One of the many things that interest me and fascinate me is the art of productivity and all the things that surround the topic. You can take courses, classes, read books, get apps and really dive into a nearly never-ending supply of things to obsess over in this wide field. Some, I would say, go so far that they forget that they are actually supposed to be doing something productive instead of obsessing over the phenomenon of being productive itself. Many a time I consider myself to have fallen in that trap under the illusion that I would become more efficient at doing things if I only knew X, did Y or had app/device Z, which I really know better than.
What I really do believe in, on the other hand, is to create routines and establishing habits in order to remove unnecessary friction in life. One of the most interesting teachers I have met in higher education so far always used to say “routines are good”, and I would have to struggle a lot of find an error in that statement. Routines are a great way of getting rid of a good amount of everyday stress and uncertainty since they create a structure you can adhere to, regardless of what they structure might be.
I have today started creating some new habits and routines for myself, although in actuality one might say I started last night since I went to bed earlier than usual in order to kick today off in a better way. But regardless of when you might consider my experiment to have started, the wheels are in motion and I’m going to build some positive routines in order to both structure my life and improve it for the better.
First off I have decided to get up earlier in the mornings and take a walk before doing anything else. I have no scientific reason for doing this, I just feel like getting some fresh air in the morning like I did when I used to commute to my jobs in the past. Since I stopped going anywhere in particular on a daily basis I feel I have lost something important; the time of the day, alone, getting to see the world wake up and spend some time with my thoughts. The added side effect is that since I am out walking I will also get into better shape, which is something I have been meaning to do for a little while. I normally prefer to get around on two wheels, but icy roads are far from the best surfaces to go bike-riding on.
The second part of my new morning routine is to sit down and empty my mind of all the things I have come up with during my walk, if anything. Just jot it down and get it out of my head. After doing this I think it’s easier to see if any idea is something I can use during the day and perhaps write about, as I am doing with this article right now. This was one of the many thoughts I had during my walk this morning, and I decided to act on it before it got cold, so to speak.
Next, I check my todo of the day, so I know what I have to take care of during the course of the day. Knowing what I really need to do as opposed to things I would like to do makes all the difference and checking the list early tends to make it a lot easier for me to stick to the essential things.
Since I don’t want to overload myself and risk making the new routines crumble under its own weight I have chosen to limit myself to a few changes at a time and move on only when they stick and I’m comfortable with them. I don’t know if this is the absolutely best way for me to do things and only time will tell, so I leave the door open for modifications down the line. Perhaps I need to jot down thoughts before and after my walk in order to keep my thoughts in focus, or perhaps I need to drink some coffee first? I will just have find out in the near future!
And these are the sum of my routine and habit changes for the time being. As taught by Leo Babuta, I also believe it is best to make small changes and move on from there. If I were to turn my life upside-down I’m sure I would stand in the morning and not know what to do with myself, and most likely that would result in me returning to bed sooner rather than later. Perhaps I wouldn’t get up until a lot later in the morning since I had to direct action to take, as mandated by myself.
I am very cautious about creating rituals though. For me a ritual is something that is done without necessarily knowing the reasons behind it or why it needs to be done. I consider rituals to live in the realm of blind faith in whatever it might be, and as such I view them as something best avoided. For me it’s important to know the reason why something is done and performed, it’s just how I work, by knowing the background and actual functionality of whatever it might be.
One of the very first things I have observed already is that I feel a lot more focused than I have been for a little while. I snapped some nice photos while out on my walk and I got to see the area where I live waking up to a new day and a new week. It was refreshingly calm and quiet despite being in a densely populated area, normally too noisy for me to stand during daytime. All in all, I think I like my new routine already and I’ll keep working on making it a permanent habit for me. I already feel better and I look forward to obsessing over my writing, rather than productivity.