Getting the most out of the day with swing-shifts

Hey, friends. Every few weeks, as one of the contributing editors, I put together an opening letter for The Creative Cafe - a Medium publication that just exceeded 25k subscribers. Each week we highlight featured stories, welcome in new writers, announce creative challenges, and update our community on how to stay in touch. Below is my latest letter to the community that I though you'd also enjoy. 

I remember the swing shift days behind the bar. Having to suit up twice in one day caused mild neurosis for some of my barkeep friends.

But for me, the swing-shift, quite objectively meant you could have two days in one. And plus, with my self-diagnosed ADHD, full shifts were unthinkable for me.

Tending the bar isn’t physically demanding like, let’s say bricklaying. It’s more of a mentally fatiguing drill. But, as I’ve learned, every job has its challenges. The swing -shift allowed for some headspace and renewal so you could muse while shaving before having to park yourself behind the bar and then listen to people bark at you due to your light hand for the second time in one day.

I don’t tend the bar anymore, but I do still do the swing-shift.

A sample:

After the morning shift of work which demands a full tank of emotional gas, I flee to a place of recovery. Lately, this has been a modest 35 minute nap with the drapes pulled together in order to block the noon sun. The fan that no longer swivels due to its age is on level 3 (the highest level) since the heat is everywhere in August. It’s no secret that sleeping and dreaming burns a ton of calories, therefore, a meal is needed when I wake up.

The raisin toast with a dab of peanut butter is a good preparatory snack. Meanwhile, the avocado oil in the small frying pan begins to jump signaling it’s ready for the three cloves of garlic I’ve minced. The garlic goes in and I wait for it to brown. I’ll throw in some crumbled tofu, sprinkle on some turmeric for health reasons, and dash it with salt and pepper because that’s what Ma used to do. Kale on its own is way too harsh, so to calm it down I’ll toss a handful on top of the tofu scramble with some lemon juice. A quick hand massage on the stuff gets it just right. Quinoa is an ancient grain and as a writer, if I can get closer to anything that has stood the test of time for more than 72 hours, I’m interested, so quinoa is the bed of my meal.

When I’m done lunching, the brain and gut need time before returning to the second shift of the day. Of late, I like to sit by the pool and read something while I engage in a mind-altering beverage.

On this muggy day in August, it started to rain. My first reaction was to act like a Southern Californian. In a childish panic, I began to gather my things — the drink, the books, myself — so I could tiptoe back inside.

I caught myself and soon began to watch my reaction. “What was the worst that could happen? It’s just water,” I thought. So I sat there and got wet.

The gloomy days inspire contemplative depression, and it made think about FDR. Therefore, I jumped into the pool for a few casual laps.

The rain was shy and decided to pass.

My first reaction to the rain was sophomoric and it reminded me of how many times I’ve let my feelings dictate my next move. On paper, this strategy — letting emotions dictate my actions — is startling given how unstable my moods can be from day to day.

I suppose every breakthrough has a moment of unlearning.

By this time, I had sat out in the gray day of Los Angeles long enough. The caffeine was pulsing through my veins and the dopamine was free-flowing in my brain.

I sat down at my computer and felt like a new day was about to start. The art of the swing-shift helps me return to the practice over and over again with a fresh mind, clear eyes and a willing heart.

Could I ask for anything else?

Hi, I’m Brian.

I wrote Upgrade Everything originally as a guide for myself. Once I discovered how well it worked, I figured it would help my fellow creatives too. My aim for this course is to simply help you do better work faster.


Upgrade Everything is the 7-day email course for creative professionals. You’ll learn how to change your body, upgrade your health, skyrocket productivity, and boost creativity. Click here to enroll in the course.