We’re onto the fifth and final lesson in the third Module. And this is where the magic happens. You’ve done a lot of work up until now in this course and you’ve answered a few tough questions in the previous lesson. Now it’s time to accumulate all of your work and start building a personal, tailored-to-your-needs, daily routine for purposeful productivity. Before starting this lesson, make sure you have these materials close by:
Worksheet 1.2 - the one you used to determine your values, priorities, and mission
Worksheet 1.3 - the one you used to figure out how connection and community can help you in your daily routine
Worksheet 2.3 - the one you used to manage your motivation and distractions
Worksheet 3.2 - the one you used to rank your values for the purpose of prioritization
Your time-track entries
The notes you made about lesson 3.3 on the tips I gave you about self care, which is to make time for breakfast, lunch & dinner, short breaks, maybe even a nap, cut off time from work and technology, and bed time
Worksheet 3.4 - the one you used to analyze your time-track entries
This lesson is about using all that data to piece together a routine.
First, a word on routines. I think we have a tendency to turn up our nose at the word ‘routine’, because we think ‘routine equals boring’. I’m convinced that when you put your daily routine into place and you try out, you’ll see how much freedom it brings. You’ll see how much easier and lighter your day is, when you no longer have to spend so much time thinking about what is important, what to do, when to do it and for how long. You’ll see how exhausting it is to have to do that every single day.
The fact that a routine brings freedom might sound like somewhat of contradiction to you. But here’s what creating a daily routine will do for you:
It eliminates noise
It stops you wasting time
It stops you from doing things that aren’t a priority
It helps you create more space to enjoy your life
It prevents you from having decision fatigue
It stops you from being distracted when the pull of non-priorities overpowers you
Before we begin, I want to say one more thing. I want you to know that there’s no right routine or schedule. If you’re a morning person, don’t force yourself to be productive at night. And vice versa, don’t schedule to-do’s that require a lot from you in the morning, if you’re a night person. When you find that you do your best work somewhere between 12 and 2 PM, schedule an early lunch break and work from 12 to 2 PM.
Books and programs, like Miracle Morning, try to make you believe there’s only one right way to do things and that is if you make better use of your mornings you’ll be more productive. I don’t buy into that. I believe every person is different. Each one of you has different priorities, different personalities, different talents, different ways of doing things, different LIVES. And that means there is no one, right, perfect, one-size-fits-all, be all and end all routine. This course is about building on YOUR strengths to create the right routine for YOU.
My daily routine
So, this is where I’m going to share my daily routine. Not as a way of saying ‘This is the right routine!’, but just as an example. I’m a full-time business owner and I work from home and that might not even apply to you. So again, I’m sharing my routine just as an example. I’m going to take you through my thought process and let you in on how I build my routine, step-by-step.
Here’s what I started out with:
I’m an introvert, and I mean I’m VERY much an introvert, so I need lots of quiet time and time for reading and reflection (what I call personal time)
I’m definitely a morning person
Through my time entries and just from personal experience I figured out that I do my best work in the morning; what feels like a struggle in the afternoon, comes easy in the morning
When I was still working in my day job I only had a half hour lunch break. By the time I walked to the cafeteria, waited in line to pay for my lunch, sat down and ate my food, time was up. Just as I was starting to feel ‘Ahh, now I’m starting to feel like I’m winding down’, lunch break was over. Rest is my priority. So, I knew that I wanted to break my day in half and have a LONG lunch break. Not only to ‘recover’ from my high-intensity morning work and feel refreshed in the afternoon, but also to have time to incorporate exercise
I wanted to incorporate short breaks throughout the day
I wanted to limit my time for checking and answering emails to once a day
Social media is my biggest time waster. At the same, it’s my way of connecting with fellow creatives and with my community, which is something I value. So, I knew I wanted quite a bit of time in my daily routine for social media, but I also definitely wanted to set a time limit for it
I wanted to make time for all of my meals throughout the day
I’d set my work hours from 8 AM to 5 PM with a long lunch break from 12 to 2 PM
Then, I translated all of this into a routine or schedule.
