How To Run Your Day Like A BossLuke Coutinho
I want you to picture this.
You wake up 60 minutes or less before work and then sprint like a 100-meters runner to get ready. You shower in a hurry, skip any form of exercise or priming your body for the day, ignore any form of prayer or giving thanks for a new day, and barely get any breakfast down. If you do, it’s mostly not enough and doesn’t hold much nutritional value.
If there is an olympic gold medal for the quickest time it takes to get ready every morning; you’d be one amongst thousands of others fighting for that winner’s spot.
In these challenging times, your only saving grace is if you don’t have to travel to work. But, even then, you just about manage to sit down in front of your computer and hit that power button, just as your watch strikes 9.
Sounds absurd? Not really, because it is pretty much what most people’s mornings look like. You just about manage to get in a day’s worth of work by sundown. But, by the end of Friday evening, you feel swamped and overwhelmed. Saturday has arrived, you’re burned out, and you know you still haven’t accomplished this week’s goals.
How, then, do you get out of this awful situation every waking month?
The answer is one simple word: Routine.
In this article, I’ll explain what a routine means in layman terms, why having one is essential, and what are some of the most fundamental and practical ways to build a quintessential routine that uniquely works just for you.
What is a Daily Routine?
According to Oxford, a routine is a normal order and way in which you regularly do things. For example, brushing your teeth every morning when you wake up and every night before bed is a routine. Going out for a walk in the morning or performing some yoga at home is also a routine. Similarly, brewing yourself a cup of coffee at eleven am every morning, a stroll in a nearby park on the way home after work, religiously scrolling through social media at set times every day are all routines in their ways. Even nibbling on your favourite chocolate while watching Netflix at night is a routine.
They’re essentially actions and undertakings that happen time after time, and again and again in your daily life. That said, a person’s daily routines don’t have to necessarily be “good” – they’re merely routines by virtue of being repeated every single day. What is important to remember is that any routine can be just as positively powerful as it can be destructive and catastrophic in how your life keeps unfolding.
Mason Currey writes about the routines, habits, rituals, and practices of numerous artists ranging from Benjamin Franklin to Karl Marx in his book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. Every one of these individuals Mason writes about was from diverse walks of life, hence, had routines that varied tremendously. Yet, their routines were tailored to each of their specific needs and requirements, with every step of the routine putting them in the most advantageous and impeccable state of mind.
Currey came to this conclusion:
“In the right hands, (a routine) can be a finely calibrated mechanism for taking advantage of a range of limited resources: time (the most limited resource of all) as well as willpower, self-discipline, optimism. A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.
*Words to the Wise*
Routines and habits are different. Habits are things we often do and almost without thinking, especially something hard to stop doing—basically, an automatic reaction to a specific situation. In contrast, Routines are a collection of habits, practices, and actions that we regularly do every single day.
So, your daily routine can be one with poor, inefficient, and unproductive habits, or you can choose to custom-build and design one with high-performing habits and rituals.
Why is a Daily Routine important?
Remember when we were kids back in our younger days? A bunch of rascals indeed, but we had a set routine nonetheless. Though our parents or guardians set them, they had structure and discipline at their core. They told us to go to bed at a specific time, wake up at a fixed time, complete our homework by a particular time, dinner was at a set time, and they even told us to play at a specific time. All this brought in discipline, and we were able to complete a set number of tasks every day and still had time for other inclusions occasionally.
What happens when we grow up and become adults? Unfortunately, we sometimes become worse than when we were kids as we have no real idea as to what we should be doing first when we wake up in the morning. And why isn’t there a schedule to adhere to? Because we haven’t made one! And that’s why we’re left feeling anxious, stressed, bummed out, and overwhelmed by falling short of our true potential.
I always thought of routines as monotonous, boring, rigid at times, and suffocating when things begin piling up, and I know many of you share these views too. However, I’ve recently understood what a routine truly means and, most importantly, that it’s something that doesn’t have to be boring. Instead, designing and adhering to one is actually your personal path to guaranteed freedom, happiness, productivity, and a fulfilling life!
Designing and consistently adhering to a daily routine will help you prioritize all your wants and needs more efficiently and provide you with a solid foundation to support your productivity. Routines will help you accomplish much more, think more logically and clearly, and help you do work that actually matters. They keep us from stumbling through our days and make sure we get the most important things done.
