Daily routines are more meaningful than you might realize. They go beyond drinking your coffee at a certain hour or exercising at a specific time of day. Routines are valuable for mental and physical health, productivity, and goal attainment. This isn’t a secret—most highly successful individuals have a well-established routine that they stick to throughout the week—but some routines are superior to others.
How can you establish a daily routine that helps boost your productivity and achieve your goals? Try incorporating the following practices into your day:
Ignore your phone
When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing you do? If you’re like 80% of the population, you immediately check your phone and begin scrolling through notifications. Though it’s tempting to do, I urge you to set aside your device and do something more meaningful and productive instead (read a few pages of a business book, meditate, work on a project). In the morning, we set the tone for the rest of the day. By focusing on social media or notifications right away, we fall into a pit of distraction, which can influence our thoughts for the rest of the day (especially if we see something that angers or upsets us).
Do you ever get to the end of the day and wonder, “Where did the time go?” It’s a good idea to pay attention to how you spend your day and flag any bad habits you notice (impulsive internet browsing, not taking breaks when you need them, multitasking when others are speaking). If you don’t realize these bad habits exist in the first place, you won’t be able to banish them from your routine.
Additionally, pay attention to how you’re feeling at certain times of day. When are you most productive? Least productive? When are you feeling focused? Distracted? Your observations can help you identify when you’re typically at peak productivity, and when you tend to get into a slump.
CAPITALIZE ON YOUR PEAK
In Daniel Pink’s well-researched book, When, he identifies three stages in a typical day: a peak, a trough (our daily slump), and a recovery. In an NPR interview, he says, “During the peak, we're better at analytic work, work that requires heads-down focus, vigilance, attention, [and] batting away distractions.” Figure out when you reach your daily peak and take advantage of it! Tackle your most challenging or thought-intensive projects at that time, and save the rest for when you’re feeling less productive.
TAKE MEANINGFUL BREAKS
Human beings are not machines. If we don’t take breaks throughout the day, we will end up becoming distracted and exhausted. Though it may sound counterintuitive, to accomplish more in a given day, it’s a good idea to take meaningful breaks. This means stepping away from your desk and doing something that’s not work related, such as grabbing a bite to eat, taking a walk, or reading a chapter in a book. Then, return to your desk and work on one project at a time (multitasking is never efficient!) until you need another break. Every human has a kind of natural work rhythm—periods of time when we’re productive, followed by declines in concentration. Find your rhythm and take breaks when you need them.
PAUSE TO REFLECT
When we’re working nonstop, it’s easy to get into the weeds. We begin to focus on “busy work,” rather than seeing the big picture. Just because you’re busy, doesn’t mean you’re making progress! You might be moving in the wrong direction or not doing things as efficiently or effectively as possible.
So, pause. Reflect. Set aside time to think about the path ahead. Your reflection time could take many forms—meditation, a quiet walk, scribbling ideas in a notebook. Find a method that works for you, and practice it regularly. Your reflection periods will allow you to step back from your work, think creatively, and envision your future and how to get there.
You have the power to shape your routine, which can ultimately shape your future. Pay attention to how you spend each day and begin developing a personalized routine that fits YOU. Remember, it takes a while to establish new habits, so be regimented, stick with it, and practice patience. Establishing an effective routine is a powerful way to achieve your goals.