7.00 AM: Alarm
7.00 - 7.30 AM: Wake up, shower, dress etc
7.30 - 8.00 AM: Write morning pages or short meditation, breakfast
8.00 AM - 12.00 PM: Writing and creating
8.00 - 8.40 AM: Writing and creating
--- 5 minute break
8.45 - 9.25 AM: Writing and creating
--- 5 minute break
9.30 - 10.10 AM: Writing and creating
--- 5 minute break
10.15 - 10.55 AM: Writing and creating
--- 5 minute break
11.00 - 12.00 AM: Writing and creating
12.00 - 2.00 PM: Lunch break, going for a walk, reading a book etc
2.00 - 3.25 PM: Marketing, emails
--- 5 minute break
3.30 - 5.00 PM: Social media marketing
5.00 - 6.00 PM: Cooking, dinner, cleaning up
6.00 - 9.00 PM: Personal time
9.00 - 9.30 PM: Social media
9.30 - 10.00 PM: Personal time, journaling
10.00 PM: Bedtime
Notice, how I use a technique called time blocking? I haven’t scheduled my routine with tiny tasks on a minute-to-minute basis. Instead, I’ve assigned large chunks of time for a specific sort of task: writing and creating in the morning and marketing in the afternoon. Why time blocking is so great is that it groups similar tasks together. That way, throughout that time block, you feel like you don’t really switch tasks, even if you do. Your flow or concentration doesn’t get interrupted like it would be if you switch from unrelated task to unrelated task, for instance from writing to designing to administrative work back to designing to answering two emails to marketing to answering another two emails to finishing up your writing. You see how that is disruptive and distracting and just plain exhausting?
I see a lot of advice about ‘eating the frog first’ and starting your day with doing the hardest, most time-consuming, or annoying task first. I don’t agree with that. First off, I don’t believe you should start your day with an annoying task. Remember, your purposefully productive routine should give you joy. But, and more importantly, I believe your routine should be leading. So, if my most important task that day is doing something marketing related, I’m not going to do that first thing since my morning is for writing and creating. I’d do that task in the afternoon during the time I have blocked for marketing-related to-do’s.
So friends, this is the time where you start building your daily routine. Use mine as an example, but only as an example. Use the worksheet and get to work.
Now that you have your daily routine in place and you’re ready to start to work according to your routine, you can start to schedule your tasks and to-do’s. In the next Module I’ll give you some examples of tools you can use to plan and schedule, but for now I’ll say three things:
First, don’t overschedule and plan realistically. Schedule one big task or a maximum of three smaller tasks per time block.
When scheduling your to-do’s refer back to your values and priorities. Let them be the deciding factor of what you do on a day-to-day basis. I know you have goals and projects you’re working on, which come with a lot of tasks and to-do’s, and that is great. Check in with yourself ever so often though. Do those goals and projects still make you excited? Are they still in line with your values and priorities?
End your day with planning out the tasks and to-do’s for the next day. I like to start my day by hitting the ground running and not having to waste time by figuring out which tasks I have to do that day. Similarly, end your Friday with planning out your to-do’s for the next week. I know there are people that do that in a Sunday, but I strongly feel like weekend is weekend. You could just as well plan your week in Friday afternoon. Besides, planning your week on a Sunday often leads to checking your email and then answering those emails and reading your favorite blog. Before you know, two hours have flown by ‘working’ on a Sunday.
At the end of this lesson, a few words of wisdom:
Your routine is not something you’ve set and now have to follow for all eternity. Your routine is a living and breathing thing. In the beginning, after working with your new, daily routine, you’ll might find you have to make a few changes. That’s okay.
Priorities change. You change and your life changes. It happens. So make sure to check back in with yourself every once in awhile, I suggest every quarter, and see if your routine needs a few tweaks. For me, I recently started experimenting with taking Wednesdays off. In my previous day job I was fortunate to have a 36-hour workweek, so what I did was work four long, nine-hour days and, as a result, I could have Friday off and have a long weekend. I did that for years. Recently I started to feel like working five days in a row doesn’t really work for me, so I started experimenting with cutting my workweek in half. I work Sunday through Tuesday, have Wednesday off, and then work again on Thursday and Friday. It’s an experiment and I’ll see how it goes. So again, check back in with yourself regularly to see if your routine still fits your needs.
Most of the time your routine and, as a result, your work and life just flows. But sometimes it doesn’t. Don’t take that as a sign to throw your routine out of the window. Just sit with it and do some soul searching. It could be that some changes need to be made to your routine, but more likely it’s something else in your life that’s going on.
Be flexible. There are weeks when I stick to my schedule to a T, but there are also weeks when I don’t. I might take a Friday afternoon off, or do marketing-related work in the morning instead of my creative work, or I run an errand in the afternoon. Again, that’s okay.
When you find it difficult to add enough flexibility to your routine to get work done but also take advantage of the freedom that your routine brings, I suggest starting with small things. Take an afternoon walk or go grocery shopping in the middle of the day instead of during your lunch break.
When it comes to productivity and a daily routine, we all have something we feel is holding us back. “But… I have my children to look after all day so I can’t stick to a routine. But… I run a business and need to make money so I don’t have time for self care and breaks. But… my partner works irregular hours so I have to stick to his or her schedule.” This is also when we start comparing: “Of course you can be productive, you don’t have children!” We all go through this. There’s no shame in sometimes feeling like this. But, when you’re in that space, it’s time to take back your power, your agency, and you accountability. You’re in charge of you, your day, your routine. In this course, in my process of creating purposeful productivity, you have so much freedom in building a routine that’s right for you. Just take this ‘obstacle’, so to speak, and use it as one of the variables in creating your daily routine.