The first thing I do every morning in China is wash my dishes.
I just cleaned all of my dirty dishes from the day before and it felt great. My grandmother would have a fit. But it works for me to clean the day old, scummy food off my pots and plates the next morning because it gives me a chance to think and clear my mind before being sucked in by my phone, emails or texts or something external.
Cleaning dishes is my morning run. It's where I plan my day.
When I scrubbed soap into the corner crevice of my coffee pot, I organized a talk I was giving later that day.
When I wiped away the chicken scraps from my stove pan, I thought about how I'd respond to a few important emails that have been collecting dust in my inbox.
While I scraped off the hardened egg yolk on my fork, I thought about my weird dream where I was in Russia, as a CIA agent, in a meeting at the Kremlin with Vladimir Putin talking about.. I can't remember. (I've been watching a lot of Homeland).
Creative thoughts flow in the morning. My phone and computer stop the flow.
I also just started a new practice after washing dishes. I’ve been writing down my worst fears for the day.
I think it's brilliant to focus on the most uncomfortable things in your life first thing in the morning (after washing your dishes of course) because it addresses everything that will stop you from being productive that day.
This isn't a new idea. Writing down your fears has been practiced as a productivity technique for hundreds of years by famous stoics like Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Cato (Bestselling author Ryan Holiday, wrote about it here). It's called negative visualization, where by envisioning worst case scenarios for the day, you can 1) be better equipped to prevent them from happening altogether 2) get to the bottom of fears that are holding you back from doing your best work.
With each fear, I ask, what's the worst that could happen if this becomes reality? Why would that be so bad? Would I live?
It's never as bad as I think.
To call it pessimistic is cliche. It's also not. What I've found is that when I get to the source of why I'm anxious, it takes away a ton of stress and relief and thus, makes me feel more optimistic about what I can accomplish.
Fears this morning
hey look I'm doing this writing thing. I pray to god no one ever sees this stuff.
what if I leave china without anything significant to show for it?
what if I freeze up and panic during a presentation/workshop I’m giving today? (yes, this is still a fear of mine. I'm the most nervous public speaking teacher in the game.)
that I will get sick again sometime soon if I don't get enough sleep because I work with tons of sickly children who cough all over me.