I have a love-hate relationship with routine but I've been coming round to appreciating just how much it has to offer me when it comes to time management, increasing productivity and restoring balance. Our problems, routine and I, stem from my aversion to monotony. The irony is that I actually love planning my time and have an obsession with constantly designing new routines. It took some reflection for me to realise that, I was making the meaning of the words "monotony" and "routine" interchangeable (the latter need not result in the former) and that, there is actually some merit in my repeated reviewing and adjusting of routines.
A wise young lady I'll call TC makes a great point: having a routine allows for spontaneity, contrary as that may seem. I'm sold and thought I'd share with you some of what I've learned, my current routine (I'm obsessed with reading about other people's routines so I thought I'd indulge those of you out there who share a similar interest) and 5 great articles/resources that have informed, inspired and supported me.
5 lessons I've learned about routine
I almost called this post "Tips on creating routines that stick". I think that's where I've gotten it wrong in the past; I'm discovering that an effective routine is all about flexibility – you need to be able to adjust it as your life brings change your way. This is my current recipe to a routine that works for your present and short-term needs:
- Review the routine regularly. Especially if you're struggling to cope with all the things you want to do
- Experiment. It's unlikely that you will get it right the first time. Be open to adjusting your routine to rule out what's viable and what's not
- Mix things up – without the guilt. Guilt is often more debilitating than anything else. Embrace the inevitable barriers that will come up to take you 'off course'. They might even open up new opportunities. Alternatively, they could be what you actually need (e.g. fell asleep before your planned workout session? Maybe your body actually needs rest more than it does exercise right now)
- Design a 'modular' routine. Rather than fixed days having fixed tasks and activities, set out the number of times you want to do that task/activity during the week and then let the idiosyncrasies of the week determine when those things will happen
- Schedule in 'nothing'. I personally have trouble doing nothing and often plan to fill up all my time. However, as I work on being more kind to myself, I appreciate just how liberating and relaxing and empowering doing nothing can be. If you're like me, you overestimate how much you can get done at any given time. It's likely that you've already over-stretched yourself before you've even began. Scheduling in nothing will help to accommodate for some of that unintended overspill. So schedule more nothing than you desire!
My current routine
- Before bed: review and edit TeuxDeux list. Try and be realistic about what can be achieved today. Put priority items at top of list and separate sections for time-specific tasks (e.g. Pre-arranged Calls, meetings and other appointments), work-related tasks and personal tasks. Move things around these sections and across the days, accordingly. Wash dishes, pack lunch, set out clothes for tomorrow, pack bag for work and gym
- 6am - 7:30: Wake up sometime within this period. Shower, dress, breakfast and head to work
- Between 8:30 and 9:30am: get to work and check Teux Deux list. Get cracking on work tasks
- Usually between 1 and 2:30pm: have lunch. Leave desk and sit in kitchen/dining room (our office space is great that way). Leave phone and other digital distractions at desk. Instead, interact with fellow human beings. Eat at leisure. Today I incorporated a half hour walk after eating which, I hope to do every week day. Went with teammates making it a great opportunity forrea an informal chat
- 5pm: email time. I've set an alarm on my phone to go off at this time each weekday. I find checking email in the morning usually sends me on a spiral that has nothing to do with what I'd previously intended to accomplish that day. Even a peep will usually result in things weighing at the back of my mind and compromising my focus, productivity and feeling of balance
- 6pm: start trying to leave! Usually I succeed within the hour
Here's where the major variations kick in. I will either:
- Go to the gym (lately I've been trying to do this at least 2 week nights)
- Go home and do a big batch of primal cooking to cover several breakfasts, lunches and dinners
- Put in some laundry/put away some laundry
- Go to an event/meet up with friends (I'm trying to keep this down to 1 night per week, 2 at a push)
- Go home and work on Afri-love or another of my self-initiated projects
- Go home and indulge in a bit of internetting (which has the potential to become the new TV – see below)
Dinner. TV used to factor here and I used to try and stick to a max of 1 hour per night. I can live without TV when I don't watch it but once I start, I have trouble switching it off, especially when I get into a series and don't have to wait a week to get on to the next episode. TV on demand: I love you! My hour a night ambitions weren't quite working so, starting this week, I'm trying to limit TV to the weekends. Which in theory means I'll get more sleep on weeknights – bonus!
Weekends vary more but consist of combinations of the following:
- Day1: wake up naturally, yoga at home, clean house, prepare blog posts for week, go on an outing with the man and/or meet up with friends
- Day 2: enjoy that alarm-free sleep once again, chill out in pyjamas, watch TV, go grocery shopping (throw in a walk or a gym session en route), do some work (trying to get rid of this one), wash and twist hair (it's a process this natural hair), do a batch of cooking for the week, talk to parents, zone out
I've just returned from a short holiday and although I miss the sun, sea and carnival (immensely), I am really looking forward to getting back into the groove that I was enjoying before I left. A groove that had me feeling productive, healthy and balanced.
Recommended time management and productivity articles and resources
- Getting creative things done: how to fit in hard thinking into a busy schedule – by Cal Newport on 99u.com
- 10 ways to make more time in your day – by Rhea Drysdale of Outspoken Media
- Enhance focus and concentration with the Pomodoro Technique
- My morning routine – by Miss Modish
- 11 things to do (and not do) when you're burned out – by Danielle LaPorte
How do you feel about routine? What works for you?
Related Afri-love posts:
- 3 tried and tested productivity tools – TeuxDeux, Dropbox and Evernote
- 3 ideas that have helped me to abolish the word 'should'
- 2013: The Year of Kindness – The story behind my mantra for this year
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