Morning Coffee

June 06, 2015

I don’t know about you, but I’m a morning person. The first two hours of my morning routine are usually the most important ones for my productivity. If I manage to get in the zone and make the most of them, the resulting energy boost is usually enough to carry me throughout the rest of the day. On the other hand, if I squander those precious hours checking my RSS feeds and procrastinating my way until noon, my chances of getting any meaningful work done that day go down significantly.

For the past couple of years, those first two hours of the day have been dedicated to working out. I realize it may seem counterintuitive, to dedicate my most productive time of the day to doing something apparently unrelated to my creative work, but I have found the energy I get from working out helps me focus quite a bit better later on when I’m at my desk.

There’s an old saying that goes: if you work with your head, rest with your hands. That’s a pretty good approximation of how I feel about working out in the morning. When you’re sitting at a desk all day long trying to come up with cool things to write about, it’s easy to get a bit too much in your own head and after a while, things get weird and there’s a real chance of burning out. That’s where physical exercise comes in.

It used to be, I felt a bit guilty about spending those two hours each day at the gym. For a few months I kept thinking that time was too precious to spend away from the desk, and it’s taken me a fair bit of effort to accept it as what it is: an investment.

When the most valuable asset in your work is time, it is extremely important to invest it in a way that maximizes its value. For me, that turns out to be going to the gym in the morning. For you, well, only you can know that, but it’s important you at least ask yourself the question.

It’s a simple question after all, really: do I prefer to have two hours of exercise followed by six good hours of work, or just eight hours of half-work, half-goofing around on the Internet? In my case, the answer was pretty straightforward.

However, even though putting the first two hours of each day towards working out has definitely helped me be more productive, it clearly is no silver bullet. The truth is, there are no silver bullets. There are no shortcuts to doing great work. All I’m doing every morning is creating the opportunity and putting myself in the best position I can to do the best work I’m capable of. But at that point, the real struggle is only just beginning.

If setting aside the time to do your best work is important, choosing what to spend that time on is even more so.


The publishing rhythm in Analog Senses has been relatively stable throughout the past year or so, since I started working on the site full-time. On a good week, I typically publish around five link-type posts each day and one original article throughout the week. These articles take a fair bit of work and usually about a couple days each to finish, so this pace works pretty well most weeks. However, there’s a deeper problem.

Sometimes, there are particularly busy weeks like this one, when I don’t have the time to do it all and in those weeks, it’s usually the article that gets neglected in favor of the link posts. That seems like a sound decision, because rushing long articles is almost never a good way to go, and so I rationalize my choice by convincing myself that I’m doing it to preserve the quality of the writing.

The truth, however, is that link posts are a lot easier to publish, and require a lot less effort. They also keep the site updated every day which, as everybody will tell you, is great for traffic, SEO and whatnot.

But even though link posts are easier to do, they still take a huge amount of time to do right. I always make it a point to read every article I link to from start to finish before linking to it. Call me silly, but I think it’s a critical part of my promise to the reader: I personally vouch for each and every one of the pieces you’ll see here, and I genuinely think they’re worth my readers’ time and attention. I stake my reputation on that claim, and that’s the whole point of those posts.

The downside of doing link posts this way is that, unfortunately, the majority of my time and attention on any given week are devoted to them, instead of being put into my own original writing. And the longer I do it, the more I realize that’s not what I want my site to be. Link posts are fun to do but in the great scheme of things, they’re usually anecdotes that don’t add much, if any, long-term value and relevance to the site.

The worst part of it is, these link posts actually trick me into believing I’m doing good work. If I manage to publish six or seven interesting link posts one day, I’ll go to bed thinking I’m doing great but the truth is, I may not have written a single original word for the past ten days. Lately I haven’t been feeling particularly proud about that.

I aspire to be more than an amplifier or another member of the eco-chamber. I want my readers to come here for me, my own voice and my own work, not just because I’m good at finding cool stuff for them to read elsewhere.

Is it pride, or vanity? Maybe, but it doesn’t change a very simple fact: I am a writer, not an aggregator, and I just want to write more.

The problem is, in order to write more, I need to give myself the time to do so, and that means more than just wishing for it to happen organically. It means creating the opportunity by setting aside the time to do it every day.

Less linking, more writing

That, in a nutshell, is what I intend to do around here from now on. If the whole point of this change is to write more, I need to have a few uninterrupted hours every day to do so, away from the distractions of the online world. In all likelihood, that will result in fewer link posts being published throughout the week, and hopefully more — and more importantly, better — original writing.

So where does that leave link posts?

