Here is a little post about some of my thoughts on productivity and motivation, which I’m admittedly not best at. However, I’ve put considerable time and effort into finding out what can help me work more efficiently, and I’ve learned a few cool things that I’d like to share. In this case, here’s something about fixing the all-important daily schedule.
Daily routine is something everyone seeks to optimize, but most never really get to focus on working it out. There are attempts to do so and adding new tasks that would be beneficial, but then won’t stick due to not being able to keep up with the fast pace of modern living. I present to you an idea, whether entirely original or coincidentally someone else’s, for your consideration.
The Old School Way
Aside from obligations like school or work, there are a lot of things that people want to fit into their daily schedule, whether it’s physical exercise, practicing a musical instrument, or anything else that lets them improve themselves. Unfortunately, there’s less motivation to go around with these things and people tend to procrastinate as a result. They then try to schedule them and force themselves to abide by a chronology that later becomes either irrelevant or too difficult to follow. This is where a more refined system must be adopted to counteract this.
For the purposes of this article, I’ll be making use of this sample schedule. Let’s just say it’s an art student who wants to make the most of his weekend, assuming that he doesn’t really have anywhere else to do on that day.
AM 9:00 – Wake up
9:15 – Exercise
9:45 – Breakfast
10:15 – Household Chores
11:30 – Bath
PM 12:00 – Lunch
12:30 – Do Homework
2:00 – Drawing Practice
5:00 – Guitar Practice
7:00 – Dinner
7:30 – Study for Exam
9:00 – Guitar Practice
10:00 – Drawing Practice
AM 12:00 – Sleep
Your ideal daily schedule may look something like this, wherein you have concise timings for each task. It looks orderly and disciplined, so it must be the right thing for you after all. However, you must start admitting to yourself that while this is orderly and disciplined, you’re not. If you were, then you wouldn’t have problems with developing habits and routines in the first place.
As good as this looks, it’s also the worst thing you can do to yourself on a daily basis. Once you miss just one thing on the schedule, the rest of your day starts breaking down and you feel less motivated to follow it. In the end, it works against you by making due diligence look like a distant ideal that only the gifted can follow.
Such a strict daily schedule can only be followed to the letter with the help of supervisors, like in the office or the military. Trainees in Marine Boot Camp, for example, are able to follow their strict regiment thanks to the tender loving care of their drill sergeants, so there’s no excuse for them to go askew. However, for the ordinary folk who just want to make the most of their idle time, there’s no proverbial whip to drive you in that commitment.
Unless you have someone to tell you how to make a war face, you’ll need a simpler solution.
Instead, I propose a way to simplify that mess and come up with something that focuses on just the important tasks.
This is something I’ve learned from playing StarCraft II. I swear, that game has taught me so many lessons in life, as ridiculous as that may sound to most people. For those who do play the game, you may click this link to see where I got the following idea from.
This idea of mine follows a few sensible principles. For instance, people these days have only enough time in each day to finish three things, which does make sense. With that in mind, we can take three of the most important things from our sample as the main priority groups.
Then there are the other things that a person must do, like chores and such. We can remove from the list what are considered to be “automatic”, like meals and baths. If you can’t remember to eat or perform good hygiene, then there’s something wrong with you. As for tasks that we need to develop as habits, like exercise and doing chores, then we can add them in to remind ourselves.
We then divide them to time groups. For some, it could be morning, afternoon, and evening; while others may have just morning and evening. Whatever the case may be, the goal is to not cram as many tasks in as possible, but to highlight the important ones. It doesn’t matter how much stuff you think you can do in each day, but what you can actually get done.
Following these principles, we then end up with something like this.
Now this does look simpler to remember and follow. For building productive habits and getting stuff done, I think this is hard to beat. Of course, this alone can’t help you stave off procrastination since that’s still dependent on how much effort you’re willing to pull off.
Let’s take my own daily schedule. As a freelancer, productivity is a slippery slope and procrastination means angry clients and lower pay. I’m also a martial artist who has let work get in the way of my training, leaving me a flabby and rusty mess.
AM 6:00 – Wake up
6:15 – Exercise
7:15 – Breakfast
7:30 – Household Chores
8:30 – Bath
9:00 – Work
PM 12:00 – Lunch
12:30 – Work
2:00 – Write Blog Posts
3:00 – Go Out (Errands, Hanging out with friends, Events, Gym, etc.)
6:00 – Come Home
6:15 – Write Blog Posts
7:30 – Dinner
8:00 – Play Games
11:00 – Do Stretches
AM 12:00 – Sleep
(Playing games is a big part of my livelihood.)
I found this to be quite a drag, and I would then start procrastinating as soon as I give myself even the smallest bit of leeway. Ideally, I want to be able to finish my work and other tedious stuff like housework in the daytime and just do personal stuff when the sun goes down. However, this daunting schedule has only served to discourage me once I miss a timing due to whatever reason, like emergencies, house guests, telephone calls, and so on.
Applying the task grouping method, I came up with this.
It ended up looking so much simpler and easier to follow, which boosted my productivity quite a bit. I do admit that I still skip tasks, but much less than before. As for the names of the time groups, that’s because I don’t really have a set sleep schedule as of yet, which is something I may have to fix in the future. But for now, I accommodate that flaw and just work with it instead of against it. What’s important at this point is to get things done, and that’s reflected upon my schedule.
The thing about the subject of productivity is that while it’s a good idea, it also compels human beings to be rigidly structured through strict routine and maximum supervision. The mudanity of life in being woken up by an alarm clock every morning, dealing with traffic, and going on auto-pilot to serve your function for your survival — the gradual breakdown brought about by the work week. This is something we have to deal with, but there’s merit in taking that and working through and around it to find that sweet spot so we can take control of ourselves once again.
These ideas I’m trying to work with for myself and share to others are attempts at taking life back without becoming any less productive for whatever institution we have to serve in order to survive. By simplifying it to find more room so that we can still have enough to explore and improve ourselves, as well as to connect with other people, we can make this supposedly mundane existence work for us instead of against us.
I think that’s a good goal to work towards.
If there’s anything you can suggest to add, remove, or modify in this concept, then feel free to share it in the comment sections below.