The HOW Skill Set is all about the creation of structure, rituals, and routine in your day. It makes you more productive and enables you to make your implementation plans a reality. Find out more about this in my article on work-life balance. Now, let’s talk about why you need routine in your day.
The Importance of Routine in Your Day.
Cast your mind back to your days at school. Do you remember your timetable, in which all your time was planned weekly? When you could cruise through your days knowing that what periods, subjects, and topics you were facing? When you knew to bring in your sports kit or your musical instrument?
You’d have your whole week mapped out. You would know what was coming before lunch and after. Maths would be followed by English, which would be after Science. You’d know this straight up – and you would know that your homework was due for that period, or that you needed a particular book for then.
Such a life produces a sense of consistency, of regularity. Even if you didn’t like the subjects you had, you’d know what was coming and how long they would last. Meanwhile, different ways of thinking would be batched together in different subjects – simply as a natural part of the way that the day was organised.
Now, I’m not necessarily advocating a return to a rigorously timetabled existence. Yet, the values of predictability and certainty are some of the most reassuring things for our lives. And the lack of them – and the lack of a routine in your day – can be one of the most stressful and problematic for your productivity.
So, is there a way to create a routine in your day? You can find out how to do that in my next article. Here, we’ll look at the benefits.
Why You Should Create a Routine in Your Day.
These days, when over a third of US workers are freelancing, the presence of an external structure in our lives has decreased considerably.
Whilst this is recognised for what it can well be – something liberating and wonderful – it can produce a lot of nasty side effects that aren’t so often talked about. These, at the very worst end, include anxiety and insomnia – but a lack of a structure in your day may well be contributing to your stress too. You can experience what is known as ‘decision fatigue’, you can feel exhausted by the sheer number of decisions you need to make every day.
To combat this, I tend to have themed days. Monday morning is research, afternoon is admin. On certain days, I ‘timetable’ blocks of time for client work – so I can be in that head space consistently, rather than combining my own work with theirs. This promotes the powerful ability of focus and create an environment which supports immersion in the task. Additionally, it creates a predictability and routine to what would otherwise potentially could be a varied and potential chaotic schedule. This way, I know exactly what I am doing every day. Now I realise not all of us are self-employed, but this ‘time-tabling’ can equally be applied to any working week, it’s just a case of tweaking it to your circumstances.
Trust me: structure in your day does not need to be boring or oppressive. Here are four of the reasons why a routine is actually really important for your life.
Create Much-Needed Balance and Stability.
Tony Robbins refers to certainty or predictability as one of six human needs – the essential things in life that we all require. Because whilst spontaneity and the image of freedom is very exciting, we all want to know what to expect.
Knowing what we need to do in our days and when, is one of the crucial things to prevent overwhelm and stress. By having a routine, you know what you need to deal with every day. Meanwhile, every task, rather than screaming ‘do me now!’, knows its proper place.
An added benefit is that you will feel a sense of accomplishment. Ever had a day that you have been really busy, but can say with exactly what? Through planning ahead, you are able to reflect on your accomplishments at the end of the week through referring to your schedule.
Manage that Decision Overload.
Without a routine, our brains are continually wondering ‘okay, what are we doing next? What needs to be done now?’. This is exhausting – actually, there’s a thing called decision fatigue – and it undermines every attempt at efficiency and productivity.
That’s one of the things we take for granted at school: we know what we are doing all of the time, so we can focus on our work.
Yet, these days, that’s not possible. So, remove the necessity of making those decisions. By making a structure in your day habitual, you won’t need to think about what it is you need to do. Meanwhile, you can schedule blocks of Protected Time to think about those big decisions – that need a System Two problem solving brain – too.
Combat Your Procrastination – and Distraction.
That question, ‘what do I need to do now then?’, is the breeding ground for procrastination – as you probably well know. When you don’t know what you are supposed to be doing, you’ll dive into your emails to find something to do. Or else do something for someone else instead.
Sure, emails and chatting with your colleagues are all well and good. Yet, a structure in your day will promote greater focus and prevent you from being distracted from the important tasks. When we lose seven hundred hours a year on average to distraction, that matters.
Prepare Your Mind – and Your Environment – for What’s Coming.
Back at school, you would know what to expect that day. You’d pack your sport kit or your history textbook – and, walking to class, you’d be thinking ‘okay, I’ve got maths now’.
The same happens with all routines – even at a subconscious level. If you know that Tuesdays are client days, then you know what you need to prepare – and what sort of mindset to be in. If days are committed to writing, you’ll find yourself unconsciously more mentally prepared for that too.
And of course the same logic applies to the people around you too. If your team knows that Thursdays are days for writing, they will eventual learn not to schedule meetings then!
What ways could you begin timetabling your days?