What do you do to get motivated for the day?

I live about an hour south of Calgary in a town called High River. Each day I was driving into the downtown core and parking. It wasn't the expense that was the issue, but the fact I was on the road for about 2 hours a day, every day and my routine felt like I was driving from one place to the next (which I was). I felt unproductive and like I was switching context from one state to another with nothing in between.

Recently I decided that I would stop driving all the way into the downtown core and just drive to our community rail system at the south end of the city (about a 30 minute drive). There I would take the train into the core (about a 45 minute ride) and walk 2 or 3 blocks to the office. This would afford me the opportunity twice a day to wind down (or wind up as it were) as I got into the day. Everyone is always go, go, go these days but my attitude is to relax and enjoy the ride. This supported that.

With my spare time I either crack open a book (currently re-reading Jimmy Nilsson's Applying Domain-Driven Design and Patterns) or get 30 minutes or so on the laptop coding or something. And of course I plug in my iPod and whittle away the time with tunes. I think everyone needs a little downtime, not only between projects but between days. If you're constantly moving from bed -> work -> dinner -> bed, you'll burn out.

I'm not a music afficiando or anything (don't even have a geeked-out home theatre system) but I do enjoy music. My top 5 items on my iPod that I listen to each day is:

  • Mike Oldfield. When it comes to music, I live, breathe, and eat Mike Oldfield. Most people have no clue who Mike is, but I'm sure you'll recognize it. It's the music played at the end of The Excorist (aka Tubular Bells). If you heard it, you would probably go "oh yeah". Mike is a musical genius in my books and anything he does is gold (especially when he pairs up with Maggie Reilly on vocals). Easy listening and relaxing.
  • Bond. 4 drop dead gorgeous girls playing classical instruments to a boppy beat. What more can you say?
  • Enya. The celtic sound does it for me, and her voice is soothing, especially at 6 AM on a crowded train.
  • Sarah Brightman. Another muse that lets me ease into the day without frying my brain.
  • Loreena McKennitt. More celtic goodness from someone with a heavenly voice and Canadian to boot!

Other stuff I'll listen to:

  • Podcasts. It's always good to catch-up on the train with an episode of DNR or Hanselminutes. I never grow tired of listening to those guys.
  • Peaches. A NSFW punk-girl band that kicks things up a notch. Another band like this is Evanescence. Good music with a little raunch and kick ass attitute. I'll throw Siouxsie and Banshees in here too.
  • Classic rock. Yeah, I'm a 70s rock guy so you'll find things like Queen, Kiss, and Electric Light Orchestra happily playing alongside New Age goodness. This also includes ABBA that I'll admit I listen to. Who doesn't like these guys?
  • Old TV themes. They're short and cute and take me back to my younger days and break up the emotional ride you might get from a deep instrumental piece. Fun and peppy.
  • Movie soundtracks. Some music just works at any time of the day, like both volumes of Kill Bill. Awesome music and really gets the neurons firing early in the morning.
  • Chemical Brothers, Moby and trance music. While I do like easing into the day sometimes it's good to mix in something spicy to kick it up a notch. These guys do it for me.
  • Johnathan Coulton. Johnathan who? I only listen to one song from this guy, Code Monkey, as it bridges the music world and my geek life together in 3 minutes. Brilliant!

To kick off the morning I'll either down a coffee or two (or three or four...) but prefer a Red Bull or Rockstar (sugar free). Silly and probably damaging to some part of my internal organs (including losing about 10,000 brain cells each day), but it's that kickstart that I use to get going. 

When I get to work I'm ready to face the day. I'll kick into work mode about halfway on my way there, thinking about the morning scrum, what I need to prepare for it, projects I'm working on, and accomplishments I intend to commit to for the team. This gets me into a mindset that lets me slip into business-mode rather than a quick shocking start like I used to have and I find it makes me more productive as a whole.

So what's on your iPod? How do you start your day (or finish it) so you're not burned out and ready to face any challenge you might have?


  • I had to laugh at the mental image of you rocking out to the "Welcome Back, Kotter" soundtrack. ;)

    How I start my mornings turned into its own post so eventually once I refine it to the shape of finely crafted diamond, I will post it!!


  • Oh, yeah , you would probably enjoy Theivery Corp...

  • Wholeheartedly agree with your musical choices! I love celtic music.

  • ok so its a run of the mill cheap mp3 player (hey, it has a gig ok?) and a usb powered 40g hard drive -- but I DO listen to music when I walk to work (or I get a ride when its cold). Most of the music I listen to is ...different. Since I've been doing ::you ready for this?:: ballroom/latin/swing dancing for over a year (3-5 nights a week!) I listen to music thats aimed toward that. Frank Sinatra is great for the smooth, for Latin - love Gypsy Kings (Salsa Latino!) and for swing, nothing beats old rock and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

  • I'm in the same boat... it's about an hour transit from the sleepy town I live in to the core of the city where I work; however, there isn't a subway/trolly, or anything real relaxing to ride on half-way.

    My music choices (iPod via car stereo) mix it up depending on the day, but anything from jazz to some fast-beat techno--anything with a beat to keep me moving on the wide-open highway. Anything that my iPod doesn't have, I can typically find via XM Radio.

    To get ready, I think, honestly, thinking about your day in a positive way helps. I know a lot of people that go through life dreading the day ahead of them rather than focusing on what needs to be done and being proactive. Do I ever walk into a disaster? Sure! I work in IT. Going home, I try to think about what I learned today, then focus on things that have nothing to do with work--seeing family, friends, etc.

  • I do a similar thing here in Washington, DC. I live about 5 minutes from the commuter rail station, so I generally take that in. It takes about the same time as driving in rush hour (which is about half hour longer than driving in normal traffic). And nothing's better than knocking back a couple cold beers with a group of buds from the train on the way home.

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