By focusing more on my own writing during the week, I don’t mean to say I don’t care about link posts anymore. Far from it, actually. I’m still a voracious reader and I’ll definitely keep coming across many interesting pieces of writing every week that I’ll want to share with my readers.

With that in mind, let this be an experiment.

Introducing “Morning Coffee”, a weekly roundup of interesting writing

The concept is simple and, quite frankly, not very original. Several of my favorite sites have been doing it for a while, like The Newsprint’s excellent Sunday Edition or Tools & Toys’ Quality Linkage column every Friday. The reason they do it is equally simple: it works.

The idea behind the name is also simple. I will be making my selections every Saturday morning as I sip my first coffee of the day, and hopefully the issue will be published by the time the U.S. East Coast wakes up, so American readers will be able to read it while they have theirs.

There’s a bit of irony in the fact that today’s issue — the very first one — is already late. You’ll have to forgive me for that, I’m afraid. I started writing this piece early in the morning but, as with most of my pieces, things just kind of got out of hand.

Anyway, that’s entirely too much blogging about blogging for one day, so without further ado, allow me leave you with this week’s most interesting pieces of writing.

Issue #1: Emotional literacy, Apple Watch, photography and the defense of personal freedom

The Four Stages of Life | Mark Manson →

What an eye-opening article by Mark Manson. As someone who is slowly coming to terms with the transition from stage two to stage three, this was incredibly helpful to read.

A basic skill we should have learned as kids | David Cain →

David Cain’s writing is always top notch, and this week’s article is no exception. The ability to understand our own emotions and how they alter the shape of everything that happens in our lives is an essential tool we should all have in our toolbox. I also love the expression “emotional literacy”. It’s perfect.

Building an app from start to finish | “Underscore” David Smith →

This one is technically not a piece of writing, but I’m including it anyway. Mr. Underscore had an idea for an Apple Watch app and in this brief YouTube video, he shows you how he built it. Literally.

The Apple Watch | Ben Brooks →

I had been waiting for Ben to publish his thoughts on the Apple Watch, and I’m happy to say he didn’t disappoint. Ben is one of the very few writers I trust when it comes to product reviews for one simple reason: he gives a shit about being fair, and he takes his time to form a coherent opinion before reviewing anything. I’ve publicly stated before how I think it’s way too early to be making claims about the future of the Apple Watch, and Ben deftly stays clear of making any such claims. Great stuff.

Apple Watch Sport Band | Mike Bates →

Lovely piece by Mike Bates. I really like his photographic style and he makes some very interesting observations about Apple’s most affordable band option for the Apple Watch. If you want a white Sport band but are worried it might not age gracefully, this article is for you.

Beyond Scotland: hot climate whiskies to know | Mark Bylok →

Mark sent me a link to this article earlier today, after I asked him about Nomad, a very particular whisky I tried recently that is aged in Scotland but then finished in Spain. As such, it cannot be labeled as Scotch whisky, which is why they promote it as “outland whisky”. Go figure. The good news is, it was delicious. The better news, however, is that there are plenty of fantastic whiskies being made outside of the Scottish borders, and Mark’s article is an excellent way to get acquainted with them.

The unacceptably high cost of labor - how a deeper dive into Patagonia’s supply chain led to a new Migrant Worker Standard →

It’s good to see that some companies care about more than just making money. Human exploitation is a very real problem, and we need many more companies like Patagonia taking a stand and doing what’s right. Kudos to them.

Patagonia’s Anti-growth strategy | The New Yorker →

Another great piece focused on Patagonia, this time by J. B. Mackinnon for The New Yorker. Apparently, the company’s commitment to being environmentally and socially responsible even at the cost of potential growth is having quite an unexpected effect on their sales figures. Once again, good for them.

How to capture iPhone photos of wiggly kids | Erin Brooks →

Erin Brooks has been on fire lately and her pictures are jaw-droppingly beautiful. Keep them coming, Erin!

The world says No to surveillance | Edward Snowden →

Edward Snowden’s take on the recent decision by the U.S. Congress to stop the N.S.A.’s massive collection of information gives us reason to hope this may be the first step on the road towards a better future. I, for one, certainly hope he’s right.


That wasn’t so bad for a first issue, was it? There are some real gems in this week’s roundup, and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did putting them together. Unfortunately my coffee is long gone by now and yours probably is, too. This first issue took quite a bit longer than I expected to finish, but I hope the result has been worth it in the end.

The good news is, great writing goes well with more than just coffee, so choose your favorite poison, pick a comfortable couch to lean back on and enjoy.

Have a lovely weekend and, as ever, thank you for reading.