheesecake Factory, BJ’s Restaurants, Lazy Dog Cafe, Lucille’s BBQ, Chevy’s/El Toritio, Bristol Farms, SYSCO, US Foods and many others.

    This year, if a customer already received T4HC last year, we are giving them a set of other books that includes T4HWW! :-)

    Keep on Killing It Tim.

    Thanks for all you do.

    Jeff

    Like

  26. I love this so much! As someone who is delving more into my creative side, this makes me feel a little less crazy when I am looking for the magic ingredients that spark creativity within myself. Thanks for sharing Tim!

    Like

  27. Hey Tim!!
    Love 4 hour body man, it has made training Muay Thai and MMA lot easier in all ways. From reversing injuries to cutting weight and adding muscle. In my last fight in June I lost to a arm bar and felt some popping in the old elbow be for I tapped. So 5 months later still having some trouble if i get kicked in the arm or some odd movement it kinda locks up a little. Any ideas on how or what I should do to revers that injure? Thanks man!!

    Like

  28. What also works is working deep in the night. Do creative work when you are desperate for sleep. I’ve actually had amazing conversations with my friends when we talk deep in the night. It’s like you’re on weed, but not.

    Like

  29. Hi Tim, have you ever considered you might be psychotic? Here are the signs to look out for:

    Facet 1: Interpersonal
    Glibness/superficial charm
    Grandiose sense of self-worth
    Pathological lying
    Conning/manipulative
    Facet 2: Affective
    Lack of remorse or guilt
    Emotionally shallow
    Callous/lack of empathy
    Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
    Facet 3: Lifestyle
    Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
    Parasitic lifestyle
    Lack of realistic, long-term goals
    Impulsivity
    Irresponsibility
    Facet 4: Antisocial
    Poor behavioral controls
    Early behavioral problems
    Juvenile delinquency
    Revocation of conditional release
    Criminal versatility
    Many short-term marital relationships
    Promiscuous sexual behavior
    I think that sums you up based on your books/blog. It’s not too late for you to seek help.

    Like

  30. Very interesting article, Tim!

    If wine is the answer then I am on the right track :) Just kidding!

    These are only four people, I wonder how “statistically significant” their extraordinary lifestyles are.

    I agree that routines are very handy and that we are creatures of habit. I usually meditate before I do any creative work like writing, to get myself into the right state of mind. Other work like marketing and indulging in blogs, like yours, is something I can do without any mental preparation :)

    Like

  31. FYI maybe: Google Keyword Planner tool has replaced Keyword Tool

    Does Google’s tool change impact your advice to set up a Google Adwords account of no more than .20 cents CPC and a set budget limit of $50/day?
    ie: Does the new tool change also change the strategy?

    Thank you – and I really love the 4HWW; it’s my new bible

    Like

  32. Hi Tim & everyone else,

    This is also one of my favorite books. It’s pretty incredible when you start to put together the small similarities that all these artists have used throughout generations. Sleeping early, waking up early, finishing work in the mid/early afternoon and using the rest of their day for leisure to balance themselves out. I try to stick by this for the most part but I’m sure everyone has their occasional bumps just like me.

    I’m loving the book feature, keep it up brother – I can’t wait to see what else is coming up that I haven’t read.

    Like

  33. Hi Tim

    First I want to say I really enjoyed your books, your blog, and most recently your book club (I read Vagabonding in 2 days, couldn’t put it down!) Thanks so much for sharing the things that inspire you- I really appreciate it

    That being said, I love the idea of setting up routines (I do believe they are what help make a woman successful) but was hoping to get some insight on routines for people who are constantly on the road (as this daily routine book/the rest of the literature seems to be geared towards people who have some control over their settings.) I run a startup in India and I probably spend less than 5 days in my own home, mostly living out of suitcases/other people’s couches. Do you have any resources for people to set up routines who usually spend nights traveling on busses/trains, and days living in places other than their own home?

    Thanks so much- I really appreciate any insight you have on this point

    Regards,

    Anu

    Like

  34. Hi, Mr. Ferriss.
    I have recently read your first book and was interested in the “hackig approach to learning, fitness a.s.o. I have always wondered whether there is such an approach to studying textboks. There are a lot of methods for memory and speed reading but nothing so far has been put to a test. I believe the suject is worthy of your approach. Could you write a “4 hour study” book/
    Just an idea !
    Thank you for your site
    Yossi

    Like

  35. People like Auden, as they lose themselves in “at the minute” scheduling, tend to become more efficient and in time more effective. I’m not sure of you guys, but scheduling your day from the evening before has allowed me to increase productivity 10 fold.

