Routine: The Secret Weapon to Productivity

English: Gentaur schedule

English: Gentaur schedule (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Routine. It is often associated with boring, mundane, and undesirable tasks, but as a self-employed writer I’ve found “routine” to be a very necessary part of my life. When I stick to a routine (granted, my routine is rather relaxed and has subtle variations from day to day), I am more productive. And I’m not alone. According to the SBA community blog, “carefully managing and planning your time is critical to staying on track, keeping clients happy and reducing your stress.” It sounds like common sense, but how many of us bypass this important step to running our businesses? Here are a few things to consider when planning out your work routine.

All routines are not created equal. To get started down the path to scheduling your workday, is to ask yourself, “What kind of routine do I need?” The trick to sticking to a routine is having a routine that works for you. Some people work well with a very structured routine that accounts for every minute of the workday. Others feel stifled by such a rigid schedule and prefer a routine that fluctuates with their moods and project needs. You first must determine what kind of routine works for you.

Morebusiness.com suggests establishing a regular work schedule. Your work hours may not be the typical 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, or they may be more unconventional. I find my workday is broken up into segments. I rarely get more than a few hours of uninterrupted work time in a day. My work schedule is made up of an hour or two before lunch, a few hours after lunch, and two or three hours in the evening. However, this can change depending on what is going on with my family. Which brings me to my next point.

Don’t consider your routine or schedule set it stone. Start with a basic routine and tweak it over time. The schedule you use today may not work for you in a month or two simply because life is always changing. Be prepared to change your routine accordingly. You also have to consider what is going on in your business/life from day to day. Your Monday routine may look very different from your Wednesday routine. That’s OK. The routine should work for you, not the other way around.

Another helpful tip to making your routine work is to eliminate the unnecessary. Jane Porter of Entrepreneur.com gives a list of “9 Routine Tasks You Should Eliminate from Your Workday,” including open-ended meetings, eating lunch at your desk, and making piles of papers on your desk. You may not have trouble with some of the tasks on her list, but the article is well worth the time of any small business owner.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the routine box. In an article for Hotfrog.com, Lisa Murray emphasizes the importance of keeping routine creative. She says, “it’s not just any old routine that needs to become a habit… creative routines create the space and connections which allow magic to unfold in all sorts of unexpected ways.” Even not-so-creative people can benefit from a little magic unfolding in their day. Being creative in your routine can open you up to some creative problem solving in other areas.

Create routine within your routine. Morebusiness.com suggests starting and ending your work time the same way. That may be as simple as having a cup of coffee or putting away files. I try to start my work sessions by checking my email. I also clean my office after finishing a big project. It is a simple way to refresh my mind and move on to the next task. Also, don’t forget to schedule in breaks within your routine to avoid burnout.

Whatever your routine preferences or scheduling habits may be, simply having a plan can help you feel more in control of your business. Routine can be “boring,” but it also can help you stay organized and reduce stress. I, for one, can use all the help I can get in those areas.  Good luck and start scheduling!

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