One of the things my dad advised when I left to US for grad school (about two and half decades back) was making a schedule or routine and sticking to a routine on a day-to-day basis.
One of the many challenges of Covid was the disruption of routine. As creatures of habit, we all had routines around going to work and the activities of our personal lives. These routines were dramatically changed and constrained. Suddenly most of us were working from home and establishing new routines by necessity. Some put their routines on hold hoping that things would soon return to a semblance of normal.
I quickly realized that I needed to adapt to the new constraints and develop a daily agenda that would best serve me and the results I wanted to achieve. I saw the challenge then (and now) to make the most of every day regardless of circumstance.
So I revisited and nenewed my current schedule.
A good schedule creates good results and vice versa. Knowing high payoff activities and doing them consistently is key to effectiveness. Rather than leave their day to chance leaders are strategic. And with an increase in remote work, a schedule is even more important.
Here are the ingredients of my schedule:
Rest. A majority of us don’t get enough sleep. Given the increased time we have at home, there’s no reason not to catch up and start getting the sleep we need. Sleep deprivation can lead to decision making that is impaired to the equivalent of moderate intoxication. A quick review of research shows how sleep is central to attitude, mental and physical help, obesity etc.
Starting Early. Getting your day off to a good start is important. For me that includes walk, study, prayer and reflection. I like to rise early so I can do those things without rush (right now I’m editing this article at 5:15 a.m.). The point isn’t how early you start your day but to begin purposefully and peacefully. This will equip you to hand the challenges that you will inevitably face later.
Problems. Some will come to you but others are already on your agenda. Prioritize the most important problems to address. Trying to solve every problem at once usually makes you ineffectual. A good challenge is to ask yourself, “How can I change this problem into an opportunity?” The difference between a problem and an opportunity are often perspective and ingenuity.
Projects. These are the important things you choose to do to move you closer to your goals. Don’t confuse activity with accomplishment. You can get lots of little things done and still not be doing important work. Projects are the building blocks of your business’s and your life’s success.
Relationships. Which need renewed, repaired or raised to the next level? Think in terms of the important people in your business and life like you think in terms of important projects. Before Covid-19, many relationships were addressed in the time we had left over rather than intentionally. When the pace of life slowed, we had time to invest in deepening and strengthening relationships.
Hobbies. All work and no play doesn’t make Jack dull, it makes Jack fatigued and unhealthy. What things that you enjoy and refresh you that you can do for some period of time each day to provide you a much needed respite? I hear leaders say they don’t have interests outside of their work. If you find yourself in that category, consider the benefits of curiosity and wonder, of learning new skills and widening your interests. Not only will it be rewarding, it will almost certainly benefit your work life.
Rejuvenation. What do you do the end each day as well as you began it? One classic technique from positive psychology is to identify three good things that happened during the day. Another is to simply ask yourself, “What is the most important thing I accomplished today?” I keep a note pad next to my bed to record insights that come to me in the time before I sleep. Ultimately, gratefulness and reflection are a positive ending to the day.
The next day? Simply repeat your routine.
You might notice I left out interruptions (which will inevitably occur). You don’t have to design them into your day. They will happen naturally and regularly so you might want to include some margin to deal with the important ones as they occur.
These are my ingredients. You may add or subtract for your renewed routine. But now is a good time to re-examine and renew your routine to make the most out of every day you are given. You can’t put more time into your life, but you can put more life into your time.