Over the past few months, I’ve been slowly but surely trying to make small improvements to my daily routine. To brainstorm these improvements, each time I’ve noticed a flaw or an inconvenience in my day, I’ve made a note in my phone and actively tried to come up with a solution. Some solutions have worked, some started to work but didn’t stick, and some I’ve been too lazy to actually follow through and properly test. This is an ongoing project, but I have definitely enjoyed experimenting with new habits and routines. Hopefully this post will encourage you to do the same.
Here are a few ideas you can test:
Daily Routine Changes
Try the 5 Minute Journal
The Five Minute Journal is a daily journaling routine that is meant to make you more mindful, happy and productive. Every morning and every night, you write in the Five Minute Journal to help reflect on the positive aspects of your day and draw attention to thing you are grateful for.
I’ve used the Journal off and on for a few weeks. It is a great idea in theory, but I’ve found it hard to maintain as I’m travelling a lot on weekends. I also find answering the same questions every day to be quite repetitive and I ended up not valuing the exercise. That being said, Chad has had great success keeping up the routine and he swears by the Journal.
Feel free to check out FiveMinuteJournal.com to see what you think.
It’s no secret that hydration is hugely important for your health. I’m still a work in progress here, but I’ve done a few things that have been helpful:
- Wake up in the morning – drink a full glass of water
- Every time you feel thirsty, make sure to not let it pass. Get a drink!
- Always make sure to bring a water bottle when playing sports, and try to drink at least 1 full bottle prior to the game/event.
These are small ideas but they have definitely helped me stay better hydrated.
Leave Visual Cues to Make Sure You Eat Breakfast
If you’re like me, you usually wake up too late and don’t prioritize breakfast. Breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day, and you should try to remind yourself of that.
This idea is simple: to remind yourself to eat before going to work, leave a few key items out on your dining table before you go to bed – bowl, spoon, cup, and maybe a cereal box. When you see those in the morning, you almost feel guilty not using them, so you’ll prioritize getting a meal in!
Shut Off Social at 10:30pm
Let’s face it – there’s never a need to be surfing Instagram or reading Buzzfeed past 10:30pm. Be ruthless with yourself here. When you find your brain melting from mindlessly scrolling Facebook, make a point to shut off your phone and GET SOME SLEEP.
Use A Daily Alarm to Prioritize Sleep
Again, if you’re like me, you don’t go to bed early enough and you end up tired at work the next morning. Here’s an idea: set a daily alarm that goes off at ~11pm (or 15-20 minutes before your desired bedtime). It’s helpful to have a consistent daily cue to help you remember to shut down the engines.
Listen to Calming Music Before Bed
If you can find music or peaceful sounds that help put you to bed, I’d recommend making this part of your routine. One app that I’ve been using is Noizio – you can set a timer and customize the sounds to your liking.
Set Up Speakers in a Central Spot
Whether you are playing calming music before bed, or listening to an audiobook in the morning, I’ve found it very helpful to make sure that I have my speakers in a central spot in my apartment. If it’s dead simple to plug your phone in and start listening, you’ll find it easier to make these things part of your routine.
Optimize the Layout of Your Apartment
We all have a few things that bother us about our living quarters. Here’s a quick solution: pony up and make a change! Clean up, rearrange, throw things out – make a few changes that you’ve been putting off. It will be worth it.
Add Workouts and Exercise to Your Calendar
For many people, it’s hard to make time for exercise. If you have a hard time getting yourself to the gym or out to play sports, I highly recommend calendaring your activities and setting notifications to go off 1-2 hours before the event. I live off of my calendar, so if something is in there, chances are I’m going to make it happen.
Leverage Subscriptions & Services to Automate Tedious Tasks
It’s a beautiful thing to live in an age where you can order specialized services on demand. From dry cleaning to scheduling meetings to buying razors, there is almost nothing that you can’t automate or outsource. Here are a few of the services I’ve used or heard good things about:
- Shaving: Dollar Shave Club or Harry’s
- Maids & Dry Cleaning: Handy or Gata Hub
- Virtual Assistants: x.ai or Fancyhands
These are all great, but my favourite automation is groceries.
Living in the downtown core is tough. It’s a pain to go to overpriced grocery stores – you have to lug heavy groceries to your apartment and often, those groceries aren’t all that fresh.
For busy young professionals who tend to find themselves going on streaks of eating out and delaying grocery shopping, I have one word: automate. Get your groceries delivered to your door with a service like Grocery Gateway. It’s been a huge help for me (thanks Taylor for the tip). You can pre-set your grocery lists and order from web or their mobile app, plus the produce is great and if you buy from their weekly specials, you will end up making back the $10 delivery charge in savings:
Breathing Exercises and Morning Pushups
These are two things that I wish I did every day. I’m still trying to find the best way to work them into my routine, but I feel like doing 50 pushups and/or 5 minutes of slow, relaxing breathing exercises every morning would really boost my energy and help me feel centered before heading to work. For those who can’t see themselves going to the gym every morning, I think this is a happy medium – all you need is a floor for pushups, and a set of lungs to breathe 🙂
Re-arrange Your Apps to Remind Yourself of Priorities
This is one that has worked very effectively for me. Most of the actions we perform on our phones are habitual and mindless, and we often spending too much time in apps that don’t actually add any value to our day.
I’ve been actively trying to read more books and do less work on my phone, so I made the small change of swapping the location of my Gmail and Audible apps. Now the Audible app lives on the bottom bar of my phone and follows me across pages. It is also in the location where my brain thinks my Gmail should be, so I end up opening Audible more and reminding myself to listen to Audiobooks.
