Speedrunning my Morning Makes the Coffee Taste Weird

by kithpendragon2 min read11th Feb 202113 comments

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For the first time in I can't remember how long, I failed to set a wakeup alarm on a workday. I've been covering an emergency vacation for a co-worker, and just forgot to set the alarm on a day I don't normally work. Fortunately, I also have a backup plan: I have another alarm set to go off every day half an hour after my wake-up-for-work time. This reminds me when it's time to actually leave the house on workdays, and prevents social jetlag from accumulating on days I don't work. This alarm went off as planned, and I was left to speedrun my morning.

Speedrunning is a way some people like to play video games. At its simplest, to play a speedrun all you have to do is time yourself as you play the game from start to finish, and try to get faster on each iteration. If you're feeling competitive, you can race against others by making video of the run as proof and submitting it to a leaderboard. Each game has its own community that may establish many different rulesets (or categories) that runners must follow for a run to be recognized as competitively valid.

Ultimately, the speedrun incentivizes a style of play that sacrifices all other non-required metrics for the fastest time. It's an optimization problem that can sometimes get extremely complex.

My ruleset became: Get to work alive. On time strongly preferred. Must be appropriately dressed. No damage boosting or clipping allowed.

So, I first went to the kitchen and turned on the kettle for coffee. Normally, I do this after I get dressed, but this way I could do both at once. Time saved: 5 minutes.

Returning to my bedroom, I dressed quickly and woke up my partner. She agreed to put my hair in a quick braid - she does the job faster and with higher quality than I do. Normally I bind the hair with a series of pony elastics to prevent tangling, then tie it up in a knot so I don't have the elastics digging into my back as I sit at work. Time saved: 7 minutes.

Back in the kitchen, I skipped my usual coffee ritual in favor of a simple pour-over directly into a travel mug. Time saved: 11 minutes.

Then, out the door for the commute. I arrived at work 7 minutes after my normal time, and 7 minutes before the official start of my shift. Nobody even noticed. Total time saved: 23 minutes.

But speedrunning is about sacrificing on other measures to optimize on time, so what did I give up?

Physically, I had flooded my body with stress hormones to promote speed at a time where I normally act with some deliberation. This left the body far more jangly and tense than usual for hours after the fact. Mentally, for much the same reason I found myself twitchy, distracted, and irritable. It took a sustained conscious effort to drive safely on my commute! I was able to mostly clear up both issues a few hours later when I carved out 5 minutes for a quick meditation. I found my chill again, but my performance at work was adversely affected all morning. In the evening, I found my hair in a predictable mess of knots, which had to be somewhat painfully worked out. And I had interrupted my partner's sleep, leaving her tired and irritable all day.

I'm sure there's time left to save in the first segment of my day, but I don't think speedrunning IRL is really for me.

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Nice time. Here are some thoughts for possible additional timesaves:

  • Wake your partner up before even putting the coffee on so she can be a little more awake when she's helping with your hair.
  • Sleep in your work clothes to skip the part where you get dressed.
  • Drive 20-30mph over the speed limit. (This is probably best as an IL strat, since if you crash or get pulled over then the run is pretty much dead.)

If you manage to get all these in a run, then depending on the length of your commute I think you'll be able to gold this split by 5-10 more minutes.

If you drive at night, you will not be limited by the speed of light, and can arrive in minus five minutes!

I do employ an optimization strategy on my clothing: each evening when I get home from work, I change into the next day's outfit before dinner. That way I can just put it back on in the morning, skipping the part where I have to select and find new clothes. This also means I can dress in the dark, which is less disturbing to Partner.

As for sleeping dressed, I've found that messes with my ability to thermoregulate overnight, leading to worse sleep on average. If I were planning to skip my alarm on one occasion, it would probably be worth it, but the Dressed Before Bed strat would probably lose me time overall if I used it routinely due to cumulative sleep loss.

Now that I think about it, I could just keep the hair short for time saved daily. Partner won't go for that, though šŸ˜‰

You know, I used to drive much faster than I do now. I found it kind of counterintuitive when I discovered how little difference it actually makes doing 80 instead of 65 (or even 45 [1]) MPH on the highway! That said, my commute is only about 20 minutes at either speed, and is the most RNG heavy part of my morning. It's super easy to lose those few seconds back to traffic anyway. Factor in the added risks (and loss of fuel efficiency), and I'm afraid it's just not worth it for me.

[^1] There was a resurfacing project a while back that capped the speed limit and caused traffic to slow down like crazy, but I still got to work at almost the exact same time as when I was speeding recklessly down the road!

