The daily routine gets a lot of attention, and for good reason. David Lynch went to a diner every day for a milkshake. David Sedaris was a regular at an IHOP in Chicago. Benjamin Franklin took 3 hours to wake up in the morning before two 4 hour blocks of work. When you wake up in the morning, knowing roughly what your day is going to look like will make the day go a lot smoother. Routines add structure to your life which can help you improve your productivity, and even improve your health, quality of sleep, and anxiety.
If you start your day by making coffee, you’re already familiar with a daily routine. Foggy morning brain is awful, but if you roll out of bed and start Mr. Coffee without thinking about it everyday, you’ll have a fresh cup of coffee before you even know it. Having things you always do in the same order every day stops you from needing to decide what to do next.
It doesn’t have to stop with coffee! Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg are famous for wearing the same clothes every day in order to eliminate unimportant decisions. Our interview guest on episode 22 of Professional Geek, Paul Tassi, wakes up early and gets dressed, even though he works from home. “I wake up at 6 or 7 everyday just to have a schedule.” He says that it might sound a little odd, but it gets him in the right frame of mind to be productive. “If you work from home, you can be tempted to work in pajamas all day and I find personally that makes me less productive.”
Navigating your day without structure sounds like it would be amazing, but I’ve found that that freedom cuts into my productivity and accountability. When I don’t structure my day, I usually only finish half of what I set out to do, having spent a little too much time here and there taking care of chores or studying, or worse, being distracted by TV or video games.
Following your self-imposed routine can be good for your health as well. We operate on the Circadian Rhythm, or the daily cycle of waking and sleeping. The rhythm works on regularity, and it takes practice. Going to sleep at the same time every night sets your internal clock, which makes it easier to fall asleep when you have to, and for you to stay asleep long enough to be rested. Frequent changes in bedtime wrecks that rhythm. If my internal clock is all out of whack, my body thinks I’m napping if I try to sleep early on the night before an early day, so I wake up several times during the night. No matter how early I’m lying down, my sleep quality will be terrible. We've covered why a good nights sleep is so important in a previous blog, so you know we take it seriously here at Professional Geek!
Eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, taking a shower, exercising, and drinking water can all be part of your routine, too. These are probably things you already do everyday, but I hear far too many people say that they’ve simply forgotten at least one of these tasks. If you’re strict about taking care of yourself at specific times of the day, it’s easier to remember to maintain your health and hygiene.
The beautiful secret about personal daily routines is that they can be whatever you want them to be! Of course, you have to take care of yourself, like I mentioned above, but as long as your routines increase your productivity and give you structure, there’s no wrong way to do it. I’ve talked on this blog about experimenting with Bullet Journal and using timers, and if you Google “Famous daily routines,” you’ll see that no one routine is the same. Winston Churchill even managed to stay productive from bed. If you have that level of self motivation, I say go for it.
Additionally, it’s probably beneficial to routinely take some time for yourself in order to make sure you’re not burnt out, even if all you can manage is a half an hour at the beginning and end of your day. I like having at least a half an hour for coffee in the morning and an hour of reading to end my day. Reading is especially great since it doesn’t require a computer screen, which is known to mess with the circadian rhythm mentioned above. If you know that every day will end with some time set aside for what you enjoy, it should cut down on feeling like you don't have any free time.
Of course, your routine will take some practice to get used to. It's unlikely that you can start waking up early, becoming a regular at the local diner, going to the gym at 5, and being in bed by 10, starting tomorrow. Just like circadian rhythm, these routines need to be set. Take some time to figure out what things work for you, and don't be afraid to jettison parts of your routine that aren't working for you.
A rigid routine will lock your productive hours into place and cut down on distractions throughout the day, as well as pushing entertainment and diversions to the end of your day. Knowing what we’ve got on our plate every day will make it easier to point yourself towards the most important task and execute it with robotic precision, even if you’re still trapped in the fog of the morning. Try it out! Try anything out. Work on your routine until you've found what works for you, and use it as a tool making a more ordered life. Life doesn't need to be chaotic and stressful, when you have a personalized schedule!