The transition from summer to fall shows up more than on calendars. Maybe it starts with how we remember this transition from childhood. Lazy mornings replaced with out the door blitzes, meandering road trips replaced with weekly/monthly planners, beach reads replaced by term papers.
Even though it seems that lazy summers are more of a fixture of memory instead of current reality, the calendar change to September 1 still sends a message: Routine Returns. This fact in itself isn’t the problem. The problem is that I put on the same old routines every fall like old sweaters, even the ones that don’t fit anymore.
I was jolted into this awareness as a result of a terrific little book: Manage Your Day to Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind by 99u. It’s full brief but valuable ideas from creative thinkers I admire: Seth Godin, Leo Babauta, Tony Schwatrz among many others. Started to read it on the bike at the gym and got so excited that I thought Hop off and go do this stuff…RIGHT NOW!
My “ah-ha” was not that routines don’t support creativity – to the contrary, routines are critical – but I become stuck in them. I have to find the routines that work for me now, not get back to the old ones that no longer work. It’s like the old pair of jeans I finally gave away last weekend. Stop trying to imagine someday they’ll fit again and move on to something that does.
Four Ideas to Try On
Next week, when September 1 hits, I am ready with new shoes and new routines. Like these:
1. Great Work Before Anything Else. Do my most important work early in the day when I am fresh and save responsive work for lower energy times. No more starting the day with Gmail then finding two hours of my best energy slip by. My satisfaction comes from a sense of accomplishment, not an empty inbox.
2. Show Up, Inspired Or Not. Stop waiting for the right time, right mood, and right place. No more self talks of run this errand, read this blog, check out Amazon and then I’ll be ready. See Gmail lesson above. Promise myself 15 good, focused minutes on a task before I quit (and I probably won’t.)
3. Work On My Biggest Priorities Every Day. Calendar time every workday for the projects most important to me. Stop putting my most important goals last, when I have “time” to work on them. Even as little as 30 good minutes on a key goal every day gives me the psychological prize of progress.
4. Work With Intention. For me, working intention is the easiest to understand and the hardest to do. Repurpose the hope of wandering into something to focus on my purpose. This means when I research, stick to what I need, not what’s interesting. In a conversation about someone else, stick to the “someone else.” Every activity starts with a purpose or doesn’t start at all.
What About You?
This fall, these are the new or recycled routines that will help me to be more focused, productive and satisfied with my effort. But what works for me may not work for you. So what about you? What routines will you need to put away with the shorts and flip-flops? What can you try on in their place?
99u by behance (2013). Manage Your Day to Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind.
Check out the website for really cool ideas on creativity and productivity: