Small things done consistently can add up to big things in the long run. As I’ve transitioned to working 100% from home, I’ve been considering the small things I can add to my day to put my life and work on a more healthy trajectory. Like most folks, I have no trouble developing bad habits. However, I have found with a little bit of motivation and early positive results, developing better habits isn’t as hard as I thought it would be.
For the last few weeks, I have been working to implement a morning, workday startup & shutdown, and evening ritual. The days I’ve complete these routines have been far better and more productive than the days I haven’t done them all.
The following routines, detailed in the order they are performed, are the ones I have been working to follow each workday. The daily shutdown ritual has served me particularly well as it often sets me up for success the following day. For this reason, I recommend developing that habit first.
- Wake up at 6am
- Drink a glass of water
- Make a cup of coffee (5 min.)
- Meditate (30 min.)
I like quiet mornings, for this reason I try to take some time before I take on the day to sit and be still.
Note: there are some “dad duties” I have not detailed here, but know I often include my young daughter in my morning and evening rituals.
Workday Startup Ritual
- Learn something new (60 min.)
- Eat a frog: complete one of the three must-do tasks for the day (60 min.)
- Process email and task inboxes to zero (30 min.)
The better you get, the better you gotta get. I desire to be a lifelong learner, but as I’ve gotten older, I haven’t taken the time to proactively learn new things. I’m working to set aside time each day to learn something new that can help me improve my craft and professional pursuits.
Also, for many years, my day would start by diving right into my email, which often derailed my plans as I got distracted by unimportant but urgent asks and tasks. The results? I struggled to move my important goals forward during the time of the day when my energy level is highest. For this reason, I’m now checking my email after I complete one of my must-do tasks.
Workday Shutdown Ritual
- Go for a walk (70 min.)
- Finish work by 4pm
- Process inboxes (e.g. email, Slack, unprocessed tasks, paper mail, receipts etc.) to zero (30 min.)
- Process notes and create tasks as appropriate (15 min.)
- Ensure each of my projects has a next action (5 min.)
- Review calendar and task list and ratify three, must-do tasks to complete the following day (10 min.)
I have been trying to walk every day for at least an hour. I typically go for a walk after my workday startup ritual and before my workday shutdown ritual. Which means, I typically go for a walk around 11am or 1pm.
I end my day by cleaning up and processing all of my “in trays” and planning the following day. I have found this practice to help keep my systems current and to reduce the amount of “residue” carried into the evening hours from a demanding workday.
- Clean the dishes & straighten up the house (30 min.)
- Watch no more than 1 hour of TV
- Leave a glass of water out on my desk for the following day
- Read a book for leisure or work on a hobby (at least 60 min.)
- Go to bed by 10pm
The biggest change I have made to how I spend time in the evening is reducing the amount of TV consumption. I have replaced this time with reading and working on other, non-computer related, hobbies.
I am a night owl but I have determined to start going to bed by 10am. This simple change has improved my energy levels during the day and has been a boon to my focus, particularly in the morning.
Hopefully these rituals are of some help and inspiration to you. They have helped me live a healthier existence and achieve a fair number of personal and professional goals.