November 17, 2010
Learn to Harness the Power of Routines
When we hear the word “routine”, we often cringe. It has become synonymous with boring, average and dull. While you don’t want your whole life to be routine, routines bring order to the chaotic nature of our lives and help us achieve true productivity.
The ironic part is that by working and managing your life more efficiently with routines, you can have more time to do the fun and exciting things you crave. Making routines yield productivity is as simple as identifying what you need to get done and finding the optimal times to do them. Then you simply repeat that process.
It sounds almost too simple right? Let’s go through some tips to help you achieve paramount productivity through routines.
List it All Out
Go through the tasks that you have to do every day and week and write them down.
Your daily list might include things like checking email, picking up the kids, making your prospecting calls and so on. Weekly items would be things that you do a couple times a week like working out, going to the dog park with your dog or cleaning.
Discover Your Most Productive Time
Everyone is different and we all work better at different times during the day. Some people have to get up at the crack of dawn and work in the peace and quiet. Others find sitting in a busy café helps them work. Personally, I’m a night owl and get my best work done after the kids have gone to bed.
Whatever the most productive time is for you, identify it and catalog how long it lasts, what conditions need to be there to achieve it and so on.
Make Your Schedule
Now that you know when you work the best, it’s time to put together a schedule. Prioritize your list of tasks and put the most important during the time slot when you work the best. This will be your time where you can just be in the zone and crank out things that have the most effect on your success.
Group Similar Tasks
Now, group every thing else together with similar tasks and set up time blocks when they can be done. This keeps your mind on the same track and focused on the types of things you are doing. Otherwise, you burn time adjusting from something like cleaning to paying bills or reading emails.
Don’t Over Schedule
You can’t plan your whole day. It’s best to have a couple of time blocks set up throughout the day and then leave the rest open to deal with incoming tasks, things that didn’t get done on time or rush projects. A lot of people have a morning and night routine and leave the middle of their day open.
Prioritize, Simplify and Automate
If your list is just too daunting and you know there is no humanly way possible you can achieve it without becoming Red Bull’s best customer, then you need to whittle it down.
Prioritize or re-prioritize the list and find out what is absolutely necessary to get done. Often things we think are really important just aren’t. If processes are too complex, break them up into more manageable pieces. Finally if you can automate something, then do it!
Many organization and productivity experts like David Allen extol the virtues of forming routines, setting aside time to deal with tasks on a “batch” level and prioritizing your tasks so you are productive instead of just busy. Allen’s Getting Things Donebook is considered by many to be the Bible of organization/productivity systems. If you have never had the chance to check out his GTD system, check out his blog.
Follow these simple tips, lay out your routines and do your best to stick to them. While you need to be diligent in implementing your new schedule, you also have to be flexible and allow for life to interject. If you have to break your routine, don’t freak out or give up. Just do your best to get back on track and stick with it.