“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” -Aristotle
I frequently hear the same nugget of time-management advice repeated over and over, that we should all set a daily schedule and stick to it. But for many of us, especially those blessed with the creative gene, that is a task much easier said than done.
So being a creative mind myself, but also unusually obsessed with schedules and systems, I thought I’d offer my advice on how you can set a daily routine that works for YOU, and then actually stick to it!
The bottom line that you need to start teaching yourself is that if you want something to get done, you need to schedule it. Somehow, somewhere, in some format – if it isn’t scheduled, it isn’t real. However works best for you, you need to have time set aside to complete that task, or it will not get done. And if you’re finding that you don’t really want to schedule time to do it, then it’s probably not something you actually want to do. So be honest and use your schedule as a reality check for yourself. You can share it with someone else you trust too, so they can help hold you accountable!
Now the hard part, how to create that daily routine that works for YOU?
One popular method advocated by many I admire is to set a daily timetable, with non-negotiable windows of time for each set of activities or tasks you need to complete in your day.
For example, mine looks something like this:
8am-9am: Wake Up, Stretch & Light Breakfast
9am-11am: Workout, Shower & Dress
11am-1pm: Outline Day’s Agenda & Clear Email Inbox
1pm-2pm: Lunch Break
2pm-4pm: Work Time
4pm-5pm: Mid-Day Break
5pm-7pm: Work Time & Day’s Wrap-up
8pm-10pm: Quality Time with Family & Friends
10pm-12am: Read, Relax & Regroup
This is just one example of how you could schedule out your day. The point is to consider these times non-negotiable, so you will actually stick to them. And if you ever absolutely HAVE to skip one of your scheduled windows (i.e. if an emergency comes up), my rule is that I will never delete that time window — I can only move it to another time when I can get it done. That way, I always complete everything I’ve committed to doing in my daily routine, even when it requires a little flexibility.
Also make sure some of these time windows are specifically for non-reactionary work, so you can be fully productive during those times. And remember, if you do choose this method, the key to success is to edit this to fit YOUR lifestyle! Your daily routine can look however you want it to, so that it works best for YOU and how you naturally operate.
Some people might find the daily timetable to be a bit too restricting, and would prefer a formula that still embodies the same idea of breaking down the time you spend on different activities, but with more day-to-day flexibility. So I came up with what I call my Priority Percentage breakdown. Basically, I take a full 24 hr day, or 168 hr week, and breakdown how much of that I will spend on each activity based on my priorities.
For example, my Priority % breakdown looks like this:
Sleep: 8 hrs/day — 56 hrs/wk — 34%
Work (Film & Other): 6 hrs/day — 42 hrs/wk — 25%
Meals: 3 hrs/day — 21 hrs/wk — 13%
Exercise & Training: 2 hrs/day — 14 hrs/wk — 8%
Relationships: 2 hrs/day — 14 hrs/wk — 8%
Reading, Writing & Self: 2 hrs/day — 14 hrs/wk — 8%
Relaxing & Fun: 1 hrs/day — 7 hrs/wk — 4%
This can provide a more flexible way of committing to a daily routine, without the guilt you might get from slipping up on a more rigid timetable schedule. I keep my breakdown handy at all times, so if I start to feel unproductive or uncertain what to do, I can check in on that and align myself with what most needs my attention.
I recommend this avenue for someone who is perhaps better at staying on task on their own, without the strict guidelines of a daily schedule. So if you are already a strong self-starter, but just need help keeping in mind what your priorities are and how to best allocate your time based on them, then this would be a good solution for you.
OK now you’ve got 2 solid solutions for creating and sticking to your own unique daily routine. Whichever method you use, one of the above or something else, remember that the key to sticking to it is making it fit with how you already naturally think and tick. If you find it doesn’t suit you, make adjustments and keep trying until you find the right formula for YOU.
And as always, feel free to leave comments or questions below, and I’ll be happy to help you navigate whatever Chaos is holding you back.