A couple of days ago, I started in on my "write first" project.
The primary goal is to write when I'm fresh, to get at least an hour's worth of work each day that comes before anything else. Writing's what I like doing most, after all. Errands and other responsibilities sometimes intrude, but it's never impossible to carve out an hour in the morning. (If you're prepared to either sacrifice sleep — which I wouldn't recommend long-term — or go to bed a little earlier, anyway.) The goal is also to stop myself getting into the mindset of stopping at target — because I've noticed, if I leave my writing until last, I crank out the bare minimum of words only. Not good enough. I used to be able to write at about 1,000 words an hour on a good day, 500 on a slow day. I'm hoping that by writing first (and by writing for the entire hour no matter when in that hour I hit the daily target) I'll retrain myself out of the habit of stopping at target.
In practice, the idea's pretty simple: instead of coming home from work tired and scattered and wanting only to sleep, I write before going to work. Since I start at 8, this involves getting up quite early to get an hour's worth of writing in. The current plan is to be up and showered and at the desk by 6. So far I've always beat that by at least 5 minutes, but it was 20 minutes this morning.
I stick my iPod earphones in so my music doesn't disturb anyone, which also has the added bonus of keeping the world out. I keep the main light in the room off, and only have my desktop lamp on — that way I'm in a little island of light, cocooned by whatever playlist I've chosen, just me and the computer screen.
I don't have chat programs installed on my computer, but I do have FastCheck and SharpReader, to monitor my email account and my RSS feeds respectively. But I turn both of those off the night before, so that they're not blinking at me with things to read and check up on when I sit down to start writing in the morning. I'm just too easily distracted otherwise.
So far it's been going well: my body got used to the early start quickly enough and as soon as I sit down I'm into the writing. (Of course, the schedule went to hell in a handbasket with the trip to pick up the kittens, and I found myself writing later and later in the day and then, finally, running out of time on the very last day, too busy with caring for the travelling kitten. But I'm back into the routine as of this morning.)
Also, I've remembered something with this new schedule: I'm not a morning person, precisely, but neither is it when I'm at my lowest. My lowest is always afternoons, usually between 3 and 7 (but it can bleed out longer either side). I'm always wiped and lethargic, slow and best suited to methodical work rather than anything requiring brain juice. Those sorts of tasks are better left for morning, evening or night.
It really shouldn't be a surprise to me that you should structure a schedule around your own strengths, and yet it's one I manage to forget quite frequently anyway.