productivity, writing, and running

Shaun Smerling
3 min readDec 23, 2023
Haruki Murakami

10 pages a day. 300 pages a month. 1800 pages in 6 months. 3,600 pages a year.

This is the practice of Haruki Murakami — a renowned Japanese novelist that has written best-selling works such as 1Q84, Norwegian Wood, and Kafka on the Shore

Complimentary to this — Haruki is an avid marathon runner. He runs a marathon once a year, and has even completed an ultramarathon.

Awake at 4am everyday, after brewing a fresh cup of coffee, he dives into his craft for 4 or 5 hours a day.

Place yourself in the mind of someone who endures these lengthy, mundane acts every single day of his life. Crafting extensive novels paired with trotting for over 100 miles a month.

Where does his focus come from? His consistency? His discipline? Whats the obvious secret here?

I’ve tried to understand this myself by reading his biographies, other analyzations of his routine, researching his processes.

Here are my 4 conclusions:

  1. Any act that requires long bouts of focus & discipline will first begin as arduous but then reform itself into meditative

No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act.” — Haruki Murakami

When monks gain a new student within their temple, that student is tasked with doing all the chores. Washing the dishes, cutting the grass, doing the laundry, cleaning the halls. The aim here is to allow the student to find the meditation in the act of the mundane. The student is thrown into the deep end of enduring boring jobs in order to find the beauty in the process. And eventually, they do. One must walk through the river before they begin to swim.

2. The moment you’ve reached the core of a meditative act means that the act in itself feels complete. The process becomes the enjoyment.

The issue with our inability to focus for long periods of time is that we don’t feel complete with the task at hand. We’d rather do x, y, or z that harbors some sense of joy or excitement. It is only in the development of these tasks that we may end up at a point where the act itself gives us that sense of completion. That is when the joy begins.

3. Prime your body to prepare your mind

Haruki sticks to a strict routine of sleeping at the same time, 8 hours a day. He’ll run everyday. He’ll write everyday. He’ll keep distractions at bay everyday with a clean table.

Productivity has higher levels of access of which you can enter by doing simple tasks, daily. Take time to access those levels.

4. Find enjoyment in the process, no matter how mundane the tasks may be

“One rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “Am I having a good time doing this?” If you’re not enjoying yourself when you’re engaged in what seems important to you, if you can’t find spontaneous pleasure and joy in it, if your heart doesn’t leap with excitement, then there’s likely something wrong. When that happens, you have to go back to the beginning and start discarding any extraneous parts or unnatural elements.” — Haruki Murakami

Brew your favorite cup of coffee, ramp up your work station to fit you needs, direct your career goals towards things that fill you with joy to work on.

Consciously push your work life in a direction where enjoyment is maximized. The result will be that productivity will be maximized as well.