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6AM: Writing Daily Without Distraction (on the iPad Magic Keyboard)

Since early April I have been trying something new in the mornings.

My wife and I have 3 young boys at home. And if we ever write a book on parenting it will have one chapter. And in that one chapter it will have one sentence. And the one sentence would be this:

“Buy an OK-To-Wake Clock.”

That’s it. That’d be the whole parenting book.

Anyway, as I was saying, I began something new back in early April.

I have been spending the first quiet hour of my day writing.

I wake up at 6am. Put on pants. Make a cup of coffee. Sit down at the kitchen counter. And write for about an hour.

I’m here right now. The house is quiet. The sun is beginning to rise. There is the dim early morning light warming up the windows. And I am writing.

iPad Pro Magic Keyboard

As I shared earlier this week, my family has been self-isolating for more than 60 days now. And living in quarantine has been unexpectedly distracting and stressful.

During the month of March, I’d been noticing that I was struggling with my daily writing time. In fact, I’d been struggling with a lot of work focus. And I knew something needed to change.

Working from home these past few months, I have been noticeably more distracted — doing more busywork — than normal. In fact, had to create a separate task list just for all the “busywork ideas” I’ve been having. It’s a list of the little things I suddenly want to do around my house now that I am just here all day every day.

One way I have overcome my newfound work-from-home distractions was to start this new 6am writing routine. It has helped me be more focused on this single most important task of the day: Writing.

My day roughly looks like this:

  • At 6am I wake up in order to spend the first hour of my day writing in the kitchen with a cup of coffee, my iPad, and Ulysses.

  • At 7:15 all our boys wake up, and so I have breakfast with the family. Then I get ready for the day.

  • Around 8:30, I head down to my home office to continue work.

  • At 11am, I take a break to do my workout and have lunch.

  • Then, at 1pm, I return to do a few more hours of work before wrapping up around 4:30pm to go spend the rest of the day with family.

A Brief Aside About Keyboards in General and, More Specifically, the iPad Magic Keyboard

Long-time readers of my personal blog may be all-too familiar with some of my previous in-depth, winded, and opinionated articles about keyboards.

In short, I love a good keyboard. And I love my iPad.

So you’d think that if Apple came out with an amazing keyboard for the iPad it would be my Favorite Thing Ever.

Well. After three full weeks with the Magic Keyboard, I don’t know if I am confident enough to say it’s my Favorite Thing Ever. But it is pretty wonderful.

I have spent many days over the past several weeks working only from the iPad with the Magic Keyboard. (Usually I spend about half my day on my iMac and half my day with the iPad.)

Before there was the iPad Magic Keyboard, there was the Smart Keyboard. And I have been using one version or another of that plastic-wrapped butterfly keyboard thingamajig since early 2017 . I had one for my 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the 10.5-inch, and the 11-inch.

The typing experience on the Magic Keyboard is, by far and away, superior to that of the Smart Keyboard. I mean, of course it is. This is a real keyboard. With backlights. And did I mention that it is not wrapped in plastic?

Oh. And the trackpad. This trackpad. It has quikly become essential.

Down the road, when our lives begin to return to some sort of normal, and travel is something we can do again, the iPad Magic Keyboard will be the perfect travel accessory for the iPad Pro.

But for now, just like my kids and my wife, this iPad Magic Keyboard is stuck with me here at home. And I have more thoughts and specifics that I may get into later about exactly how this Magic Keyboard works for me at home where half the time I use the iPad in “tablet mode”.

I will say that in many ways the Magic Keyboard Case is less convenient than its Smart Keyboard siblings. But! At the very least, this keyboard — with its superior typing experience and its trackpad — has been my new 6am writing companion. And as a tool that helps me write and create more on a daily basis then that is a huge win.

iPad Pro Magic Keyboard

But the keyboard itself is not the only helpful thing…

Things That Are Helping: Time Blocks, Habits, and Routines

Here at The Blanc House we are on our 63rd day of life and work and school from home.

We certainly have our good days and our bad days. And in the midst of both the monotony as well as the outside pressures of life, our daily routines have become all the more important. Not just our routines as a family, but also our individual routines.

A few things for me, personally, that I have stayed vigilant with during quarantine are:

  • Protecting my time to rest and think during my day.

  • Leaning heavily on routines and habits to make things easier on myself.

(Actually, next week’s TSS Webinar is all about routines and habits. I’ll be sure share some of the routines and systems that have helped me keep my day on track.)

But in the meantime… Here. Check this out.

It’s a copy of Benjamin Franklin’s daily schedule.

Benjamin Franklin Daily Schedule

This simple schedule of Benjamin Franklin’s has been an inspiration to me for years!

What I like is how open and simple it is. (That, and how he had “diversions” as part of his daily routine.)

If you look at it, you’ll see that he had only 6 blocks of time scheduled each day:

  1. Morning Routine: 3 hours for getting ready, shower, breakfast, personal study, and prepare for work
  2. Work: 4 hours
  3. Afternoon break: 2 hours for eating, reading, and admin
  4. Work: 4 hours
  5. Evening Routine: 4 hours for dinner, relaxing, diversions, and wrapping up the day
  6. Sleep: 7 hours

This, dear reader, is timeblocking. And it’s marvelously effective.

As I outlined earlier, for my day, I have big “blocks” of time set aside for certain routines. Very similar to what you see on Benjamin Franklin’s schedule. And I also will time block within those . . . mapping my day’s most important tasks to a time on my calendar (such as writing first thing in the morning).

My own time blocks and routines have definitely changed and adjusted over the years. And they have espeicallly changed over the past two months! (Haven’t we all.)

When I notice that I am feeling stuck for days or weeks at a time, I will take a look at my schedule to ensure it is serving me as well as it should be. Hence, my new early-morning writing time. I simply shifted around some of the routines and blocks of my day to see if it would improve my day. And it has!

Now, I don’t know if this is early wake and write will be my new normal for the long term. But it has been working well for the past 5 weeks, and that is what matters.