Some more essential benefits are that it:
- Limits procrastination.
- Establishes healthy and thriving habits.
- Schedules time to meet daily, weekly, and monthly goals.
- Reduces our need to plan daily and brings more structure to our lives.
- Builds self-confidence and makes us more competitive.
- Minimizes our need for constant determination and willpower.
- Lowers our stress levels and encourages relaxation.
How to create a systematic routine:
1. Make a list and write down everything:
Before you start panicking and chewing your fingers off, take a deep breath. Relax, and simmer down. This isn’t a “To-Do” list. Instead, a dump list that isn’t going to need any editing, modifying, or organizing. Simply begin with writing down everything you do daily, personally and professionally. These may also include tasks that you do twice or thrice a week, not necessarily every day. Don’t also forget to write down things that you want to and should be doing too.
This may not come easily to you at first, that’s okay. Take a day or two to thoroughly think about all the things that you do and must accomplish by the end of the week. If you feel you need to mention fundamental activities like visiting the washroom in the morning or doing the dishes after dinner, go ahead and list them down. No task is too small. Just focus on getting all of it down on paper.
Now that you have your master dump list, start with it and identify the daily priorities. To make this easier, you can allocate them to different categories such as work, me-time, wants, needs, housework, self-care, family time, and so on, depending on your situation. Think! And then think some more. Don’t get carried away with trying to prioritize every single thing you feel is important.
Just because it might seem like you’ve been living like Wonder Woman or Superman and accomplishing a ton of tasks every day for the last decade or so, that does not mean it is the way forward. The key is to reflect on your entire daily day (go back a few years for reference) and clarify the activities and tasks that you ideally need to be doing every day, personally and professionally.
You can even go a step further and break down the categories mentioned above into further subcategories, like giving them a rating of 1 to 10 regarding their importance. So, for example, if you have eight types of different ‘needs’ in a day, rate them as per their relevance, practicality, purpose, etc. This will give you better insight into their nature and help you make better decisions when choosing the top three to include in your daily routine.
Do this for all the tasks you mention on your list.
3. Structure your day:
What does this mean? You, me, and everyone else is blessed with 24 hours every day. How we choose to make the best of these hours and what we do with them is dependent on how we truly want to live our lives, what kind of things we wish to accomplish, how much do we value ourselves to decide if we’re going to live at a slow but fulfilling pace, or at a lightning-fast and questionable pace.
Structuring your day will give you complete control over its hours and minutes, will help you accomplish designated tasks for a particular day, along with allowing you to engage in the finer things in life that bring us the most joy and happiness. Plus, a host of other professionally and personally productive privileges as well. To top it off, structuring will also bring you numerous mental and physical health-related perks and advantages.
A typical and very efficient structure consists of a morning routine, midday, and evening routine.
For many, mornings are the most productive times of the day. But, for some, they’re the busiest as they have to get the kids ready for school (even if it’s online), prepare meals for the day, apart from getting themselves ready for the day too.
Start with identifying the most critical tasks that you would like to keep for the morning. These can include wake-up basics, helping your family and yourself get ready, and including your self-care rituals like cold showers, meditation, journaling, exercising, and so on, to having a power-packed breakfast to prep you for your day.
Then, group these together and reserve the rest of your morning routine for more critical and challenging tasks. There is a common term for this; it is called ‘slaying the dragon’. Allocate this time towards those tasks that require you to be your sharpest and most productive and those tasks that you least want to do but are of significant importance. This prevents you from brooding over them during the rest of the day. Once you complete them, you’ve slain your dragons and can move on to the next part of your day.
This forms a significant chunk of your routine and your day. Getting through this part of your structure will be determined by how well your morning routine sets you up for the day. It will also depend on whether you head out to work or currently work from home.
This time will require a lot of your brainpower and energy towards your daily expectations from work. So, if you are working from home, intersperse this part of your routine with small odd jobs around the house that take up no more than ten minutes. So, you’re taking breaks from sitting all day long and also completing little tasks around the house instead of having them build up by the end of the day or the week.
Now, we’re at the final leg of a perfect structured day. The winding down of your day is just as important as the start of your day. With the right inclusions in your evening routine, what you are basically doing is efficiently wrapping up the day, priming yourself for the following day, and ensuring you get a good night’s worth of sleep.
