I gained some inspiration for this post today from a book called Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Mind by 99U and Jocelyn K. Glei. One thing that really struck me as I was reading, was the importance of having a daily routine to keep you consistent and able to persist. Instead of waiting around for inspiration, it’s far better to build a framework for it to come to.
In the book, routines used by creative visionaries like the writer, Steven King, and a couple others were shared. I noticed that they all put their creative work (translate that to us working on our DMPs), first on their schedule for the day. Routines help you to stay on course and not give up in the face of the world’s demands–they flat-out work.
Like most of you, I use the MKE app as an integral part of my daily routine. Did I read the scroll in the morning? Right there, even the app is helping me to get to my DMP first thing. Checking off a task in my app is such a happy moment for me, and not completing a day’s task would probably… I don’t even want to go there!
Another point made in the book was that it’s an uncomfortable feeling to have other people waiting on you for things… replies to emails, completion of projects, voicemails, (Marco Polos!). But the daily demands on our time never end and if you use your most productive work time to clear the decks, often there is no energy or time left to move your DMP forward. This goes against the expectations of other people who want you to prioritize their needs, but isn’t it better to “…disappoint a few people over small things, than to surrender your dreams for an empty inbox”? I had to include that quote for the blue in us, that likes to help others, regardless of the personal cost. By not putting in the time needed to manifest our DMPs, we’re likely hurting people more by not providing that unique service to the world that only we can give.
So, yes, that all sounds great, but how do we actually do this in the real world? Fortunately, five building blocks of a great daily routine were shared! Here you go:
- First, pay attention to the rhythm of your energy levels. Most of us know when we do our best work, early in the day, or maybe late at night if we’re a night owl. If you aren’t sure, I highly recommend reading Daniel H. Pink’s book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. I started reading this book right before starting MKE, so only read the first third, but it was amazing! In fact, I created a 4-page summary of the first section because it was just that helpful. (I’m moving my blog to its own domain for the upcoming contest, and I’ll include that summary on there for you! It’s close to finished but needs a teensy bit more polish before I make it public!)
- Use triggers–the good kind! These have the opposite result of getting your buttons pushed! 😉 Grab a cup of tea right before you work, sit in the same place, at the same time, (sounds like a sit!), play the same background music, put out the tools you need (workout clothes the night before, paintbrush, etc.)… the more things you can control in this way, the more you’re putting your subby on notice/conditioning it that this is the time to make things happen for your DMP!
- Take control of to-do list creep. I love this one! The author recommends putting your task list on one 3×3 post-it note ’cause if you can’t fit everything you need to do on something that size, how are you going to fit it all into one day?! This forces you to work on the most important tasks, and keeps your motivation up since your chances of completing everything skyrocket!
- Keep track of every commitment. If you’ve put everything you have committed to on your calendar, you’ll be more efficient because you can easily see whether you actually have time for something else, or not. Doing this also gives you peace of mind, allowing you to focus on your DMP without distraction. You’ll know you’ve captured all the requests on your time, and won’t need to worry that you’ve forgotten something.
- Establish hard boundaries in your day. Even if you work alone, have a defined start and finish time for your day. And you’ll learn about the critical importance of breaks if you read When, the book recommended in the first suggestion, above. It’s a good idea to further subdivide your day into creative work on your DMP, meetings, email, social media posting, sleep, meals etc. These boundaries prevent tasks from leaking into time that has been set aside for other activities, and helps you avoid becoming a workaholic, which isn’t pretty, isn’t efficient, and can even be downright dangerous–not only to yourself but to others.
I stopped pulling all-nighters when I turned 30 (haha! the recovery-time for my body just wasn’t worth it!)–and for an entirely different reason after reading studies and research like this, from the National Sleep Foundation’s website:
Being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive like you have a blood alcohol level of .05 (for reference, .08 is considered drunk). If you’ve been awake for a full 24 hours and drive—say, after a night where you just couldn’t fall asleep—it’s like you have a blood alcohol level of .10.
Even the Mythbusters agree that driving tired is equal to driving impaired. So if you wouldn’t drink and drive–don’t drive tired either. Sorry if I seem to be going on about this–as a child I was in a truck with a grandparent who fell asleep while driving, and while no one was hurt, it left quite an impression on me!
So back to the main topic of how a routine can help you be more persistent! An effective routine is going to be different for every one of us, but the results you’ll experience by taking the time to figure this out for yourself, and then sticking to it, will give you an incredible foundation upon which to do your best work, i.e. manifest your DMP! So experiment with the building blocks above, and you’ll know you’ve got it right when your daily tasks transform into a creative ritual instead of just the same old boring routine. Happy persisting!