The small habits and routines that you perform consistently add up to have a material impact on your life.
Here are some suggestions for building an effective daily routine. We've broken it down into a night time ritual, morning ritual and how to organise your day.
Night time ritual
A productive day starts begins with a good nights sleep. Your nighttime routine should optimise for your quality of sleep. Your mind continues to process information while you sleep, so you can use this processing power for solving your most important problems.
- Consider how many hours sleep you need for maximum performance (most people need 7-8hrs).
- Go to bed at a time that ensures you get the optimal number of hours sleep.
- Stop watching screens for a suitable period before going to bed, and/or use flux to dim the screen brightness.
- If eating close to bedtime or drinking caffeinated drinks in the afternoon makes it harder for you to go to sleep, avoid it.
- Keep track of your sleep quality (there are a number of apps you can use for this) so you can work out the activities you should/shouldn't be doing close to bedtime.
- Some people like to journal at night time to close off the day and get thoughts out of their head and onto paper. It can be useful to write down what you've accomplished during the day and what needs to be done the following day, as well as reflecting on how productive you were and what could be improved tomorrow. Spending some time at the end of the day to define and reflect on the problems that are most important can help to set up your brain to process these problems while you're sleeping.
The purpose of a morning ritual is to get you into the energy state to make the most out of your day. Everyone's morning ritual is different, but here are some well-known tips for getting the most out of your morning routine:
- Wake up at the same time every day. Your body follows a circadian rhythm that relies on consistency so pick a time that you can stick to. It doesn't have to be early (5 or 6 am) if that is unmanageable. People tend to get up that early so they can knock off a morning routine before they have to be somewhere (e.g. in the workspace). But that might not necessarily be the case for you. You can read more about the importance of waking up at the same time every day here.
- Develop a morning routine/ritual that gets you into a good state of mind. What this is will depend on your needs, your ideal state for maximising productivity, and how you build energy levels. Consider including something in the four dimensions of energy (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual). Activities many people find useful are:
- Exercise (physical energy)
- Meditation and/or journalling (emotional, mental, spiritual energy)
- Visualisation (Emotional)
- Drinking water and eating a healthy breakfast (physical energy)
- Reading a book, listening or watching something that is inspiring or informative (mental and emotional energy).
- Do any activities that help you to take control of your day, e.g. planning the day (deciding on the tasks that need to be done), and/or knocking off some tasks that occupy your mind or will set you up to be most productive (e.g. necessary emails, or communication with the team).
Organising your day
Here are some strategies to consider to help you optimise your productivity during the day:
- Manage energy, not time - be conscious of how productive you are and do what's necessary to get you into the most productive state (activities to increase energy levels). You can read more about how to do this in the Harvard Business Review, Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time article.
- Optimise your schedule based on your energy levels and the work you are required to do. For example, if you require periods of deep focus, allocate this work to the time when you are most focused (e.g. in the morning). If you need to have a lot of meetings, allocate this to the time when you are not so focused (e.g. the afternoon). If you are having to build a product and be a 'manager' (i.e. meet with people), which is the case for most founders, check out Paul Graham's Essay on the Makers Schedule, Managers Schedule.
- Have a plan for the day, so you know what you're working on and when. When you have a plan, your subconscious can start preparing you for the next task ahead of time which minimised downtime between tasks. It also helps to create more certainty in your day.
- Work in 60min or 90min intervals, with a break in between. You can read more about why this is important in this HBR article -- For Real Productivity, Less is Truly More
- Have a system or process for managing emails and your calendar booking so it's not constantly on your mind. Come up with what works best for you. There's some handy software out there to help (google it).
- Track your work so you know where there are inefficiencies - Toggl is a good free tool
The Compound Effect
The Compound Effect is the principle of reaping big rewards from a series of small, smart choices.
Approach building habits and rituals with this in mind. Focus on adding/changing one habit one week, then once you're doing it consistently add/change another. It's hard to completely flip your life around in a matter of weeks, and you'll only set yourself up for failure if you try.
It's also important to reflect on how far you've come, so you appreciate the impact those small changes are making.