Everyday we wakeup, whether it be to the sound of the alarm clock or the sunlight hitting our faces. Each day we drag ourselves to work, or maybe we’re content with it. Either way, each day is a new challenge and for many of us it doesn’t get easier.
We need to stop and take a little time each day to appreciate where we are and think about our current situation and our future goals. By having a clear path to the future it allows us to envision the goals we need to do today in order to get there.
A part of that is with having a daily and weekly routine. Many of us rely on other people whether be family or friends to help us, but ultimately if we want to build the habits that contribute the most to our future goals then we need to look at what we’re doing right now, today.
If you wakeup, take a shower and go straight to work, it’s going to tire you out sooner and you’re more likely to burn out and won’t feel like doing much.
This is where the importance of having a daily routine, or at the basics, a morning ritual. I’m not talking about consuming drugs (coffee) right after you wakeup, consume sugar (bagels) and then get in the car and face morning rush hour traffic.
There is a different type of routine we can create for ourselves, no matter what job we have or how free our daily schedule is.
For years I’ve been struggling with procrastination. Always having a bunch of different companies I’m involved in, it can be hard to choose the most important task out of the bag of companies. It’s much easier to simply pick through the list doing the easiest things so we feel good about getting things done. Although the important bit is at the end of the day when we look back at ourselves and what we accomplished, did we feel like we did everything we needed to do for the day?
If we feel like we didn’t accomplish anything, then we need to take time to prioritize our day andcreate a structure. Now I could write an article that is simply filled with tips to increase productivity but it ultimately comes down to mindfulness and prioritization, which I’ll talk about in another article. I could tell you to do the most important thing early in the day but it’s one thing to read it, and a completely separate thing to commit to it. This is where building habits comes into play. Having good habits can establish our core level of productivity. What’s even better is establishing Good Habit Workflows.
Every day we have a battle taking place in our brains. It’s a battle between our prefrontal cortex which is our decision-making part of the brain and the limbic system. Our limbic system is really our emotional side where it’s trying to make itself happy every second of the day. It’s always trying to find the quickest hit of dopamine possible. This is why we’re so addicted to checking our Facebook and Email. When you’re working on a long and arduous project we don’t get any pleasure from it. However that is really the core of productivity, is doing things in our day that contribute to our long-term goals. Just like checking the news, checking email gives us that little surprise that our limbic system is looking for.
What I’m getting to is that overcoming procrastination is quite difficult with all the distractions of our daily lives. Productivity is simply prioritizing the most important things in the day. Productivity hacks might help us become more efficient as procrastinating, but don’t necessarily help us prioritize the tasks that we know we should be doing but aren’t.
This is where Daily Routines come into play.
By having a routine that is built upon one habit after the next we can pretty much transform our day into whatever we want it to become. Just like you may have a habit of watching a tv show when you get home from work, or playing video games before you go to bed, we can will ourselves into creating good habits in place of our bad habits.
I’ve tried every productivity hack in the book and they’re all useless unless we can actually sit down and focus on our work. The problem comes in battling our brains of feeling something is overwhelming and we don’t want to do this. Many like my friend James Clear on his blog preaches starting with Mini Habits and letting that work itself into bigger habits. For example if you want to do 50 pushups, just set a goal to do 5 Pushups. Our brains are naturally wired to want to complete things so it’s really more of a mental hack in terms of tricking our brains into doing a measly 5, but then if we’re on our 5th pushup we might say this isn’t so bad, I can do a few more…
Take that concept and apply it to a Daily Routine. By planning for every minute and hour of the day you take willpower out of the equation. Each day no longer becomes a battle with yourself on what you should do and what you feel like doing. It becomes a structured workflow.
How is that so?
As explained above, we can’t beat procrastination with productivity techniques, they are only there to help us become more efficient. The beauty in structuring your workflow with a daily routine is in that you no longer have to battle yourself everyday on what you’re going to do when you get to work.
I started with building a morning ritual. If you read this book called “Daily Rituals” it walks you through the daily life of artists and successful businesspeople. While there were a few outliers the majority of the most successful people featured in the book had a structured workflow and daily routine.
Every morning I wakeup and head straight to the Gym where I’ll spend just 20 minutes on weights and 20 minutes on the treadmill. Followed by a warm shower that I end with 20 seconds of cold water I’ll immediately go and do 30 minutes of writing. Then spend 30 minutes clearing out my email inbox and setting up the tasks for each of my Work Sessions in the day. Then I’ll do 20 Minutes of Meditation, followed by 30 Minutes of Udemy Lessons and then start my first Work Session of 60 Minutes. Then I’ll do my first Book Reading session of 30 Minutes and then do another work session.
This goes on and on for a complete daily schedule. Having a routine like this might sound insane to some but is necessary if you truly want to cover every fascit of life from work and personal development. Telling yourself you’re going to do X task later in the day is not going to work when you’ve exhausted your willpower and feel like just sitting around and watching tv.
For each session I have, there are only 2 rules I abide by.
1. I don’t have to Write / Watch / Work / Read
2. I can’t do anything else
The 2nd rule makes “doing” much more pleasurable than if I didn’t have it.
So why is a routine so important again?
It’s not necessarily the routine, but knowing there is a limit to the work. Many famous authors like Michael Christan for example, limits himself to 5,000 words per day. Everybody has their own number but it is always the same amount of words, no more, no less. Even if he’s in the middle of writing a dramatic scene and has everything all figured out in his head, he will stop.
It’s easier to start working the next day if you don’t have a blank canvas to start with. The word limit also makes your Limbic system aware that “an end is in sight” and therefore it’s easier to work and feel less overwhelmed by the project ahead no matter how large it may be.
So let me stress again the importance of having a set routine and limit to your work. Whether it’s a word limit, a time limit or limiting yourself to 1 small part of a project for that day. By setting mini-goals you’re able to keep yourself motivated to complete the project as a whole. Remember we tend to lose focus and become demotivated when we’re not seeing results of the work we’re doing.
This concept can be applied to anybody in any situation. Whether your goal is to lose weight or make more money, specifying limits to your work and diversifying your time into different parts will allow you to take procrastination out of the picture by having set routines and set tasks in those routines.
So what are you struggling with, what can a routine do for you?