We’re all trying to put our best foot forward at work, do well and produce the best work. It seems easier for some people than others and it may never be obvious why. One possibility comes from the same core reason that most of us fail at our new year’s resolutions. Whether it is to go to the gym more or lose weight, we fail because we resolve to do better than before without making a sustainable plan for how to do it in the long term. Putting a strict routine in place can be a major help in solving this problem.
Many famous thinkers and writers have reputedly been devoted to strict routines, from Charles Dickens to Sigmund Freud. All great historical figures express their reasons differently but there seems to be widespread agreement that a strict routine can be an essential part of sharpening your focus and clearing away everyday chaos.
When you are setting up your routine, you will naturally consider your workload, the hours your workplace allows, and any hobby that you want to do regularly will need to be built into your timetable because you will not be deviating from your schedule. Treat yourself like a kind but stern school teacher, build in breaks for fresh air, food, and social time but look to maximize your productivity. If you know that you work best early in the morning or late at night, then put as much of that time as you can into your routine as your work time. You won’t necessarily spend more hours working than your colleagues but you will gain the edge by working at times when you are less likely to procrastinate or lose focus.
Working at particular hours on particular tasks can also help cement you in your colleagues’ minds as reliable and steady. There are very few professions where being perceived as a loose cannon is helpful to your progress, whether you are creative and charismatic or not. You might choose to devote the first hour of your day to answering your emails only, before tackling any other tasks. It will help you make sure you don’t miss any important correspondence, reassure your team that you can be trusted to follow up on ongoing matters rather than just respond to urgent problems and prime your ability to react to any upcoming issues during the day.
Routine helps make sure that you have specific time carved out for those little details that people often forget. You could timetable an hour on a Friday afternoon, for example, to prepare for all the meetings in the next week. You will arrive more prepared, make more interesting contributions, and be noticed. If you have a monthly diary slot where you archive your old documents or clear any irrelevant emails, you will benefit by finding the things you need more easily in the future.
Routine has many other fringe benefits as well, from better digestion to more restful sleep. Our bodies work at their peak when we eat consistently, sleep consistently and work consistently. Pull out your organizer and maximize your resources, it could be the best career move you ever make.