Published by: Harper Collins
My first read of 2021 was Karma Brown’s The 4% Fix– a straightforward guide to carving out the first hour of the day for a personal passion project. I’d been thinking about shifting my writing practice to the early hours and knew – as a night owl – I was going to need serious help to break myself of a lifelong habit of exclusive night writing.
I’d read – and thoroughly enjoyed - Brown’s bestselling Recipe For a Perfect Wife, and knew that her writing style would likely engage me quickly, so I picked Brown’s book as an instruction manual to become an early riser and set off to work. On the first workday of January, I rose to a musical alarm, smiled at my early rising success, and picked up my phone. As a force of habit, the first thing I read was a jarring work email. Darn! I’d sabotaged my first day of what was intended as a new self-care routine.
It took about a week, but I nailed the process:
- Set the alarm
- Leave phone in airplane mode
- Do not touch phone after alarm is silenced
- Make coffee – lots of coffee.
Brown clearly outlines that the first hour of the day should not be for acts like email and social media but for the hobby or passion that is calling.
Once settled into the routine a blissful flow state emerged easily each morning. By the time my young child and husband were awake I’d written 500 – 1000 words and was ready to face whatever lay ahead - feeling great - knowing that I had protected my writing time from the noise of the day.
The 4% Fix is a quick and easy read and I recommend it to anyone needing an extra push to make time for whatever project or purpose is calling. For me, it provided the inspiration I needed to alter my time management for the better. Brown takes a no-nonsense approach that reads as friendly advise. This book became the encouraging push I needed to make the lifestyle change from night-owl to morning-lark.
Prolific and bestselling Author Karma Brown was kind enough to answer a few questions I had about her first non-fiction book.
Candice Suchocki Weir: As a bestselling fiction author, what provoked your shift into non-fiction?
Karma Brown: I was actually approached by HarperCollins Canada to write a non-fiction book about my early-rise writing habit, and the benefits of investing in yourself via this time management strategy. I had previously been a freelance magazine journalist and so wasn’t new to non-fiction, but it was a much larger project than I had ever tackled—I learned a lot through the process!
CSW: I am personally just starting my journey to join the #5amwritersclub and I notice on social media a sense of community around this ritual. Can you speak to the role that community plays in your early-to-rise routine?
KB: I was already an early riser before I joined Twitter, but that was where I initially discovered this community of writers (search: #5amwritersclub). It’s the perfect way to start the day—generally early birds send a tweet like, “Morning! Checking in!” and then others in the community chime in with supportive tweets and comments. Considering how early it is, we really are a pretty chipper bunch.
CSW: How much did living through a pandemic - and all that this entails - change your morning routine (if at all)?
KB: It didn’t change much, to be honest. For one thing, I have been doing this early writing routine for over a decade, so the habit has been cemented (I rarely need an alarm to wake up now). If anything, the pandemic reinforced how important the habit is for me—with everyone home (which was previously my “work space”), there’s a lot of traffic during the day. So getting up early means I can find that pocket of focus without having to steal time or energy from the rest of the day, something that has become increasingly difficult to do.
CSW: What are your top three tips for early rising newbies?
KB: One, start small. Set an alarm 10 minutes earlier than you normally wake up (and be sure to get to bed 10 minutes earlier the night before), and then see how that goes. If you don’t hate life, try it again the next day, maybe rolling back your wake-up time by another 5 minutes (and so on).
Two, it isn’t about productivity or work. I know I write for a living, and I also get up at 5 am to write…which sounds a lot like I’m doing work during that magic morning time. However, I save the morning hour for my creative writing—which I don’t view as the “work” part of my job, as it’s generally a fun flow zone of world and character building. Then I do the tasks that go along with being an author (think answering Q&As, responding to emails, writing marketing copy, posting to social media, managing tax issues…) during the typical workday.
Three, you should not end up sleep deprived…if you can’t make this work without stealing from your slumber, it may not be the right time in your life to try the early morning routine. It’s about progress, not perfection.
Karma Brown is an award-winning journalist and author of the national bestsellers Come Away With Me,The Choices We Make, In This Moment and The Life Lucy Knew in addition to her forthcoming novel Recipe for a Perfect Wife, and The 4% Fix.
Brown’s journalism has appeared in publications such as SELF, Redbook,Canadian Living, Today’s Parent, and Chatelaine.