Where to Start with Creating a Productivity-Boosting Routine
For some the idea of having a set daily routine will make them come out in a cold sweat, for others a routine is the integral structure to their days. If you’re at the cold sweat end of the spectrum, stay with me here, even the most free spirited, spontaneous of people can benefit from having a loose routine. Let me explain.
We all have a finite amount of mental energy to spend each day. Think of your daily quota of mental energy as a tank of petrol (or gas for my friends across the pond). Some days it’ll be full, some days it’ll be more like a quarter of a tank, either way it’s finite and you need to decide where it’s best spent.
By having a routine, no matter how rigid or loose that might be, you can make your tank of mental energy go further by not having to use it on making decisions like ‘which of these tasks is most important’ ‘When am I going to fit in responding to my emails today’ ‘what should I eat for lunch’ ‘which task should I work on next, or should I go for a walk next maybe, or actually I think I might scroll Instagram’. All of these kind of decisions needlessly eat away at your mental energy.
If you already know when you plan to take a break each day or which tasks are your priority tasks these decisions can stop draining your tank of mental energy. Here's what Barack Obama has to say on the subject of routines, and its GOLD.
“You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia."
Now, obviously it’s not going to be possible to stick to the same routine religiously each day because, well, life happens. But, if you have a loose routine it helps to take the thinking out of the everyday trivia (as Obama puts it)! The best bit about having a routine? You can be saving that mental energy to spend on your creative projects and to put into the work you really love doing.
Here are some starting points for creating your new routine, based on what kind of person you are, when your energy levels peak and what other commitments you’re juggling.
Are you a morning person, Night Owl or just a day-person?
Decide on when you’re most productive, it could be morning, afternoon or evening. If you’re more of an afternoon or evening person, maybe you want to break into the day slowly and start work at mid-day. Perhaps if you have a 9-5 but feel you’re a morning person then spending an hour working on your side-hustle before work might work best for you.
I consider myself a morning person but I generally don't get out of bed before 7. My point is, I'm not one of those people who jumps out of bed at 5am (I have a friend who does and always has - I can’t get my head around it) but I still consider myself a morning person because I do my best work between 9am - 1pm. That’s when I’m most productive.
With this in mind I try to work on my creative tasks (the tasks that require all of my focus) in the mornings, leaving the easier tasks like editing images for my blog or responding to emails, to the afternoons.
When does your lifestyle allow you to work? Do you have young children, a team or another job to work around?
If you have young kids, evenings might be your time, it might be a good time to have a cup of tea (or glass of wine) and sit down to work on your projects. Perhaps you have a 9-5 but can work flexible hours, if you’re a morning person could you work later hours at work and start a little later too, allowing you some time in the morning to work on your own business? Have a think about where those pockets of time are that you can use.
Which tasks can you batch?
I find I can get into flow with a task when I’ve batched tasks together. This applies to my daily and monthly routine. There are two reasons why batching together tasks is helpful, firstly it saves time but also it helps with the mental energy thing. Have you ever had a day where you’re jumping from task to task and at the end of the day you feel exhausted? Here are some ideas for batching tasks within your regular routine.
Writing blog content, taking photographs for your blog and social media - all of these tasks could be down on a monthly basis. Once a month you could batch these tasks together to leave you with enough content for the month ahead.
Emails – Emails are a daily time suck for most of us. Have you considered having set time for answering your emails? Depending on how busy your inbox is you could consider responding to emails each day between 5-6pm or perhaps just three or four times a week. This might help to make responding to emails part of your routine rather than letting your inbox be a constant distraction. If you’re keen to experiment with this you could always set up an auto-responder letting people know when you answer your emails so that they know when to expect a reply.
Preparing social media posts, updating your finances, planning your week - all of these tasks could become part of your weekly routine. By batching these tasks together you’d only have to do them once a week and so that might help you get into a regular routine of planning your week on a Sunday evening or writing out your social media posts for the week on a Wednesday evening.
What healthy habits do you want to make part of your routine?
Perhaps you want to start getting a 30minute walk into each day or make sure you’re having at least one day off a week to spend with your loved ones. Maybe you want to get better at staying on top of your finances. Write out a list of the healthy habits you’d like to introduce into your routine.
Using all of the ideas you’ve had from the above, design your new routine. You’ll know from failed new year’s resolutions (and we’ve all got a list of those, right) that the key with introducing any kind of new habits is not to be too over ambitions or unrealistic. Edit your routine down until you’ve just got a few new habits you’d like to introduce, or maybe even just one, and then start road test it. Make tweaks as you go along and after a while you’ll start to establish something that works for you. If you ever get to a point where you feel like your routine isn’t serving you anymore, you can always do a routine reset.