For example, a typical late evening routine for me consists of five crucial segments based on the practices of esteemed and high-performing personalities spanning the last century. They took a lot of time for me to master, but their results are nothing short of being powerful and worthwhile.
- Determining goals for the next day: This makes mornings less of ‘planning’ and more of ‘doing’. You’re able to decide on goals and tasks in advance before the anxieties and compulsions of the next day greet you when you wake up.
- Reflecting on the day’s accomplishments: Celebrating achievements, no matter how small or big, puts many things into perspective, helps dissolve any disappointments from the day, and boosts your morale for the next day.
- Preparing for the following day: Spend 10 to 15 minutes every night to prepare for the following day. This will save all your mental energy and time for the decisions and things that really matter the next morning. For example, organize all your work-related materials, keep your clothes laid out, prep your breakfast items, fill up the coffeemaker, have all your water bottles in the house filled (to name a few).
- Tidying up: Have you ever woken up to an untidy bedroom or living room? A sink full of dirty dishes? You know what that feels like, don’t you? It’s disheartening and a motivation sucker, to say the least. So again, spend 10 to 15 minutes tidying up the place to avoid lengthy cleaning sessions the next day.
- Freeing the head and mind space: Clearing your head will help you put aside all the bothers and troubles of the day, prepare your mind to shut down and get you ready for bed. Light reading, meditation, journaling, breathing exercises, board games, and solving puzzles are few activities to indulge in but not on your gadgets.
4. Bring in definition:
Once you have your structure in place, consider allocating your tasks like chunks of activities grouped to your ‘Morning, Midday, and Evening’ structures. This will seem less overwhelming than if you created an hour-by-hour plan for the day. It will also give you the flexibility to move things around in the event of an emergency or unexpected calling. You may also get as specific as you want to about your time allocation. For example;
5.30 am – Wake up, cold shower, brush teeth
6.00 am – Meditate, deep breathe, practice yoga
6.45 am – Have breakfast, read the newspaper,
7:45 am – Prepare for lunch, do the laundry
9.00 am – Begin work
This is just an example of how precise you can be about your timings. It may seem daunting to some, but to others, it will be much more encouraging and disciplinary for them till they get the hang of sticking to a routine.
5. Tweak, Boost, and Maximize:
I know what you are thinking, but I’m not referring to your biceps or booty gains. Instead, I’m referring to how you can be more efficient. How can you simplify and enhance your productivity but without second-rate work or cutting corners?
For example, what are various tasks that I can club together? Things that would require you to be focused in one area of your home at a single time. Like the bathroom, for instance. Once you’re done cleaning and tidying up, can you also finish sorting your toiletries, taking stock, changing towels, cleaning the mirrors and so on? This would prevent you from coming back later or the next day to check if you’ve got enough toothpaste or whether it’s time to change your towels.
Another example could be your grocery shopping. Do you usually keep it for the end of the week? What if that is also a time that you have a lot of other things to do too? Consider doing your shopping earlier in the week on a day with less planned tasks or thinking about home-delivery options. Remember to mix and match. Move and play around with tasks based on their importance, time consumption, and ease of shuffling around.
6. Buckle up and go for a drive!
So, you’ve written everything down, structured your day, prioritized all your needs, wants, and to-do’s, defined all their time requirements; what now? You test it out, that’s what! Execute your routine for a month and see how it feels.
Did you schedule your tasks the right way? Was enough time allocated to them? Were you able to accomplish your daily goals and still have time for yourself? Most importantly, how productive and efficient were you during the entire month? Evaluate all this after 30 days, edit, modify and make necessary changes. Then, buckle up again for the next month.
Now that you’ve understood what a routine is and why and how to build one, 50% of your work is done! All that’s left to do is design one, and away you go. Remember, routines are subject to change at any time. Don’t look at them as rigorous methods but rather as stepping stones to much more productive days, efficiently achieving your goals and desires and constantly evolving and unfolding your truest potential. Use them to continually build on each other, amplifying their effectiveness and, in turn, getting the best of the most limited resource known to man – time.
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- A Video on The Power of Self-Restraint
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YouCare Is All About YOU
You cannot pour from an empty cup. So build YOU first before nourishing the world. You Care is all about YOU. - Luke Coutinho
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