Recently one of the women inside my Female Business Academy asked me to share my daily routine, as she had been struggling to find structure in her own daily business routine. As is often the way, I wanted to take some time to contemplate my answer so as to give her the most thoughtful response possible. I know first hand what a huge difference having a meaningful structure or routine can make on your working day and because of this, I decided to write my response up as this post. In it I share how I structure my day for greater clarity, focus and meaningful productivity.
Be intentional about your day.
I’m a big fan of living and working intentionally, what that looks like for me is taking time to consider what best supports me to fulfil my personal and professional potential on a day-to-day basis and then making sure I do more of that while also considering what gets in the way of me showing up as my best self and making sure I do work to eliminate that.
One of the biggest things that has thwarted me in my personal and professional pursuits over the years, is what Jamie Smart refers to as contaminated thinking, those niggling and repetitive worries, doubts and internal criticisms that stop us from fully showing up as our authentic and uncensored selves.
You know how it goes. “I can’t publish a blog because people might think it’s rubbish.” Or “who am I to call myself a business coach when I’m still figuring things out myself.” Or “I’ll never be successful at this, I should go and get a 9-5 job with a regular income.”
We all have thoughts like these a hundred times a day, including me, and when left unchecked, they reek havoc on our ability to show up in our businesses to do what we feel we’ve been put on this earth to do and to fully serve our people, using the full potency of our personal gifts.
To combat this I realised many years ago that if I didn’t get intentional about my day, then I was leaving myself at the mercy of, not only, my doubts and fears, but also my circumstances and a multitude of possible interruptions and distractions.
What has served me in my business, therefore, has been to intentionally create a daily routine that supports me to quieten the noise in my mind and to put in place structures that most support my focus and productivity.
Spending the first moments of my day mindfully
Each morning before I do anything else (sometimes after or as I eat breakfast and drink coffee) I write 750 words for my Morning Pages. Morning pages is what Julia Cameron (Author of the Artist’s Way) describes as a clearing exercise. Watch this video to hear her describe how they work.
And she has this to say about them:
“The bedrock tool of a creative recovery is a daily practice called Morning Pages. Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*–they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.”
I don’t do 3 pages of long hand as she advocates, instead I type into a document (on Scrivener) 750 words, which is the accepted online equivalent of Cameron’s three pages.
In my morning pages I write everything and anything that comes to mind and I use it as a way to get all of my thinking, worries and overwhelm out of my head and onto the page. I sometimes use it to explore my priorities for the day or a topic for a blog post or an outline for a class I’m teaching. But it’s not all business, I’ll also write about my family life, my relationship, my little boy (and usually how little sleep we got the night before with him!)
After that, I check in with myself about what I feel grateful for and what I would like to call more of into my life and I write it on a piece of paper which I place on my altar, I then burn some incense and light a candle before meditating for around 15 minutes. To meditate I use an app called Calm, which I love, and listen to one of the guided meditations I find there. Currently I’m working my way through “21 days of Calm.”
I prioritise my tasks for the day
After that, if I haven’t already, I’ll eat breakfast and make coffee and once I’m at my desk I’ll open my notebook, write out the date at the top of a new page and write out the three most important things I need to get done that day. (Or use the Daily Planner below for a prettier way to record these).
I resist the urge to write out a long to do list, because this only ever serves to overwhelm me. Instead, I choose an achievable number of tasks. Even on our busiest days we can usually get through three things.
Getting through those 3 things easily and swiftly has the added benefit of giving me a psychological boost which in turn does wonders for my productivity. Conversely having a never ending to do list has the opposite effect and can leave you feeling like you are always playing catch up.
I schedule my tasks (and breaks) into my calendar
Once I’ve got my list of three things, I’ll either schedule them into my calendar or write down timings next to each task so that I know, not only how long I have to work on each task, but when exactly I’ll do the task that day.
Normally I don’t need to do this, but if I’m really struggling to focus, I might set a timer for 90 minutes and set myself the challenge to complete a task in that time. Forbidding myself to open the Internet until I do. If I’m using this time-chunking method, I always make sure I schedule breaks of at least 15 minutes between tasks, enough time to go to the toilet, grab a hot drink and take a break from the screen by relaxing on our balcony with whichever book I’m currently reading. (To see what book that is as I write this post, click here).
If I get through all three tasks and there is still time in my day, then I’ll simply go on to the next most important thing I need to do.
A productivity tool that I’ve recently discovered that I’m enjoying a lot is Focusmate. Focusmate is a virtual co-working tool that allows you to have quiet co-working sessions with people from around the world. You start a 50 minute session by sharing briefly what your goal for the session is and then you get down to work with your camera on so that you can see each other. When the 50 minutes is up you briefly share how you got on and then go on your way. Having someone there on screen really helps with productivity as it stops you from getting distracted and wandering off to do something else and sharing your goal at the start of the session really fires me up to try and get it done. It might sound a bit weird but it’s actually quite cool.
I have set working hours
I usually start my morning routine (Morning Pages + meditation) around 8am after my husband has left to go to work, dropping our little one of at nursery on the way. My goal is always to be at my desk by 9am. I then work until 12.30pm when I break for lunch until 3pm when my husband and son head off to nursery and work again and I have a second chunk of work time until around 6.30pm. That’s a solid 7 hours a day on my business.
I’ve been doing this routine (or something very like it) for a few years now and it really works for me. Whilst I am fairly consistent with this schedule, there are days when I skip one or more parts of it and there are days when I add exercise to my morning routine. This is something I used to be very consistent with (you can read my old routine here) and then I had a baby. Now that he’s a bit older and in nursery, I’m working to bring that back into my day.
For some people this level of structure might feel restrictive but for me it’s liberating. One concept I’ve embraced that stops my routine feeling constrictive is the idea of being strict about showing up but being lenient about the results. George Kao has a great post on this idea which you can read here.
Showing up consistently has worked wonders for me in my business but I’m also always mindful not to be hard on myself if I skip a day here or there. The more able I am to forgive myself for skipping a part of my routine, the more able I am to do better the next day.
I’d love to know what’s in your daily routine or if there is anything I’ve written about here that you feel inspired to try for yourself. Please do share in the comments below and if you know anyone who would benefit from reading this post, then feel free to share it. Finally don’t forget to download your free daily planner by clicking the link below.
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