The first 20 minutes

The first 20 minutes, for me, are the difference between not doing something at all and throwing myself into it wholeheartedly.

After the first 20 minutes of a run (and okay, some runs barely make it past that magical mark), a run can be wonderful. My muscles are warm, my breathing has settled into a pattern... my legs are moving, my shoulders are relaxed and it just flows.

But the first 20 minutes can be hellish. My body keeps reminding me I zoomed past my youth a long time ago. My breathing is weird, my stride pattern feels as if I'm shuffling and I have to concentrate to relax my shoulders. If I abandon the run in those first 20 minutes, I feel horrible. Yet once I'm past that, however difficult a run might be, I'm buzzing afterwards.

It's the same with writing. Some mornings I sit down with all great intentions of what I want to write and I just don't get 20 good minutes at it. I get distracted by email or Facebook or some other time-suck, or the postman comes with a delivery that needs attending to, or the cat brings in a bird that needs rescuing... and before I know it, it's half past eleven and I never quite get into the flow for the rest of the day.

Other mornings, I manage to get stuck in straight away, the cat sleeps upstairs, the postman passes us by and I ignore my emails and social media. Again, it can suddenly be half past eleven but this time I've been immersed in the flow and the time has been productive. The difference has been a 20 minute block at the start that seems to let my brain move from scrambled and unfocussed, to smooth-running and flowing easily.

I've found that being able to focus on one thing for a minimum of 20 minutes is what makes or breaks it for a whole heap of activities - de-cluttering, housework, reading a book, writing a report, decorating...

So, excuse me while I stick on my noise-cancelling headphones, turn off the WiFi and sharpen my pencils. I've a novel to get on with.