The Productivity Benefits of Routine

Elevate - Brain Training Game
The Benefits of Routine

I have three weeks remaining until the beginning of my next globetrotting journey. With much to do and not much time, I have fortunately found a productive rhythm – through the benefits of routine.

One of challenges of working and living on the road is being able to maintain a productive routine, amidst the great many more distractions, opportunities to explore local areas, and being in uncomfortable or unknown confines.

For instance, my plan is to set up a base in Cape Town for a few weeks and learn about its emerging IT and creative scenes, but I don’t know where exactly that base will be, or the ins and outs of local telecoms and Internet providers.

I’ve run my own, mostly home-based business for 15 years now. In that time I’ve experimented with a lot of different ways of doing things. Much of what I do now has come out of mistakes and lessons from the past. By now, I know what works for me, and the sort of energy I expect from those I work with.

While I subscribe to numerous philosophies and practices of The Four Hour Work Week, right now that theory is impossible, as I have a major venture to set up that requires full time hours.

Are you struggling for productivity? Try out some of these tips for a week and see if they help.

Here are my personal tips for productivity through the benefits of routine:

  • Rise at a decent hour. The earlier the start, the more productive you’ll be. Unless I have even earlier commitments, I seek to rise between 8 and 820am each morning. There is a huge difference in starting work before 9am, compared to after 9, or the almost non-factor of starting after 10. The days I’m in front of my computer before 8 are usually the most productive of them all; whereas those mildly hungover weekdays that start at 10 or 11 usually wind up in unproductive, wasted days.
  • Keep that brain active. Our brain is our greatest machine and needs regular attention, stimulation and nourishment. Part of my morning routine includes the daily playing of Michel Thomas’ Spanish audiobooks, while I eat breakfast, catch up on world news, plan my initial tasks, and begin my work for the day. Around midday I play the daily Elevate brain training game. This gives you three random daily skill challenges – reading, vocabulary, editing, mathematics (if you select this option). Your progress is charted and graphed. I’ve found I’m best at Elevate around midday, where earlier certain skills aren’t quite switched on, and later on I’m more tired and my focus is not as strong.
  • Lists are helpful. If you similarly run multiple projects, clients, personal ideas and tasks, utilizing a notebook for daily and specific task lists is a must. This is particularly helpful when things get busy, or you need to look back at dates for when certain things were discussed or accomplished.
  • Physical activity. It’s easy to be locked into a project or task at home and forget about the outside world. I recommend a daily venture outside, whether it is for a walk, a bike ride, or something sporting. Even if all your positive and focus is put into one particular thing – or consequently if you’re frustrated through something – the mere time away will divert your conscious focus and give attention to your body. You’ll find coming back refreshed and ready to refocus. I strongly believe in the power of the subconscious mind.
  • A desk or workstation aids productivity. I’ve tried working on couches, comfortable chairs with lapdesks, even on the floor, but there’s nothing quite as engaging and organised as sitting with good posture in front of a table.
  • Expand your knowledge base. Related to keeping that brain active, but a little more obvious. If you are working in a particular field, or plan to be, you should be taking every opportunity to gain as much knowledge and practical experience as possible on that topic. While perhaps brain training is better earlier or in the middle part of the day, you can read articles, tutorials and other resources over the course of the day, or save them for after work hours.
  • Maintain discipline and minimise distraction. One of the trickiest challenges of working from home, or at some offices, is how distracting other people can be. You may be tempted with lunchtime drinks, cool afternoon adventures, or just visitors who want to party. If I’m having drinks, I wait until after work hours – 4 or 5. If there are important tasks to be finished, I won’t skip out until I’ve accomplished what is needed for that day.
  • Finally… Before you check out for the day/night, write the next day’s list. I’m not sure if it’s subconscious, or being on a cerebral rhythm from that day’s work, but writing a list of to-dos after work or before you head to bed, helps with productivity for that next day. In the times I’ve waited until the morning to write a list, it often becomes lengthy and impractical, often forgetting some important things. The night before helps you get a head start on the day, so when you wake up early, your brain can be tuned in through stimulation, you can start knocking off tasks.. and the cycle continues.

On the weekends if I’m working, I’ll still sleep in a little later, and it’s generally a lot more relaxed.

Through all this I know how much work I can handle and balance during weekdays, and if my weekend is open, or there are big looming deadlines, I know I can put a few productive Saturday hours towards my tasks.

A routine is most useful, and my next mission will be how to apply a productive routine to an upcoming 6-8 months on the road. By the time I return, these efforts will have launched

Enjoy your weeks…

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