When I read the article on getting down to essentials, my mind wandered on to what I would consider my essential tools to productivity. There were three that stood out, and I will talk about each over the rest of the week. My best productivity tool is written routines.
What Are Written Routines?
Written routines are the things you do day in, day out…but written down. For me, I have separate lists of things that need to be done before we leave the house in the morning, things to do in the interval between work and dinner, and after dinner lists. I also have lists of tasks to tackle in each room in the house on a rotating basis.
Why Are Routines Important?
Routines can be very freeing. People often say that routines are too confining, but the truth is that routines become ingrained as habit, and things magically get done without much mental effort. The beauty of writing them down is that someone else can step in and quickly get up to speed. For instance, a few years ago my partner had an emergency appendectomy. One of my close friends volunteered to come over and watch my then-15-month-old child. I was able to hand her a list of things that needed to be done to do in order to get the child in bed without disrupting my daughter’s routines.
Routines can also be a lifesaver in crisis mode. While I was dealing with the hospital on the same occasion, I was unable to think clearly, but with those lists to keep me going, I still managed to keep everything going (albeit at a lessened level). I was able to let the lists tell me what I needed to do at a time when I couldn’t think straight.
How Do I Use Written Routines?
I use my routines every day, but unless I am under some sort of duress, I don’t actually look at the lists. However, if I decide I want to start doing something daily, I will add it to the list and go back to looking at the list until the new item becomes habit. I applied this successfully when we acquired a dog, and I wanted to start walking. I combined walking the dog into my after-work routine and was able to start a good walking program.
I also use those lists to keep me going on housework. I spend 15 minutes a day doing cleaning in a room. This keeps me from having to do massive cleaning sessions twice a year, and because I clean often, there is little effort involved. These lists allow me to keep track of where I left off and what needs to be done.
Getting Starting With Routines
To start with routines, figure out what you do first thing in the morning or last thing at night (pick only one!). Write all the steps down. Don’t skip any because you think you’ll remember them. My starter list includes the following:
- Look at calendar to see if there is anything coming that will affect clothing (appointments, etc)
- Pull my clothes out and hang them in the bathroom
- Pack my briefcase
- Pack lunches
- Make coffee for tomorrow morning
- Litterbox patrol
- Feed the critters
Each of these items gives me a leg up on the next day. If I am sick, my partner can step in and pack lunches, make coffee and take care of the critters, simple by my handing him the list.
Routines are the bottom of my productivity tools. They help me keep on track with the mundane details of life so that I can focus on my projects. They provide a method to communicate with others, and have, at times, kept me functioning. I recommend that you try them and see if they will help you out!
Articles in this Series:
- Essentials to Productivity
- Top Essential Tools #1: Written Routines
- Top Essential Tools #2: Timers
- Top Essential Tools #3: Distraction Blockers