    When waking up in the morning, it seems like you know what should be tweaked on your “to do” list. It’s like the list you made in the evening has solved itself in terms of priority.

    You know exactly what items from the list are more important. What are you experiences guys?

    Like

  36. Tim your great at finding universal hacks and routines. I’ve been able to find some routine hacks for myself but they are tailored to my failure points. One successful hack I do is, at night I will put a glass of water and my supplements out of their containers ready to drink right by my bed. I do this because in the morning I am to lazy to do it. Just doing that took me from the eyeball average of 1-2 times per week to 6 times per week. In addition, the supplements themselves are hacks to improve the rest of the day. Here is what I take
    Mood supplments
    2 fish oil caps
    50mg of lithium oratate (good for depression) Strong nutrient
    1 6000 mcg b12 sublingual lozenge
    1 normal b complex
    Other supplements
    200mcg Selenium for testosterone (4 hour body)
    5000 vitamin d

    Lastly, instead of waiting to make coffee to wake up, I take a 100 mg caffeine pill and am focused in 15 minutes from taking it.

    Like

  37. Hi Tim, just been re-reading The Kindle version of the 4HB book and noticed that the instructions for The T-Handle have an error in them that needs to be fixed. The pipe dimensions are written as 8mm (3/4 inch) but surely this should be 18mm (3/4 inch) no?

    Like

  38. I have to say I was much happier in myself when I had a slight routine, nothing to the extent of these brilliant people but even a routine just for the afternoon kept me calmer than my normal self.

    Like

  39. I love quirky habits. I never understood why Maya Angelou did the hotel thing versus an alternative like renting an office or buying an apartment to go to, but hey, whatever worked. And boy did it work.

    I usually write early mornings – waking up at 4:30 and writing until the kids wake up. I do this six or seven days per week and just trounce up to the attic/office to get my work done.

    Like

  40. Tim what a beautifully crafted post. I had my routine set with all of its Idiosyncrasies then everrything changed when I decided to change my career from university professor to company owner. I have started a consultancy supporting people to learn to adapt intenionally by using their Adaptive Intelligence. So, finding my perfect routine is is all part of my own adaptation. I am still searching for the right recipe but I now have lots of ideas to experiment with!
    Regards
    Gary

    Like

  41. This is awesome! I came across this book in December and got it as a gift for my cousin who is a photographer. I wished after that I had bought myself a copy, and I’m going to now!
    I’m always fascinated by the routines of other creative people. Helps to know that we all have a process…or maybe helps me explain my quirks and complete immersion process in my work to people who find hanging out with me a little odd at times haha.

    Like

  42. Very interesting. I’m going to have to read the book now.

    I just have to say that I could never work with a hangover…I can’t even get the stairs with a hangover. My mind just doesn’t work.

    And, I find the fact that Maya Angelou went to motel rooms extremely interesting. My grandpa always had a deck of cards nearby, and I can remember him using it as a way to think things over. I’m assuming it stimulated his creative mind. Very cool.

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  43. The importance of a ritual to start off work is so important and I’m realizing it more and more as my RESISTANCE becomes stronger and stronger. This happens when I try to do my best work – but the ritual is something I haven’t developed before. I’ll get right on it. Thank you TIM! LOVE your work. xx Ritu

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  44. I’m currently reading it. Superb book!

    I love learning about how masterpieces were written with pencil on top of a fridge at 4am on post cards and the like…

    It makes my complaints about, software and noisy neighbours seem a little obsolete!

    Thanks for the recommendation.

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  45. I have always thought of starting to take afternoon walks just to get the creativity flowing. I write during my free time or when I get stressed, and I’d like to take a step up with my writing, but it really takes the guts to get a new routine going.

    Even waking up early is a feat for me. How do morning people do it?