If you think traffic RNG is bad in the Glitchless category, you should watch someone streaming any% attempts. The current WR has a three-mile damage boost glitch that skips the better part of the commute, saving 13 minutes, and the gal who got it had to grind over 14k attempts for it (about a dozen of them got similar boosts but died on impact).

Hahaha! Not in my car she doesn't! šŸ¤£

(The glitch exploits a subpixel misalignment present in about 0.1% of Toyota cars and is extremely difficult to execute even if you know you have a car with the alignment issue right in front of you.)

So, in all practicality it's TAS only. Too bad; I'd have never had a chance!

I do a low-grade speedrun in the morning, every day.  If you make it a habit, it becomes less of a stressful "speedrun", and more of "how you do things".

Example:

  • Roll out of bed, grab phones
  • While walking through hallway flip on heat
  • Wander to office, put phones on desk where they'll sit all day long
  • Put on clothes and socks that were put on my chair the night before
  • Bathroom
  • Stumble to kitchen
  • Fill teapot, put on stove
  • Fill water purifier back up
  • Put coffee grounds in mug
  • Do a set of pushups
  • Go to office, power up monitors, start catching up
  • Go to kitchen after a few minutes, shut off stove, pour coffee

You know, from the outside, that looks pretty ridiculous.  It is fast and efficient though.  Thank you, Covid lockdown?

For sure! In fact, I do some things in that mode all the time. For example, most of the cognitive load left in my workday is dedicated to routing the most efficient path on the fly so I can fit more tasks in less time (and therefore have a leisurely lunch time). The primary reason for deliberately making my morning routine less efficient is to make sure that when I need to save time, there's plenty of time to save. Some things are better done with great efficiency, while others benefit from having built-in buffers for when things go wrong.

Also, I like my coffee brewed a bit longer.

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But speedrunning is about sacrificing on other measures to optimize on time, so what did I give up?

The other thing you can do is invest time in figuring out how to do things faster. For instance, what can be done to the same high quality standard, but faster with better form (even if you don't put your body in speed/stress mode)?

Can you learn to braid your hair faster (but in a way that doesn't cost you time later*)?

Do you have to rush getting dressed to pull this off:

So, I first went to the kitchen and turned on the kettle for coffee. Normally, I do this after I get dressed, but this way I could do both at once. Time saved: 5 minutes.

*Optimizing for time as something that doesn't sacrifice time - this shifts focus away from speed and towards time overall, which might undo some of the negative effects of speedrunning. (I've already made a trade-off by not learning to do my hair well, but faster. But I think it can be done, and maybe it's worth it.)

Can you learn to braid your hair faster (but in a way that doesn't cost you time later*)?

I'm certain I could, but given that this is the first time I've ever had to get through my morning starting off with a 30 minute deficit I don't think it would be worth the investment. It would be pretty simple to just start braiding my hair instead of binding it up the way I do now [1], but I would lose many of the benefits of the current method. In particular, my hair gets tangled much more easily in a braid than if I put it up "correctly".

I keep the hair long mostly because Partner likes it that way. (And she knows that, which is why she didn't complain about being awakened so early.) I'd really just as soon cut it off as be bothered to train up a new skill. But as long as Partner is willing to work with me on the extremely rare occasion that I need to do something like this, it needn't come to that. Braiding is pretty sub-optimal for the reasons that I wear the hair up anyway; it just happened to seem like the fastest way to gain a portion of the usual benefits in that moment.

[^1] My normal style is to make a banded a ponytail like this, then tie it in a figure-eight knot so I don't have to have all those elastics digging into my back as I drive. Takes 7-10 minutes, but results in close to no tangle and keeps my waist-length hair out of the way.

Do you have to rush getting dressed to pull this off...

If you mean do I normally rush getting dressed, no. My normal routine of "get dressed then start water" is calculated to reduce trips up and down the stairs in the dark [2] , and reduce the amount of casual nudity in the common areas for the comfort of my other housemate in the warmer months. It usually only takes a short time for me to dress, and the kettle works pretty fast, so it's not normally an issue.

[^2] Yes, I could turn lights on, but that always runs the risk of waking people up. As does running up and down the stairs a lot. Also, tripping over things and making loud crashing noises. There's a balance to be had there, and I've noticed that moving in a deliberate manner seems to take care of it nicely.

Optimizing for time as something that doesn't sacrifice time...

Absolutely true! And there are lots of things that I normally optimize for efficiency as you describe, with time weighted more heavily than other factors where possible. But in the case of my morning routine, (and despite that I could theoretically be out the door in less than five minutes from the time my feet hit the floor), I've generally found it most efficient to give myself about a half hour between my wake-up alarm and the time I need to leave the house, mostly because less time means I'm far less awake. Net benefit of taking my time is an increase in coordination and situational awareness for most of the morning. Worth! (usually)