Routines are good. The best approach to make something a habit if you plan on doing it daily, weekly or monthly, is to build a system for getting it done.
Efficient daily routines are known to save time and advance goals.
Annie Dillard once said, ‘a schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labour with both hands at sections of time.’
There are even great apps that do what they say they will: simplify your routine and help you focus on your real work.
An effective daily schedule can help you get things done consistently with a minimum of stress, whilst you maximise your energy and time.
For best results, schedule your day around your energy. Observe your energy patterns, and work on high-value tasks when you are most active. If a given regular task is big and scary, schedule it in the mornings.
Aim to get to the point where your routine work is getting done with a minimum of thinking, so you can turn your attention to other tasks.
Most people rely on scheduling methods including The Time Blocking Method, The Most Important Task Method (MIT), The Pomodoro Technique, 90-Minute Focus Sessions, and others to get more things done.
There is no “perfect schedule.”
Creating your most personal and productive schedule might mean creating hybrids of some of these methods. Churchill, for example, worked late into the night and broke up his day with naps.
It’s all about finding the right fit.
But when you depend on overly rigid autopilot routine for too long, you can become stressed, overwhelmed and ineffective over time.
There’s nothing wrong with using an autopilot schedule — the problem is when it stands in the way of your best work, or personal efficiency.
The brain is lazy. Living on autopilot for too long makes you lean towards the most comfortable thinking or working mode, which is often not the best way to work.
The rise of online scheduling is making it even harder for people to stop, and measure the effectiveness of their auto-pilot routines and schedules.
It pays to purge your routine once a while to make sure it’s saving you time and helping you achieve your goals as planned.
Purging your schedule is about getting a handle on your time and keeping it tidy going forward. Get back in the driver’s seat. Good time and energy management is something you practice.
Don’t autopilot the same tasks over and over again when they not delivering the expected results you want. These tasks — numerous as they may be — sometimes rarely move the needle. They make very little progress even though we may be busy the whole day or week.
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities, ” says Stephen Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
When your schedule is getting too predictable — your calendar is full of too many repetitive activities, you never pause to reflect on how you are doing, or feeling, and you follow your plan without thinking, or making room for improvisations, and self-care, you might be due a productivity purge.
The aim of a productivity purge is to reduce unnecessary repetition and improve your autopilot routines.
You want to be in control of your schedule, not the other way around.
“Autopilot is a growing problem,” says Dr Mark Williamson, Director of Action for Happiness and contributor to the study.
“It has gone from being an evolutionary protection mechanism that stopped our brains overloading, to our default mode of operating whereby we sleep-walk into our choices. It has seeped into more and more areas of our lives and relationships making us feel out of control,” says Williamson.
When it feels like your routine is becoming too overwhelming, it’s the best time to stop, reflect and measure.
A pause creates space to start paying attention and ask yourself a few questions to access your results — Are you focused or distracted? Why?
Are you getting closer to both your short and long term goals?
It’s an opportunity to analyse every task or action, and identify items you can move around, delegate, slice, spread out, or even stop working on right away if it’s not helping you get closer to your goals.
Sometimes it pays to cross some items out, add new ones, and come up with a better plan for getting things done going forward.
Purge your schedule and take control of how you invest your time.
Jocelyn K. Glei recommends building white space into your schedule.
“We need white space in our daily lives just as much as we need it in our designs because the concept carries over: If our lives are over-cluttered and over-booked, we can’t focus properly on anything. What’s more, this way of working actually shrinks our ability to think creatively.”
Free up time to focus on what’s really important in your life and career. Resist the temptation to add more whilst you focus on your most important tasks.
By purging your routine regularly, you’ll end up making real progress on your long-term goals.
“The productivity purge is a necessary piece of project gardening. By doing these regularly, you keep yourself focused on what’s important. You get at least one month after every purge in which serious work gets done on a small number of projects,” says Cal Newport, author of Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World.
As you embrace the purging habit, your brain will get used to this action, and help you get back on track when you wasting time unconsciously without knowing it.
Your personal efficiency depends on scheduled productivity purge.
I use this practice to declutter my routine every month.
Are you struggling to stay productive throughout your work day? Perhaps you are finding it hard to focus because of excess clutter. It can be tough to get things done when you feel as though your schedule is taking over your life.
It might seem irrelevant and unimportant to set aside time to pause and purge unnecessary tasks from your routine when you have a lot to do.
But that time to analyse your routine, measure your results and make that important change may be the fresh start you need to get more done.
This post was previously published on Kaizen Habits and is republished here with permission from the author.
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