Why The New York Times Has to Wait

Recently, I stopped reading The New York Times in the morning. This caused much emotional distress. As regular readers know, I love perusing the paper over my first pot of tea—and most especially getting through the Arts section to the crossword by breakfast.

Yet finishing my second novel manuscript ranks highly on my goals list for the year. Though I’d made progress in sporadic bursts, the frequency of my efforts—or lack of efforts—meant I’d never get there on time.

Reading the paper in the morning killed my productivity.

I eked out my last novel manuscript over a series of early mornings. Originally, I’d scheduled writing for the wee hours to ensure nothing else could supersede it—many times, my day derails from plan shortly after I reach the office.

Though my original instinct about schedule control early in the morning proved valid, I realized rather quickly that my morning-writing success came from three additional factors:

  1. First thing in the morning, my self-editor still slumbers alongside my task-oriented driver. When awake, these two rascals distract me with how poorly I’ve conceived this sentence, character, or plot and with how many other things I really should do in this span of time.
  2. Fresh from sleep, my cleared mind doesn’t have the residue of a long day to pull my thoughts from my fiction.
  3. As a morning person, my mind’s most intense energy, quickness, and creativity come in the first half of the day.

The third point shouldn’t have surprised me. Many moons ago, I realized that matching work tasks and flow to energy levels is the key to productivity.

With work, I knock out all my must-do tasks as early as possible in the day, when I have prime faculties for critical thinking and energy for quick action. Once I’ve completed mission-critical tasks, I can address some of the next-tier items, ranked by priority and the amount of oomph I have left. Activities that don’t require intense thinking or quick action, such as conversation with my team, social time with clients, and so forth, can happen later in the day—when won’t feel frantic with pent-up energy and the sense that critical work languishes nearby.

This means The New York Times must wait for the evening. Does it feel a little odd to read the morning paper at night? Yep. But I probably better serve the hard-working journalists at that hour, anyway. In the evenings, I have a more relaxed brain ready to take in and mull over information—not create it, critique it, or contribute to it.

Have you shaped your schedule to your internal clock?