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All Over The Map

Waking up 1 hour earlier = 2 and a half years of life.

George Lois once said if you sleep 1 less hour per day and you live until your 80, you could be awake and productive for an additional 2 and half years.

Currently, I'm working on a few things and have cut down on my sleep by 2 hours per day (I'm sure in the future my face will thank me when I look like Benjamin Button at the start of the film).

Most days, I arrive at work at 08:40 AM. Though I'm awake from 05:30 AM, I don't really want to be but once I'm awake, it's time to get cracking. Now because my day job is still required, I view my time outside of that, where I can focus on comedy, extremely valuable and I can't waste it. Most of the time, I'm either driving to a gig or sat alone in my office for 2-3 hours a night writing jokes (or at least attempting to). Nevertheless, this doesn't make the 05:30 AM wake up call any easier.

The trick I keep telling myself is 'get through the first 10 minutes'. All I need to do is get through it and I almost forget I was sleeping 11 minutes ago. However, during those 10 minutes, it feels like the opening scene of 'Saving Private Ryan'. I usually fill this time putting away the washing up from the night before, moving with all the speed of someone who's playing one of the steady-hand games that buzz if you touch the metal. Although In this particular case it wouldn't be the buzz of the metal if I drop the pans it would be the roar of my girlfriend calling me a 'knobhead' as I've woken her. Once it's 05:41 AM, it's all downhill from here.

I enjoy the slower pace that comes in the form of the 'quiet' that mornings offer. I check no e-mails, Twitter or Facebook and there are simply fewer people awake.

- Unless you work for the Gallagher building yard across the road from my flat- who act as my alarm clock every day- when I hear the voice of one man (who I imagine has no GCSE's) shouting "Darren, open the gate". (It's wrong of me to assume this man not very academic I know but I can't fault his punctuality).

Supposedly, David Bowie enjoyed the 'quiet' of the morning and found it the magic for a lot of his songs during this time. I know I'm not writing song lyrics but I figure if it worked for him, I'll give it ago. Although I'm sure you can only ponder "Is there life on Mars?" before 07:00 AM.

My morning routine is simple. Three times a week, come 06:00 AM, I run for 25 minutes on the treadmill. I choose to go to the gym in the mornings because it's empty - I can't stand queuing for machines. It's bad enough at Alton Towers and a log flume is 100% better than a treadmill. Due to this 'full metal jacket' approach I take once 07:00 AM rolls around, I've usually ran, showered, had two cups of coffee and begun writing a 'morning page'.

A 'morning page' is an exercise which requires you to empty your head of muddy thoughts. Its a form of daily journaling which has been used by many people such as Marcus Aurelius, Ben Franklin and Mark Twain. It doesn't need to be productive or attempt to solve an issue or question, just simply provides mental clarity. I first heard about through my friend Ed Hedges (who's also a comedian), however, it's only recently that I've read up on them and seen how they are a useful tool for clearing headspace. Tim Ferriss is the guy who actually inspired me to give it a go in his book 'Tools of The Titans'.

The funny thing is I actually use a journal called 'Self Discovery Journal For Men'. Which was gifted to me by my sister along with 'Tools of The Titans', It has 127 hilarious questions in it like 'Who are you?' 'What does love mean?' & "Are you a good person". In truth, if I wasn't doing morning pages I'd never have used its blank pages but now it's a dump site for all my brain farts. I also find it funny because it has 'for men' in the title. Like the woman's one would any different 'Q1 - what your favourite musical?' Q2 - Who's your favourite 1D member?.

The best way to describe how a 'morning page' works for me is to think of my mind as a coral reef. My aim is always to get past the reef and to the drop off point of the open sea of new ideas. And then take what I've found back to shore to share it with everyone. However, there are millions of distractions that exist in my reef and they all interact with each other in such a way it's difficult not to focus on them constantly. I know if I can get beyond the reef to the drop-off point of the abyss there's a possibility of finding nothing and equally something totally new. A morning page provides a route to bypass those distractions as I leave them on the page.

A great example of this is shown in the documentary 'The Zen Diaries Of Garry Shandling which HBO released earlier this year. It's fantastic. It clearly depicts the mental boxing match comedians put themselves through on and off stage when developing material, analyzing themselves and dealing with that inner voice of doubt we all have.

I'm not regimented with this routine. I can go with the flow but I love the reliability of a routine. In an ideal world when I don't have a day job, I'd continue my morning writing until 12 or 1 PM and then go for a long bike ride and spend my afternoons playing the guitar, watching films and seeing friends. I'd be very content living the remainder of my days doing things a 12 year does during the summer holidays.

I love a routine for the simple reason there's also less wasted thinking involved. I once read that Mark Zuckerburg, Barack Obama and Steve Jobs each chose to wear the same outfit each day because it's one less decision to make.

I can massively relate to that, although I'm not trying to develop the new Facebook, run a country or manage an army of sweatshops. The simplicity of the routine means that once it's 08:00 AM I feel I've done the heavy lifting and feel ready for the day. So when it does come to the time to focus on my comedy, I've got a clearer headspace and getting beyond the reef is far easier.

That was a little insight into my routine and what works for me. If I recommend one thing, it's to attempt morning pages for a week and sees what difference it makes.


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