When I first began working for myself, I worked from home and my daily routine resembled that of a millionaire with more money than sense. The issue was that I was focused on exercising my new found freedom but didn’t yet have the money to maintain a routine like that. That desire to exercise my ‘freedom’ meant that I barely worked a full day. I got up late, walked the dog, played around on social media, ate lunch, and at some point before 4 p.m. I would do a few hours (maybe) of work for clients.

It only took a month for me to realize that working like this meant I was taking money out of my bank account faster than I was putting money back into it.

Routine is one of the most powerful tools for removing obstacles. Without routine, the pull of the nonessential distractions will overpower us. – Essentialism

Early or late?

You’ve likely heard that “the early bird gets the worm” as a proof that if you want to be successful you need to get up early. I fit into that easily since I’ve always been an early riser and have most of my energy in the morning.

The trouble is, not everyone is an early riser and some people simply don’t have a life that suits being productive early in the day. If I wasn’t married or my wife worked, I’d have to be much more involved in the daily morning routine at my house, which would mean I couldn’t get up early to head to work.

On a recent podcast Tim Ferris was asked about his observations after interviewing so many insanely successful people. Did they get up early or late? As far as he can tell, it’s not so much getting up early or late that’s the deciding factor in success, but rather the fact that all of these successful people had a routine that removed choices from their day.

Figuring out your routine

One of the reasons that so many people advise getting up early — in fact, what I think is the main reason — is that you’re usually the only one up. You’re not getting emails and no one is expecting to hear from you via email, text message, or carrier pigeon. With some planning you can create that same space in the middle of your day.

Using things like Right Inbox and Self-Control, you can set the expectations of people so they know you won’t be replying to email right away. You can help keep yourself off of social media when you should be concentrating on some other project.

For Mike Vardy, it’s not about being an early riser. He’s a self-professed night owl. He sets his routine by creating a theme for each day of the week.

For me it’s knowing that I only take calls on Tuesdays, I only take them in a very small window of time, and I automate all of this with Calendly. It’s knowing that the first hour of every day is time for me to write. I don’t track words, I write for an hour before I do anything else.

The big thing that these routines do is reduce the decisions we have to make in a day. We don’t come into the office and then have to decide what we’re going to do. I know that I make coffee and open Ulysses or Scrivener and start writing.

[Tweet “Routines reduce the decisions we have to make in a day.”]

With that cognitive energy preserved I have it to use on those decisions that are truly business and life shaping.

If you’re looking for some more ideas about your routines then you should read Daily Rituals.

Don’t be afraid to adjust

As I’ve already said, I’m an early riser. Given the option I’d be up at 5 a.m. and at my office by 6 a.m. ready to work for the day. That can’t always happen though, and it’s okay.

Currently, with a one-month old at our house, I stay home until 7:30 which gives my wife an extra hour of sleep and I can get breakfast on the table for my other two kids. The dog has been walked and the day is started. I may even have coffee ready for my wife. While this is not my ideal schedule, it doesn’t affect my overall productivity because I adjusted my routine to fit.

I still work out daily, but instead of 5:45 a.m. I go to the gym at 8 a.m. Then I work out for an hour and write for the first hour in the office.

Whatever works for you right now, may not work for you next week or next month. Take those interruptions in your routine in stride and plan out the new routine so that you can stay effective in your work all the time.

Use the weekly review to fit in your client work to the upcoming week. Use the daily recap to make sure that you’ve got a plan for the next day. Plan the ideal week that works for you and stick to it so you can get the maximum output for your time and run that business you want to run.

photo credit: swoofty cc