Productivity and GTD

How routines can boost your productivity

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
Blog tasks

Let’s face it. During a typical day, how many things do you do that are more or less repetitive and how many things do you do that are really new? Yes, you have to accept it; routines are the foundation of your life. You do not only eat, brush your teeth or sleep routinely. You work within a schedule and, though subconsciously, you follow certain protocols in the order and way you carry out your tasks.

I am a big proponent of routines. They are great, they do not have to be boring and, far from what some think, they help you develop your creativity. When you are running a routine, which is the visible part of a habit, your brain is on automatic pilot and rests. Creativity is not an infinite thing, it gets exhausted and must be replenished. Routines allow you to save “fuel”—having under control the mundane tasks that require no creativity—so you can use it when necessary.

Routines help you, make your life easier and allow you to live more relaxed. It would be extremely exhausting for your brain to constantly face new things. Also, they influence on your self-esteem and confidence positively, so you can tackle other problems. After all, they are things you know how to do well.

Many understand routines in a similar way as fixed costs. Fixed costs (mortgage, electricity, water, internet…) are there every month and we cannot do much. If you want to save money, you have to cut variable costs: you need to go out for lunch less, go to the movies less, buy less clothes, and so on. But what if you could reduce your mortgage by 5%, your electricity bill by 10% and your internet bill by 15%? It would be great to have all that money to enjoy other experiences, right?

Well, if a good percentage of your time is covered with repetitive tasks, it should be clear that applying small improvements to some of them, making them more efficient, you could make a big leap forward in your productivity. If you save 10 minutes doing something you do 5 days a week, you earn 50 minutes per week, which is more than 43 hours per year. If you achieve small wins of 2, 5 or 8 minutes in different common routines, the total gain of time can be very important. Time that you could use doing whatever you like doing.

The problem of routines is that they are very difficult to change. They are habits that you created at a particular time following a particular pattern, and you never consider again if they are wrong or can be improved. Running a routine already in place costs no effort; modifying it implies paying attention to everything you do, until you are accustomed to it again.

However, the time you spend improving your routines is time that will pay off. Make a list of your usual routines and examine them thoroughly. What are you doing? Why are you doing it? How could you do it better? Could you automate part of the task? Could you join two tasks into one? Changing habits is hard, so try to optimize them step by step, one by one. Do not go too fast.

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