Yesterday, Darren Beale wrote a great post about his morning routine. Like Darren, I won’t go into the benefits of a daily routine. But I’ll say this: my productivity, and more importantly, my output have dramatically increased since employing a daily routine. There’s a reason why some of the most prolific artists, writers, and entrepreneurs have a daily ritual.
My routine is primarily focused on my writing. I do my best work early in the morning, so this is when I prioritise my writing time.
I’ve been thinking about my daily routine for the past 12 months, and doing it far more consistently since the start of 2016.
My morning routine starts the day before. If I miss this part of the day – and sometimes that happens – the following morning will be far less productive.
Since reading Deep Work, I’ve employed a shutdown ritual at the end of the working day. This usually takes place around 6-6.30pm. At this point I stop working, and try not to look at a computer screen again. When deadlines are looming, I’ll work beyond this point but that is the exception, not the rule.
My shutdown ritual looks like this:
- I ensure that every incomplete task, goal, or project has been reviewed and has a plan or a place where it can be revisited. This means working through my inbox, Trello, and 2Do. I schedule time for the tasks I want to complete on my calendar for the following day. This can take up to 30 minutes.
- I’ll review my writing board on Trello. I’ll pick a topic that I want to write about the following morning, and will do some research if necessary.
- I’ll then write the topic on a post-it note and leave it on my desk for the following morning. I’ll also leave Ulysses open on my Mac, full-screen, ready for the morning’s writing session.
- Next, I’ll tidy my desk. A tidy desk helps me think more clearly. Honestly, this usually means moving stuff out of sight (on the floor or on cupboards is fine, I just can’t stand stuff on my desk).
- Finally, I’ll ensure my alarm is set on my phone. I’ll then place my phone on my desk, under the folded clothes that I’ll wear in the morning.
The purpose of the shutdown ritual to help create a divide between work-time and home-time. Since I work at home, and my office commute is approximately 5 steps, it’s easy to work until god-knows-what-time. The shutdown ritual allows me to shut-off for the day, and to recharge in the evening.
I aim to be in bed for 9pm, where I’ll read for 60-90 minutes or until I fall a sleep.
My alarm goes of at 5.30am and since it’s on my desk, I have no choice but to get out of bed and walk to my office. By the time I’ve got to my office and switched off my alarm, I’ve convinced myself it’s easier to get to work than go back to bed.
The clothes are important. I leave them on my desk to avoid additional decision making. Without them there, I’d likely go back to bed as it’s easier than picking a t-shirt to wear. The post-it note is also there so I can just begin writing; I don’t need to think about what to write about.
I then write about that topic for around 2 hours. I put my headphones on and put a single track on repeat (a habit I picked up from Matt Mullenweg). For a good chunk of that time, it’s stream of consciousness writing. I try and stop myself hitting the backspace key, and prevent myself from editing as I go. Sometimes I’ll hit a roadblock or feel uninspired, so I’ll switch to a topic that excites me. For the most part, I try and drudge through the drudgery and get my thoughts down. Around half way through, I’ll make a cup of tea, wake the dog, and then get back to writing.
This is my favourite 2 hours of the day. My aim is to hit a flow state. I don’t always achieve that, but I’m getting better at it.
If the writing is going well, I’ll finish around 8am. If it’s a bad day, I’ll finish writing about 7.30am. Even on a bad day, I’ll still do my 2 hour quota, although I might shift to doing some research. I’ll then walk the dog, make breakfast, and get showered.
Around 9am, I’ll open my inbox and Slack for the first time. Then at around 9.30am, I’ll start client work for the day.
The only other part of my routine is a 40 minute lunchtime walk. I walk the same loop each day. It serves as a quick break from the screen, as well as chance to clear my head and get inspired. During the walk, I typically listen to a podcast or an audiobook. Often, I’ll end up pausing what I’m listening to as my mind drifts off in thought. It’s kind of like meditation. When I get back, I’ll typically write for another 15 minutes to get any ideas I had down. I’ll then eat lunch and get back to client work.
I typically turn off my alarm on weekends, and naturally wake around 7am. I’ve considered waking at 5.30am, and sometimes do, but I usually have a few whisky’s or beers on a Friday and Saturday night which makes waking early much more difficult to do. I don’t drink on school nights (unless it was a bad day).
Things I should be doing
Apart from the productive meditation on my lunchtime walk, I haven’t found a rhythm for meditation. It’s on my list to investigate.
I usually do 10,000 steps per day by walking the dog twice a day and taking a 40 minute lunchtime walk. I also play Squash 1-2 times a week. That’s about all the exercise I currently get. Must. Do. More.
I don’t currently do any form of journaling. Darren’s write-up of his morning journaling is fantastic, and I plan to take some ideas and implement them into my own routine.