Use Apps to Help Hack Your Productivity
I haven’t actually tried these apps yet, but I’d like to. The first is called Peak Brain Training, which encourages you to take on different brain teasers to help you think creatively and keep your mind sharp. The second is called FreakyAlarm, which tries to help people who fall into the habit of always hitting the “Snooze” button. It’s an alarm clock app that will only turn the alarm off after you’ve solved a challenging puzzle. I really like this idea – hopefully it can help me break through my habitual “Snoozing”.
Reading & Writing
Leave a Book Next to Your Bed
Do this. Always. I’ve forced myself to read every night before bed for the past two weeks and it has made a world of difference. Even if you only read a few pages, it’s an amazing way to declutter your brain and relax your eyes. Make sure, though, that you have an engaging book on the go. Like any habit, you’ll break it if you don’t actually look forward to reading the book you have.
Add Reading to Your Calendar
To take your reading commitment a step further, add it to your calendar. Maybe it’s a Sunday afternoon timeslot, or every night before bed, or both. Whatever works best for you, add a reading block to your calendar to help make sure you find some quality time away from a screen.
Actively Build a Reading List
This is simple but super helpful – any time you hear a book recommendation from someone you respect, add it to your Reading List. I’ve been using this basic app called To Read – check it out.
Use Sticky Notes to Annotate Books – Read With Intent
This is one I’ve done recently that helps me ensure that I’m not just reading mindlessly and forgetting everything. Keep a little tab of post-its next to your bed and use them to annotate your books and highly key sections. Once you’re done the book, you can easily flip back to those key sections, which is helpful if you want to make summary notes or write a blog post about what you learned. Pro Tip: color-code your post-its based on core themes or reference types, ie: Red for Quote, Yellow for Statistics, Green for Key Learning Points.
Book Time to Write and Podcast – Set Personal Deadlines
I know I may seem like a calendar Nazi here, but I’ve personally found it helpful to have a consistent block of time during the week to dedicate to content creation. In fact, I’m writing this post in my weekly block (Wednesdays 6-7:30pm). As a best practice, I’m trying to make sure I have a post to write or a podcast to record each week in this timeslot.
Everyone’s schedule is different, but I’d encourage you to find a 90 minute chunk of your week to get creative and put some thoughts on paper. Also, once you have a post on the go, set deadlines for yourself and try to get someone to remind you about that deadline. Syd is starting to help me with this, and it’s working 🙂
Always Bring Headphones to Work
Simple, yet effective. If I forget my headphones in the morning, I miss out on 15-20 minutes of Audiobook or Podcast consumption. If I don’t, I get to start my day off with some insights from someone much smarter and more inspiring than I am. Keep them in your jacket pocket or next to your keys to help you remember.
Take Audiobooks One at a Time
I’m currently facing this problem right now – I downloaded 5 Audiobooks at once, and I’ve been switching back and forth between them. Now, I’m completely lost in all of them! I’d recommend listening to one book at a time, or having one personal and one professional, but no more than one in each category.
Side note: this is probably why Podcasts are a smarter call – they are more bite-sized and easier to consume in one sitting. Here’s a solid new list of 100 Podcasts to Make You Smarter. Oh, and of course Subscribe to ours.
Productivity @ Work
Batch Your Social Media Usage
It’s hard to avoid social media at work, especially if you use LinkedIn and Twitter for business purposes. To combat this difficulty, I’d recommend “batching” your social media usage. Set out 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon to hit up your networks and see what’s going on.
If you really need to avoid social for a period of time and can’t shake your urges, this app Self Control will shut off your access to distracting sites and force you to zone in. Highly recommended.
Build a Framework for Slow Days at Work
We all have days where there isn’t a ton going on at work. If it’s important to you to still be productive at non-peak times, I’d write out a schedule that you can refer to when you feel lost and don’t know what to work on.
Minimize the Notification Noise
As Jeff mentioned in our recent podcast, mobile push notifications are insanely addictive. They can distract you in an instant and pull you away from important work, but only if you let them.
I recently did an audit of my notifications and eliminated all the unnecessary junk. Let’s face it, you don’t need a notification for every Instagram like or Facebook message. Minimize the amount of notifications that show up on your home screen, and the amount of red dots that show up on your apps. I guarantee this tactic will help you focus more on the world around you and the task at hand.
Delete Time-Suck Apps
If you’re bold and willing to take your productivity binge a step further, try deleting your time-suck apps. We all have them, and we hate that we use them so much. But We Just. Can’t. Resist!
But I challenge you – try weening yourself the apps that deliver the least value and take up the most of your time. Just try. Worst comes to worst, you can always re-download Angry Birds and get to that next level.
Get a Standing Desk
At work, I very often find myself with a sore back from hunching over too much while staring at my screen. To help improve my posture, I’ve started to intermittently work at a standing desk, which is essentially just a small table on top of my desk. Having this variety helps avoid getting cramped up from sitting all day, and standing while working is great for productivity.
Conclusion & Upcoming Experiments:
I really hope you took a few ideas out of this post on how to tweak your daily routine. None of us are perfect, but it’s fun to experiment on trying to be better, more productive people. Here are a few ideas I’m going to be playing with in the coming months:
- Meditation and yoga routines – really need to push myself to try these out.
- Gamifying my Productivity – setting weekly goals and rewarding myself if I accomplish all of them.
- Using the Brain Dump technique for writing – every week, setting aside some time to reflect on the things I’ve learned throughout the week, and dumping them into a Google Doc. From there, I can organize my thoughts and prioritize which topics I want to dive deeper into on blog posts and podcasts.
Until next time, thanks for listening folks! Let’s keep in touch on Twitter.