I was inspired and fascinated by Tim Ferriss’ article on daily routine: http://fourhourworkweek.com/2008/03/10/24-hours-with-tim-ferriss-a-sample-schedule/. I couldn’t help writing an article about my mom , Xiang Li’s daily routine.
In Tim Ferriss’ own words “Sometimes, peculiar routines are the key to sanity… and productivity.” Ferriss spent years studying famous minds to discover the 80/20 rule. 80% of their productivity, accomplishment are results of just a few behaviors – often discovered in their daily routines.
I observed Li’s daily routine and interviewed her for moments when I’m not there. Her daily ritual is simple – I don’t even need bullet points here. She gets up at 7am, eats a healthy and hearty breakfast before heads-down on her first creative working session of the day, which usually involves sketching, painting, brainstorming for new ideas. She takes breaks as needed but she finds daylight to be most ideal between 10am-noon (New England Summer time, winter may defer). At around noon, she eats a light lunch before heading out to the beautiful Chestnut Hill Reservoir for a 2-hour walk. Yes, 2 hours, never less!
By the time Li gets back to her apartment at 3pm, she has just missed the brightest mid-aftenoon sun. Work under daylight becomes easy again and she continues her second creative session for another few hours, before enjoying dinner at 6pm. Taking breaks are extremely important to Li. The frequency is usually every hour or so. She would snack as needed, look outside her window to enjoy every bit more of the reservoir. In Chinese culture, we call it “opening up the chi”. With your chest open, body (feeling) rested, you feel more inspired and connected to your inner creativity.
When Li gets back from her second walk around the reservoir (by the way, it’s nearly 2 miles for a full walk around), she will prepare a before-bed snack, often healthy fruits, vegetables. Most of Li’s closed friends are still living in China, she will call them up on Skype for a few laughs, exchange a few stories.
“Life is simple and life should be simple” says Li, “I’m in my 60s now and I try very hard not to over-use my eyes. Eyesight is everything to an artist like me, who still concentrates on meticulous style paintings.”
Li finds so much joy in her work and she gets lost in those creative moments like many others in her position (artists really get this point!). However, maintaining one’s good health is really important. This is a key message to not only older but also younger artists (of course, anyone really).
Li works between 5-6 hours everyday and never pushes herself too hard. “You can’t force an idea, creative energy out of an artist when she isn’t ready. It will just have to wait.”
Li had a very different approach in her 20s and 30s. Like the rest of us, she had one speed – go, go, go! “It was not necessary.” she insisted, “There’s always more to do, more you can do, but identifying priority for artists often is a difficult task,” she smiled, “we are not producers and we can’t think and plan ahead that much. We just soak ourselves in our work.”
I want to cover more about Li’s amazing healthy and hearty diet that keeps her energy high and her creative juices flowing in the next article.
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