Routines Can Help Boost Your ProductivityAUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
"Maximum productivity is making something happen with as little effort as possible" ~ David Allen
The word “routine” often has negative connotations for many people. To them it means doing things always in the same way and on the same schedule, boring things that limit their freedom and creativity.
However, routines give us freedom, they allow our brain to rest and be refreshed so that we can be creative, and they save us time because they are automatic, established habits that don’t require any sort of maintenance.
Let’s be honest. Throughout a typical day, how many things do you do that are more or less usual and how many things do you do that are actually new? Indeed, routines are the foundation of your life. You don’t just eat, brush your teeth and sleep routinely. You probably also work within a schedule, taking the same route to work every day, the same breaks to rest and, even if unconsciously, you probably follow certain protocols in the order and the way you execute your tasks.
Routines don’t have to be boring and, far from what many believe, they help you boost your creativity. When you are performing a routinized task, which is the visible part of a habit, your brain goes on autopilot and rests. It would be tremendously exhausting for your brain to be constantly confronted with new things.
The brain’s energy is not infinite; it is drained and needs to be refueled. Routines allow you to save “fuel”. In other words, keeping mundane jobs that do not require creativity under control allows you to have mental energy available at the times when it’s needed.
Routines are sets of actions that we perform with a certain frequency, almost automatically, without much effort. They are mechanisms we devise to simplify life. By turning many of the things we have to do into routines, we establish habits that allow us to save time and be more productive, since they are tasks that, by repetition, we end up doing really well, and almost without thinking.
Since routines take up an important part of your time, if you manage to do some of them more efficiently, somehow improving their execution or automating a part of the process, you could increase your productivity significantly with very little effort.
For example, if you manage to save 10 minutes on tasks that you do 5 days a week, you would end up gaining more than 43 hours a year. If you achieve small gains of 2 or 5 minutes in different regular routines, the total gain of time can be very important. Time that you can spend doing whatever you feel like doing.
The problem with routines is that they are very difficult to change. They are habits that you decided to create at a given time, following a certain pattern, and you rarely consider whether they could be optimized. Following an established routine does not cost any effort; however, modifying it implies paying attention to what you do again, until you have assimilated the habit again.
It’s not easy, but the time you spend optimizing your work routines is time well spent: it will pay dividends. Make a list of your most common routines and examine them carefully. What do you do? Why do you do it? How could you do it better? Could you automate a part of your work? Could you merge two tasks into one? What would happen if you stopped doing a routine? Changing routines is hard, so it’s best to do it slowly, one at a time. It’s no good trying to go fast when it comes to changing habits.