Burning the candle

The great thing about Marc's'30 day writing challenge' is reading such a great cross section of varied content, as well as gaining a lot of inspiration.

One of the themes I've enjoyed the most so far has been around people's morning & evening routines.

Some people get up early and write, others check emails, whilst some use their “spare time” to exercise — the reason for the quotes is that this is very much dependent on peoples individual set of circumstances, I know in my life at present the very concept of spare time is but a dream and it irks me when people comment or question other peoples dedication to things without knowing the set of circumstances surrounding the person(s).

Don't get me wrong, I'd love nothing more than to be able to set the alarm earlier and dedicate some time to write, or catchup on emails/events, or just to have a coffee in peace, but that's not going to happen, well at least not for the minute (or the next 10-15 years...)

That said I've always liked to try and keep some level of discipline in a morning, firstly as I've recently become a Dad, and secondly I commute in & out of Manchester on a daily basis, and have done now for well over 8 years.


Just to give some perspective, the commute is from Poulton le Fylde into Manchester is approx. 60 miles and door to door -- about 1.5hrs -- each way.

Lots of people have come and gone in that time, I can safely say this as being on the same trains every day you get to see lots of the same faces. On thing that hasn't changed is the fascination in seeing how differently people treat it.

Many business people sit down and right away get to work and start firing emails of. Other, myself included, don't.

Devices seem to appear all over the place, the iPlayer is a common sight.

Others just sleep.

Anyway, I digress. Being on the train may not be as personal or as private as a home office, but adopting an altered mindset has allowed me to build my morning routine around the commute, and not the other way around.

  • I know I have to have my alarm set for 05:25.
  • I know I must be out of the house for either 06:30 or 07:05 depending on the day &emdash; we've adapted the routine now that my wife is no longer on maternity leave to incorporate some family time around breakfast, I then get a later train into work and a slightly later train home, but it means that we share the load, so it works for me.
  • When I'm on the train I tend to do one of three things: Read, Work, Power nap.

That is it.

The medium may vary, i.e. I may read a novel on my Kindle or a I may read some saved content from Pocket, the point is is that I read.

Even once I arrive at work, I like to have a little time to gather my thoughts:

  • Get a glass of water on way to desk
  • Setup workspace for the day
  • Grind some coffee, then go and brew an AeroPress.
  • Get back to desk and read emails.
  • Look over Slack history from yesterday after I left the work and read any commits/messages etc.
  • Write a mini to-do list.

And that's it.

Hardly glamorous or as well structured as others, but it works for me.


Most nights I'm home between 18:30 and 19:30, this is great. Sometimes I get to see my little boy. Sometimes I get to cook tea. Sometimes I just get to veg in front of the TV.

Every night though, I make sure that by 21:30 i'm hopefully upstairs, either in bed, or getting ready for bed.

I get my things laid out for the next morning so that I can pick them up and head for a shower, before beginning the next day.

We also have a 'no screens' rule in place now for the evening time.

Burning the candle

That works well for most nights, but the nights such as tonight, where I'm out, I won't get home until 22:30 at the earliest. This means I struggle to get prepared for the next day. It also means that I'm usually very tired.

I get asked is it worth it then, busting my ass and giving my free time to attend these events?

Quite simply put, yes, I think it is.

I learn news skills, I get to meet some awesome and inspiring people.

Don't get my wrong I don't like being tired, but at the same time I don't like to be handed things on a plate.

For me the difference of being tired through attending a meetup vs. being tired through working late on a project because a project manager (or equivalent) has laid down a guilt trip is immeasurable.

One of these paths will help you, it will help you flourish and will allow you to take better yourself. You will network, you will start to bring new skills to your job. You may even be that person who get's asked if they would like to do a talk.

The other will lead you on a path to burnout.

I really don't think I have an exact point I'm trying to make, except that it's all well and good having a routine, but when you get the opportunity to better yourself, how do you react? Is the routine so engrained that it's hard to break out of it? Do you know what you are potentially missing by not being flexible?

Being tired is tough, but so is regretting missed opportunities.

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