Reading time: About 2 minutes
Do you know how to tap into the power of routine to give yourself more time to write?
By Ann Gomez
I dreamed of writing a book for years – decades even. But despite teaching time management, I couldn’t seem to carve out the time to produce my manuscript. (Ironic. Yes.) Then I tapped into the power of routine and my relationship with time shifted.
For years, my writing coach and our very own Publication Coach, Daphne Gray-Grant, encouraged me to devote a small amount of time at the start of my day to writing, regardless of what else I needed to do that day.
Daphne advised me to “Start with your most important task, not your most urgent task.” Eventually, I complied, despite my initial skepticism. I didn’t think it would be possible to add this level of consistency to my widely varying days. But I was humbled (and pleasantly surprised) to see how wrong I was.
When I finally built a morning writing routine, I brought fresh morning energy to this important task and became much more consistent. I didn’t stumble upon found time; I protected time. I started with small blocks of time but could quickly expand these protected blocks. Once I fortified my schedule, I saw results.
In an earlier post, I shared why structure beats flexibility. When I look back at my initial attempts to write a book, I realize I was too flexible about when I wrote. As a result, urgent deadlines, shifting priorities, and over-scheduled days consistently bumped my writing time.
Flexibility seems like a worthwhile pursuit, but the mirage of free time rarely appears. So, when I relied too heavily on flexibility, my book continued to live in my dreams.
It is now clear to me how structure is a much better strategy. Structure helps us protect time for what we value most before other pursuits gobble up more than their fair share of our limited time. Creating a structure for your entire week is better still.
I like to call the weekly structure a Proactive Routine. This is your ideal plan for how you spend your time. Your Proactive Routine helps you do the right work at the right time. It enables you to pay yourself first, amidst so many other requests for your time, which makes a big difference in how you spend your time. In a world of distraction, your attention is your most valuable resource.
Fast forward to today and I have fully tapped into the power of routine. Where possible (and it usually is), I push meetings to start after 11am. Before that, I dedicate two hours to focused, independent work on my core priorities. Plus, I spend another hour responding to requests. This routine consistently gives me a strong start to my day and good quality time for my most important work goals.
Routines are just as valuable with our personal goals. Protecting time for a full night of sleep, regular exercise, downtime, relationships, meditation and more all help us prioritize our wellbeing.
Granted, routines are not a perfect science and I’m not suggesting you adopt an unyielding schedule. There will be valid exceptions. If there is a can’t-miss meeting that can only happen at 9am, I’ll shift one of my focus blocks to later in the day.
See a sample Daily Routine, below:
Most of the time is good enough. When I adhere to my Proactive Routine roughly 80% of the time, I make great progress on my goals. And I believe the results speak for themselves. My routines enabled me to publish two books and contribute to many other writing projects amidst the non-stop busy days which so many of us can relate to.
Building a Proactive Routine is one of the best investments you can make to protect your time and energy. Your Proactive Routine is like a golden ticket to live your life by design versus default; to plan for rather than hope for an ideal day. Ultimately, paying yourself first for your most precious resource, your time, is the only way to protect time for what you value most.
For more about the power of routines, see Ann’s latest book, Workday Warrior: A Proven Path to Reclaiming Your Time, published by Dundurn Press, 2022.