“Hi Celes, I would love to get an insight into your average day and typical routines. When do you get up, when do you do what, and when do you chill and literally do nothing (do you ever?)? Or if one day is not enough, tell us about one whole week. ;) ” – Lukas
Hi Lukas, thanks for your interest! :) I don’t have a “routine” in that I don’t have a fixed time or day where I write, record my podcast, or run a course.
I used to, though. In my early years of running PE, I had a fixed schedule each week, where I would write, do blog promotion, post blog comments, network with other bloggers, coach, review my goals, etc. at fixed times and days. There was inherent flexibility in that I could change task A with B and do task C earlier and task D later, but by and large my schedule was very structured and spelled out.
Doing so made my days easy, where my job was simply to wake up, look at what was in my calendar, and then follow them to a tee. Since I had strategically planned out my calendar to be filled with Q2 tasks, this meant that as long as I adhered to my task list and executed everything to perfection, I would be on track in my Q2 goals.
And this was helpful. My blog grew quickly as I dutifully executed everything on my list.
After a few years though, I felt misaligned with this setup. Firstly, I felt drained by some of the tasks in my schedule, tasks that I used to be excited about. Many had become subconscious actions to me, like replying to reader comments or writing articles or replying to Q2 mail, so there was no need to have them in my schedule. Seeing them was a waste of “mind space” since I was already doing them anyway.
Secondly, some of my tasks were no longer a fit with my broader plans. For example, doing 1-1 coaching every week was great for me when I started as I quickly gained insights to a broad level of problems that people are facing. But after doing this for years and seeing my wait list get no shorter, I realized that filling my time with 1-1 sessions isn’t optimal if I want to help people on a bigger scale. I also didn’t find networking particularly useful; I already knew most of the folks in my field and I felt that most people I met often wanted something out of me (to promote their work, to sell their products, etc.) than not because of my platform. Particular to my work, I find it more meaningful to actively serve others than do networking; my blog also draws the right people into my space anyway (it’s how I got to know some good friends in business today).
Thirdly, I often had new ideas that I wanted to pursue, but couldn’t because my calendar was filled with other tasks. It was either I (a) push off my current work to pursue these new ideas or (b) forgo the new ideas for next time. Neither seemed particularly effective. With the former, this meant constantly rescheduling activities in my calendar to make space for the new ideas. With the latter, what if these new ideas can make a big difference in my life, more so than any other thing I’m doing? Why put them off then? Wouldn’t this defeat the entire purpose of having a routine, which is to live a better life?
Thinking that I had outgrown my routine (and I had, kind of), I changed things around. I retired tasks that weren’t a fit and introduced new tasks that were a better fit. I removed top-heavy channels (i.e. high reliance on myself with little ability to scale) like 1-1 coaching and in-person training gigs on one-off customized topics since the material can never be reused for another occasion. I phased out marketing outreach activities — since PE had already achieved a certain level of awareness, it was more important for me to focus on other things like site management and content creation. I then focused on more scale-based activities, like creating videos, group coaching courses, challenges, and so on. I did this for years.
Each time I revised my routine though, I noticed that it would work well at first, but feel out of sync after 1–2 years, sometimes even weeks. For example, maybe task X seemed like a great thing to do weekly… at first. But after a while something would come up that was more important (not urgent) than X, after which I’d have to reshuffle my calendar items. This happened too many times over a few years. By having a structured routine with preset tasks, I found myself spending more time administrating my calendar than getting things done. I also felt little flexibility in working on new, emerging ideas since I was tied to a calendar of to-dos each day.
So funnily, even though a structured routine helped me become super productive at first, it became very restrictive and draining later on.
Part of the reason is that I prefer a very immersive style of living — when I do something, I go all out. Having a routine that’s filled with time-driven tasks, one after another, causes me to miss out on what’s happening around me. It also makes me compress what I can fully accomplish with a task. Secondly, I’m always changing, evolving as a person. Some weeks I like to do X. Some weeks I do Y. Other weeks, something important comes into my awareness, after which I want to make that the priority and work on it.
I do have fixed activities that I do every day. I never skip breakfast and eat my breakfast every morning once I wake up. I tend to eat the same breakfast for a long time. (At the moment it’s wholemeal bread with a spread and a banana.) I floss and brush my teeth every night. I also shower and wash my hair daily because I have an oily scalp. I take a supplement daily, alternating between glucosamine and a multi-vitamin. And I try to sleep by 11pm–1am and wake at 7–8am (this depends on where I’m at, country-wise).
But other than these “mundane” activities that are part of living in a physical body, I don’t have fixed things planned in my calendar, much less in a highly recurring format. I have the occasional deadline yes, I have meetings and appointments yes. But my goal is to minimize these as much as possible (through automation, streamlining, reshaping my business approach, etc.) so I have the maximum leeway in using my time in the most creative, constructive way possible, for the betterment of the world.
This means that some days I can be writing non-stop. Some days I can be heads down in web design. Some days I can be researching this new automation process for my business. Some days I can be editing a podcast. Some days I can be working on this new course product. Some days I can be visiting my loved ones. Some days I can be traveling: for example, I’m currently writing this in Serbia and I’ve been here for several weeks. If I’m running a live course, then I’m usually heads down in it for 3–4 months, while working on other stuff during time pockets.
Having such an approach allows me to dynamically respond to what’s going on with full mental clarity. 3 weeks ago the PE site got a severe spammer attack that brought the server down and caused us to be banned by our newsletter provider (through no fault of our own). After some digging, I finally resolved the problem yesterday and implemented measures to hopefully block similar attacks. Beyond mere firefighting, I also made hard Q2 decisions in light of this issue, including shutting down PE forums which I feel has run the end of its course (those of you using the forums, the announcement has been posted there since end June). Last week, I got an idea to simplify the PE web design after visiting a website. I immediately got to work and implemented the changes after half a day’s work. If you’re surfing the PE site now (as opposed to reading the email newsletter), you may notice that the site design is now cleaner.
This approach lets me fully focus on my current project without distraction. When I’m recording/editing a podcast, I give myself the full mind space to work on that. When I’m writing an article, I immerse in it fully and don’t think about the next thing to do. I also take breaks in between projects to consider next steps rather than blindly dive into task after task. This ensures I’m always working on the Q2 stuff with respect to my goals.
Just to be clear, I have a list of things I want to work on, that stretch on for the next 2 years. I have a specific plan of what I want to do for the next 1–2 weeks (or months if it’s a big project). I’m also very clear of my Q2 tasks. However, I don’t have them rigidly fixed into time windows in my calendar. I don’t have hard deadlines because I automatically do everything in the fastest way possible anyway. I have a big list of things that I pick from and work fully to my delight every day, that I constantly assess, trim, and add to. And I’m constantly reviewing my productivity methods and improving on them. (Read: The 8 Habits of Highly Productive People)
How do I keep track of my tasks though? I have an Excel file where I compile my to-dos, sorted into tabs based on the category of work (“articles,” “podcasts,” “videos,” “courses,” etc.). It’s open on my computer every day and I refer to it as I work.
I find that this approach works better for me as it lets my ideas to flow creatively. It also creates the open space for new emerging Q2 tasks to enter. I don’t think it’s necessarily “better” than a structured routine, because I would have been very unproductive with such an open routine when I started my business. It’s just what works well for me now, given where I am and how I work.
How about you? How’s your routine like? :) Check out my resources on creating your routine:
- Is Your Routine Empowering You?
- Do You Have a Morning Ritual?
- Live a Better Life in 30 Days Program, Day 9: Evaluate Your Routines