Coffee, writing, and the power of routine

Coffee, writing, and the power of routine


My irrational fear of oversleeping has led me to a nightly ritual of setting 5 different alarms throughout my apartment. Two iPhones, two different standalone alarm clocks, and an obnoxious wakeup call service that won't leave me be until I answer the call and enter a passcode. Come the morning, after just the right combination of snooze-buttons, I shuffle into my kitchen to embark on what is arguably the most important part of my day: the coffee.

I'm not an addict, I swear. I drink 3 or 4 cups a day, but I could quit. The caffeine doesn't seem to do much for my energy. I do enjoy the flavor, but more than that, I enjoy the process.

Making great coffee isn't difficult, but the outrageous coffee snobbery online would chastise me if I didn't at the very least describe it as "finnicky". Water temperature, pour patterns, grind size, dosage; all seemingly minute details that when combined properly, make a great cup of coffee possible. But I'm not obsessive. You won't find me weighing beans, or panicking on message boards when my espresso shots come out sour. I wouldn't say I'm lackadaisical about it either, though. For me, grind to cup, is a 10 minute process, and during that 10 minutes, those details are all that matters.

James May from BBC's Top Gear said several years ago (I'm paraphrasing) that he finds detailing his cars quite therapeutic: 

"You clean and clean, and at the end, you look. Is that bit as clean as it could be? No? Then keep going."

For those 10 minutes every morning, I don't have my phone on me, the TV is turned off, and there is absolutely nothing on my mind except doing what I can to make today's brew just a little bit better than yesterday's.

Bitter coffee today? Pull back and refine. What went wrong?

Exceptionally smooth brew? Enjoy, and figure out why it worked.

There is indisputable value to having something at some point in your day that removes you from the stresses and concerns of day-to-day being. This is why people meditate.

I've begun feeling the same way about my photography. Training myself to stop checking my emails and concentrate on how to take a better photograph didn't come particularly easy to me. It's not a science, but I'm getting better at it. 

Just over two years ago, I wrote my first article for The Phoblographer. It was a radical jump into an unfamiliar medium, but because of that, it forced me to step out of my head and concentrate entirely on what I could do to write a better article. Focus, evaluate, and refine.

I'm not a productivity nut, nor am I going to act like I have it all figured out. What I will say is that having these little (or sometimes big) things daily have done a lot to help keep me sane in my otherwise hectic and stressful existence. 

Merlin Mann (who is a real-life productivity nut) from episode 161 of his podcast Back to Work

"There is not any particular honor in being the most stressed out person in the world."

No kidding.

I'm a broadcast engineer, photographer, and writer. 

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