On routines… yet again!

I’ve written about routines countless times and I think it all led up to 2020, “the year when earth quarantined itself.” (That’s one heck of a dramatic headline, no?) I’ll be honest, I would be in a hospital for mental treatment if it weren’t for the habits and routines I’d invested so much time to perfect (for me) the past few years.

I’m confident millions of folks who’re working-from-home these days now understand the value of creating a routine, whether they like it or not. The most common compliant I hear these days is something in the lines of, “it’s hard to get work done at home” or “I’m not sure if I should prioritise working from home or working for home.” It’s an irritating situation but again, there’s time to get a grip on this situation.

And since you have this new appreciation for routines, planning, and focus, let me tell you, investing time right now will make the rest of your life so much more manageable. Of course, it goes without saying, you’ll be refining your routine over the years and that’s perfectly okay. Here’s a framework you should keep in mind while creating a routine:

  • Have a morning and evening routine — you don’t have to over-orchestrate your day. What happens after your morning routine is totally up to you and the agenda you set the evening before. Being rigid in between is a recipe for disaster simply because it can’t be done. You’ll end up unnecessarily stressing yourself.
  • Eat the frog – do the hardest thing first everyday without fail. Now “hard” is subjective here. For most people it’s exercise but some think writing is the hardest. Tackle whatever seems difficult for you. I find both writing and exercising hard but doable since I’ve been doing them for ages.
  • Work the plan — it doesn’t matter how great your routine is on paper, it’s worthless if you don’t make it work. Know that there’s no such thing as a perfect morning or evening routine. What works for you becomes your routine. So, work the plan. Period.

As you can tell, setting up a routine isn’t rocket science. There are no complex formulas, just common sense. That said, you might struggle a bit with ‘eating the frog.’ As I mentioned, ‘difficult’ is subjective. For example, my challenge has always been to prioritise between writing or training after getting up. I’m not the type to pick one or the other based on my mood. Now, I’ve been getting up early to write and train for the longest time and it worked beautifully when I had access to the gym until December last year. Things changed for me, which led me to experiment a little — I started training first and then writing.

It was okay for a while but then I struggled to get up early thanks to long hours in front of the screen. There were days when I was up at 4:30 am but the thought of doing kettlebell swings wasn’t appealing. So, I went right back to bed and slept some more. Of course, I could use some more sleep but quality wise I knew I’d slept enough already. That changed when I switched back to my old routine — write and then train. I find this more valuable as writing allows me to enjoy my coffee and fully wake up while jotting down my thoughts on this blog. I this this far better than training Jocko Willink style.

My morning routine looks like this:

  1. Wake-up between 4:30 and 5 pm
  2. Have a glass of warm water + make coffee
  3. Write while sipping coffee (my favourite thing bar none)
  4. Training (quarantine special: lots of mobility work, kettlebell training, and modified Yoga for shoulders, back, and hips so I can get back to the mats stronger when all this is over)
  5. Shower
  6. Get after my work day

Here’s what my evening routine is like these days:

  1. Tea at 5:30-6 pm
  2. Wrap-up the work day by 7-7:30 pm
  3. Training (original strength resets, jiu-jitsu solo drills, yoga) – lasts 30-45 minutes
  4. Shower
  5. Dinner with family
  6. Plan for next day
  7. Read/Watch documentary

It’s not fancy, I know. But it’s what works for me and I’m pretty sure a million other folks who like to keep it simple. You can model your own routine after the one I shared above. Remember, a routine gives structure and a sense of control allowing you to maximise your usual workday planning.

I highly recommend Hal Elrod’s book, “Miracle Morning,” for more ideas on developing a morning routine. It’s elementary for most practitioners but a great resource for people who’re just getting started. Another resource will be James Clear’s Atomic Habits. Reading these will be imperative if you’ve been pulling your hair the past couple of weeks.

Just don’t forget to have some fun while you’re at it.

By Sunil Nair

Nurturing leaders of tomorrow.

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