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  46. Hi Tim,
    I can only imagine the vast volume of comments you and your team receive everyday, so I wanted to begin with a ‘thank you’. I’m a writer and entrepreneur also, and I really enjoyed the interview that you did with Remit Sethi. I really appreciate the specific suggestions and techniques you shared. I’ve already put your advice into practice, such as designing a morning routine, which includes preparing jasmine pearl tea or green tea from China, listening to my “power songs” that inspire and energize my body as I make food for the rest of the day. I find that focusing on meal prep at the beginning of the day allows me to have healthy food throughout the day — so I don’t have to stop my “writing flow” during working hours whenever I get hungry. I also followed your suggestion of researching gaps in the market via Amazon Reviews and checking out the 3 and 4 star reviews. SUCH a cool idea! A generous and valuable insight to share. Thanks so much!
    I appreciate your work to provide reading spaces and clean water for communities – especially children. I’m a pediatric and orthopedic Physical Therapist who spend 2 years volunteering at an orphanage in Southeastern China, so your actions that improve the quality of health and education really touches my heart. If there is anything I can do to assist you with any of your health or wellness projects, please feel free to contact me. I’d be happy to offer my support and expertise.
    Wish you continued success,
    Jaleh Marta Zandieh

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  47. Ha…I saw this featured on Reddit and fully clicked the link so that I could share it here, thinking ‘This sounds like something Ferriss would be into’…I chuckled when, after clicking, seeing that you ARE the article’s source. Well played Ferriss, well played.

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  48. Ok this is my first and probable last “blog”. This message goes against most of you rules/suggestions but here it is (I should be cold calling you at 7pm :) Some personal background, I am an ob-gyn totally burnt out after 8yrs (make that 16 counting residency and med school) of nonstop sleep deprivation, stress etc. I have taken the past year to do per diem and locums (travel work) which has afforded me the time to actually ask myself “what do I want to do today” how lucky I feel for this opportunity. Making it short, I have developed quite a crush on your mind and perspective, I have always believed in taking the crooked path and coloring outside the lines. I was really happy to hear you gave yourself permission to go to Bali, can only imagine what it felt like to come back. So glad to hear that you meditate every day (Im trying) and to PRINCE…my god could you be any more fascinating (huge fan of prince myself) came across a song that I would like you to try for meditation…pump up before writing etc…”The man” by Aloe Blacc b/c you are the man! Ha! add that to your ritual! Oh and by the way…if you ever find yourself in Portland Maine (fantastic restaurants and people..just saying…) I happen to live down the road from your friend Dr. Oz off of rte 88 (no joke he summers up here…see him running all the time and his wife frequents the spa down my street. Please find me :) Here is to putting it out in the universe…screw the rules! Oh and please let me know how to find out if you are giving a lecture anywhere on the east coast (maybe at my medical school UNE where I will start teaching this summer :) All the best – Lisa Parsons

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  49. routine life is not for me.i like random life , like roaming eating dancing etc.because we are here for few time.in this time if we spent our time in tight schedule then i think life is for you is very pale.so go and enjoy………

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  50. Well, to each his own!

    I have once read an almost identical piece of content before through an email newsletter. It tackled weird but persistent habits that many writers do on a routine to let them keep going. It is nice that more and more people are now getting aware of these mundane things that happen to amazing minds from history. It’s rare, it helps us normal folks feel that these legends were too, once, humans like us.

    The peculiarities may be different in all of us but the key to it is embracing the oddness from within then identify ways to make it work for our betterment.

    Also, this one is going to be shared! Thanks for inspiring the weird in me again Tim!

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  51. I especially liked Maya Angelou’s approach to what some might refer to as the “flow state”. If she was not feeling it, she would hang it up and head home early. If she was in the zone, she would ride that wave until she lost it.

    I have experienced this time and time again, and it is hard not to beat yourself up for putting down the work sooner than you feel you should. But if you walk away and find something to fill the time that is equally productive, just in another realm (i.e. getting some exercise, calling a good friend for a long meaningful convo, etc) then you will find it easier to return to that flow state next time you sit down to do the work.

    By not beating yourself up over a slow day, and pushing yourself further every time you get into the zone you will find it easier to justify taking a random day off if you really need it… you just better be willing to work on that friday night when your friends are all throwing down, but you are in a flow state and need to get shit done!

    Great post, Tim. Thanks!

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  52. Wow, Since I’ve started working from home completely this has pretty much been my schedule. Wake 7am, coffee shop to work until 1pm-ish, then training or rock climbing until 3pm, then evening coffee where I do not work but read, then home with the family around 5pm.

    So, pretty much I am on the right track.

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