sometimes can be two different things.” – former United States Senator Byron Dorgan
…So over the past few months I have more or less fallen into a weekday routine that works very, very well for me: Every night before bed I write a structured list of things I’m going to accomplish the following day; I go to bed at some point between 9 pm and 10 pm; I wake up every morning around 5:15 am; I review my to-do list first thing; I then spend an hour or so perusing my social media feeds for interesting articles to read; when a piece I’m reading compels me, I write a few thoughts about it; provided I finish my reading and writing by 6:15ish I go for a quick (15-20 minute) run. Otherwise, I get ready for work after I’m finished writing; I head out for work between 7:00 am and 7:15 am; I play with the idea(s) I read and wrote about on the way to work; I accomplish everything on my to-do list I can between 7:30 am and 5:00-6:00 pm; I get home at some point between 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm; I do work on my chosen learning and development subject for the day (using pomodoros to keep me focused) from the time I arrive home until 10:00 pm; I write my to-do list for the next day. Rinse. Repeat.
…If you read the above paragraph in its entirety, you’ll notice that the hours between 5:15 and 7:00 am, and 5:30-6:30 pm to 10:00 pm are pretty rigidly defined – they happen more or less the same way every day. The rest of the day is more fluid; governed by the to-do list I constructed the evening before and (at times unpredictable) ebbs and flows of life. I can’t control much of what happens during the lion’s share of the day, but the first couple hours at the beginning of the day and the last few hours at the end bring my life into balance. When I’m able to keep those constant, the rest of the day has a way of falling into place.
With that said, last week I was unable to hold those times constant. A combination of unique challenges at work (which compelled me to come in much earlier) and obligations in the evenings (that kept me out much later) brought me out of my rituals into what at times felt like a week of chaos.
Looking back, during the extra hours I spent at work I don’t think I was anymore effective than I would have been if I’d simply made the work wait for me and stuck to my more structured days. I’d even go so far as to say in some cases working the extra hours did more harm than good; they certainly made this past weekend less productive, as I slept later into the day and was slower to get started on my goals once I woke up.
All in all? I should have made the adjustments I needed to make to keep my life in rhythm as opposed to throwing it out of rhythm in a misguided effort to be more productive.
…So as we get started this week, I would encourage you to find your rhythm and stick to it. There are things that will absolutely *compel* you to break with it occasionally; this is part of life, and when it happens there is nothing to be done about it. *But* once you find a good rhythm, I would encourage you to make sure that there is a *truly* compelling reason for you to break with it before you do. Because you will be better off over the long run giving 100% of your best effort over a shorter period of time than something discernibly less over a longer period. It’s just a smarter way to work.
This is field tested, so I don’t think I have this wrong. But as always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.