Last week I read an article about the importance of routines and schedules for people. Now there was a lot about the article I agreed with and there were other things I thought were completely bias to the author’s own work ethic. Like the idea that everyone should create a schedule in 30 minute increments and sticking to it religiously.
Some people can work like that. Some people would have a more productive work day if they worked like that. I’ve tried it and failed miserably.
Mine days aren’t structured. At any given day I might wake at midnight, 3am, 6am, or 9am to work regardless if I went around my normal 9pm bedtime. Also, far too many things shift throughout the day that can’t wait for my attention and that I have to deal with right that moment. There is no delegating to someone else if a cow gets out. I have to mess with her regardless if it takes me an hour or three.
I hate missing a day of writing because I couldn’t do it at 8am like it says on my schedule and there is no other place to put it because the day is filled with all the things that need to be done. And staying up for 2 hours longer isn’t an option when I have to be up at 6am for the kids during school time.
Or that in order for me to stick to a schedule, I’d have to set my phone alarms. I’ve done before. After about the third alarm going off, I get annoyed and turn them all off so I can focus on the project at hand. So the technique where I work for twenty-five minutes and then take a ten minute break drives me nuts. I don’t want to stop every twenty-five minutes, or maybe I’d rather stopped every ten minutes.
Why I like Routines over Schedules
One of the things I like about routine is that they are something I can to regardless of what is happening in my life or start them at any time of the day. If I don’t want to write because my brain isn’t ready at that moment, I don’t want to waste my time forcing it. I’d rather work on a book cover in-progress, because it takes less time and brain power, and do the writing later.
Of the several Routines I have, my Morning Time and Bedtime Routines never change. The others shift as needed. Here’s an example of my two largest Routines.
My Writing Routine…
Starts the moment I sit down at my desk and turns on the computer. While it’s doing its thing I look over my plot cards or outline for the current writing project. Open my current project file, see what story point I need to write toward that day—I like to plot my stories ahead but only the main plot points—and start writing. If I’m not quite ready to dive in, I might go back to the start of the last scene I worked on, and start the process of layering and light editing. This jogs my memory enough to get me back into the process of writing. Then I work until I have 2k words done or I just can’t write another word.
There is no set time to start. Although I do write on Tuesday–Friday with a possibility of Monday–Sunday depending on what’s happening.
I may start this routine in the morning before the kids get up, after they head out to school, in the afternoon before they get home, or at night after everyone goes to bed depending on when I feel the most inspired to write.
My Client Work Routine…
Starts when I click on my web browser and log in to my email accounts. I delete all the junk mail and look to see if a client has emailed me with questions or changes. If they haven’t, I opening their project information sheet and see what I still need to do that day, making notes if I need to. Then I open their project file, and get to work. Once I’m done with a task, I check off what I finished, make notes, and save the project. I work through emails at the end and send out anything that needs to be approved or answered.
Much like the writing, client work may be done in the morning or in the afternoon, occasionally in the evening, but I only work on designs Tuesday-Friday.
5 Steps to Create your own Productive Routines
If you’re like me, you aren’t a scheduler. You don’t rely on a time to do things, unless it’s an appointment, then you kinda have to set a time. If you like to do the same series of actions in roughly the same order each time, you’re most likely a routine person. If you are, creating your own routines for life may be the most productive step you take.
1) You need to find your Routines.
You might find that there are something that you do every day, and when you mess up the order, you forget something else and that could be bad. Like putting on shoes and heading for the door without pants…wait, that was my daughter this morning. 😀
Routines are a series of actions done in a roughly the same order each time. It took me awhile to realize I have several routines. Some for writing projects, publishing, and client work, etc. They have no set times. Some aren’t done every day. Some are once a year things, or several times a year but only when I have a project done, like publishing a book.
To find your routines, I suggest getting out a pad of paper and listing all the things you do every day. For example: my morning routine is to waking up, mouth wash for that dog breath, shower, get dressed for the day, put out tomorrow’s clothes while I’m in the drawers, start water for coffee or tea, and if hubby is out of bed, make the bed. I do these things every day, although not always at the same time every day.
Routines aren’t always every day things. There might be things that you only do once or three times a week. You might do something only once a month. Maybe you, like me, take one day a week to write bills, balance your personal and business checkbooks, file personal and business paperwork, getting mail ready for the post office, and plan your week. Or maybe you write on Mondays and Thursdays only. Whatever it is, add it to your list.
2) Create your Routine Lists & Batch like Tasks Together
Now look at your lists and see which ones need to be done every day, weekly, monthly, or annually. If they have a deadline, like taxes, makes sure you write it down. If you like to do something on a certain day of the week, put that down too.
You’ll notice that you may be able to link some things together like personal tasks, chores, and work.
Batching tasks together is more efficient. Take a look at your list and find ways to put smaller, like tasks together. This will save you time wasted on interruptions or shifting gears while you work.
For example, when I go to town I do the grocery shopping, I might visit the bank, library, and school, before dropping by the post office on my way home. I put everything in town together as “errands” and try to them on one day. For work, its going through my daily email accounts (and yes, there are more than two) and deleting all the junk mail that slipped through the filter, next I answer all the private emails followed by client emails and then reader emails, after that I read newsletters/blog posts and commenting on some of them, and lastly I go through the social media email and reply.
3) Adding New Habits to your Routine
If you want to add a new habit to your routine, I suggest starting small and work into it. If your ideal day includes taking more time to write that novel you wanted to write or spending more time with loved ones, but you struggle to do it, then find some small habits that can help build up to the bigger goal.
For example, my lager goal was to spend quality time with my daughters each night. We slowly built a bedtime routine for each of them that includes us all. Next I slowly built on that routine by adding alone time with each girl, starting with the youngest. The other has quiet time in her room to play or clean her bedroom. Alone time now includes me asking about their day, reading a few chapters from.
4) Start Small & Work into
Once you have your daily, weekly, and monthly routines set, start one new routine at a time and slowly work into it. Start it all at once and you’ll get overwhelmed by the enormity of it all.
I suggest living with your daily routines for at least a week. If at the end of the week you find something isn’t working, make adjustments. For weekly routines try at least two weeks, but if it’s really not working, adjust as you go along. Make small adjustments, see if it works, and repeat until you find what works with you.
One thing to be aware of with weekly routines, if you pile too many tasks into a day, maintaining the pace may become too stressful. Constantly falling behind in your day can be discouraging. Start by adding 1-2 weekly tasks per day, and not more than 3. If you have 3 or more, either batch some things together or eliminate the least important ones.
5) Sticking with it.
Now that you have something set up, the trick will be to stick with them. However, once you find a good set of routines that work for you, if you can stick with them for 30 days, it will become a habit. You’ll also start to feel calmer and more in control of your life.
So how do you do this, by creating a 30-day Challenge for yourself and keeping yourself motivated. Some ways to motivate yourself are:
- Give yourself small daily rewards (a piece of chocolate, a gold star on a calendar, few extra minutes with social media), a weekly reward (a bowl of ice cream, a free day next week, more time browsing the Internet), and a monthly reward (a day at the spa, a day without the kids, that book you wanted). Pick something that will motivate you.
- Make your commitment a public one, like on a blog or social media. After a while, if you missed a day, people who follow you will ask why.
- Post your routines up on the wall at home and near your desk
Note: Don’t have any other goals or habit changes going on while you do this or it might be overwhelming. If you can really put your energy and focus into it for 30 days, it will become more automatic and require less energy.
Do you have any suggestions on creating routines I missed?