Harness the Zombie

Here’s a productivity technique for idlers, night owls, and slugabeds. Harness the Zombie.

I’ve tried to be a morning person. I admire the willpower of convolvulaceae such as the Frog Eaters; the Vanderkameras; and the White Queen who could “believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

But I can’t do it. My higher functions (especially ones as abstract as belief) don’t kick in until much later in the day. Even if I crow-bar myself out of bed at a respectable hour, my synapses don’t start firing usefully until my fried eggs are thoroughly digested.

Lucky for me, I’m an escapee, so I can structure my days however the hell I like. On the other hand, I do sometimes wish I had more to show (either in terms of productivity; or deliberate, waking leisure) by the time lunch rolls around.

But as Henry Miller said, “if you can’t create, you can work.” In the crusty-eyed mornings, you can at least function as a servant to your higher self. You can prep the ground for when your brainy self wakes up and is ready for a little light cathedral-building. Or in catchier terms, you can “Harness the Zombie.”

Before I go to bed at night, I spend a few minutes thinking of tomorrow’s duties. Many of them will be quite lowly tasks – mechanical or trivial errands such as trips to the bank or the post office. Instead of squandering my post-meridian window of higher functioning on such crappy jobs, I delegate them to the zombie – AKA my own sleepy morning self.

If something can be done largely without engaging the brain whatsoever – basic domestic tasks, physical exercises, hammering a nail into the wall – get the zombie to do it. Leave it to Lurch.

Just be sure to programme his tasks before you go to bed. He can’t plan his own tasks, remember. He can only follow basic instructions. If necessary, write them on a post-it note and stick them to his forehead.

By the time your conscious mind flickers into life in the mid-afternoon, all of the nonsense work has been taken care of by your own loyal house zombie.

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at wringham.co.uk

One Response to “Harness the Zombie”

  1. Drew says:

    This is SOLID advice. I actually try to work out first thing in the morning, and I can usually get away with it as long as “first thing” is somewhere around 10:30. Like my brain, my body needs time to warm up before I start engaging it.

    I’ve recently embarked upon Project Minimalism: Getting Rid Of 30 Counterproductive Activities/Things in 30 Days. (See @the_trvl_bureau)

    #17 will be “Pretending that I will get up early and work out”. My inability to do this invokes a level of stress/guilt overhead that I can do without. So along with other activities that I’m not particularly good at, such as “Home renovations” and “Exposure to winter unless I’m skiing”, I’m not even going to try.

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