"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle
Routines are like framework. By knowing our limits, creating a workflow that matches our energy levels and making time for what matters we can achieve greatness.
Adapted from this book and almost two years of experience, I have 7 tips that have helped me build a solid routine.
1. Creative 1st, Reactive 2nd A few months ago I finally kicked the bad habit of checking my emails immediately after I woke up. My entire morning would feel rushed because I knew that other people were waiting on me, like clearing my inbox and responding to every email was the only way I could focus and carry on my day.
Today, I block off my entire morning for me to wake up, drink coffee, eat, write, read, meditate, brainstorm, create and exercise with the phone on silent and emails unchecked.
It's feels a little difficult at first putting yourself before others' expectations, but you will soon feel liberated and in control when you make time for you. I wrote about this in Letters from Meredith too.
"To truly excel, you must also continue to create for the most important audience of all: yourself." - Todd Henry
2. Energy Rhythms What times of day do you feel the most energized? Months ago, I took note of when I felt the most energized and when I felt the most drained. I then aligned my creative tasks with my most energetic rhythms. For example, I'm most energetic from 8-11am, then again from 3-5pm. So during those time I paint, draw, write, design and brainstorm. Then in between those times I return emails and complete administrative work.
We are said to follow ultradian rhythms which are ninety-minute bursts at the end of which we reach the limits of our capacity. To stay energized, take a break or go outside for walk in between each burst. This will increase productivity and renew your energy.
3. Triggers Figure out what your associative triggers are and repeat them daily. Sitting at a clean desk, showered, with coffee and listening to music tells me it's time to work and create. On days I don't shower, have a messy desk or work in silence, I feel unproductive and scrambled.
4. The to-do list Know what you can achieve in a day, jot it down, and let go of the rest. Mark McGuiness suggests writing your daily tasks on a 3x3" Post-It note "because if you can't fit everything on a list that size, how will you do it all in one day?"
I've recently updated how I write out my daily goals to separate "for me" and "for my business" instead of "home" and "work" tasks because it feels more intentional. For the most part, this is still how I approach my to-do list.
5. Your ideal day Imagine what you want your day to look like and stick with it. Set a time of day when you start and end work, dedicate times of day for creative work, meetings, admin work to stay productive and help you avoid workaholism.
I work every day from 12-6:30/7pm and would like to end my days earlier. I'm slowly working at fine-tuning my schedule to accomplish that. I talk a little about my day-to-day here and here and have this worksheet for you so you can write out what you want your daily routine to look like.
6. Avoid Distractions Close Facebook, Pinterest and your emails while you're trying to work. multi-tasking is a myth and we need to focus to get real work one. Distractions interfere with our productivity and creativity. Stick with your schedule and dedicate time for accomplishing work, and other times for social media, emails and distractions.
7. Solitude It's essential to find solitude every day so that we can listen to our inner voice and learn what it has to teach us. For me, the best time to mediate is in the morning. Mediating doesn't have to complicated, in fact it's simply sitting and doing nothing. I dedicate fifteen-minutes daily, but maybe it's five or thirty-minutes for you. The most important thing is that you make time for it everyday.
"The calming of the mind helps us to figure out what really matters and to hear our creative voice." - Leo Babauta
What are you doing today to stay focused, productive or creative? Any tips or resrouces to share?