5 Steps to Create a Healthy Work Routine

Do you find yourself procrastinating to get that project done? Or maybe you feel like you don’t have enough time during the work day due to constant distractions? Creating a routine and changing your work habits is something you might want to consider.

In my earlier blog posts I mentioned the idea of “going deep” into your work. This is a concept I learned from the book, Deep Work by Cal Newport. The idea stems from a Greek term, Eudaimonia, which refers to the state in which you are achieving your fullest human potential1. Some of the largest obstacles of going deep are your distractions and desires.

According to a 2012 study2, the five most common desires we have are:
  1. eating
  2. sleeping
  3. sex
  4. surfing the web
  5. watching tv

We naturally turn our attention to things that are relevant to us and can have trouble focusing on the task at hand. During the current business trend of open offices and serendipitous collaboration, it can be difficult to buckle down and get some work done. According to Newport, ”the key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals into your working life”3. It’s not enough to just say, ”I’m going to get that project done at some point”. The best thing you can do for yourself is to set goals, create a timeline and put rules in place in order to create heathy habits for deep work.

The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals into your working life.

Cal Newoirt

There’s a plethora of ways that you can integrate deep work into your schedule, but its up to you to find the method or routine that makes sense for you. Creating a routine for your work removes the need for you to invest energy on deciding when you’ll get that project done. Rock-solid routines make sure that a little bit of hard, deep work gets done on a regular basis. The more often deep work is performed, the less friction you will have with transitioning to it. This will allow you to perform this kind of work easier and stay in this mindset for longer periods of time.

Still not convinced?

What do Jerry Seinfeld and Charles Darwin have in common? They both had rituals!

During the early days of the Seinfeld show, Jerry was a working comic and had a busy tour schedule. Seinfeld claimed that to become a better comic he needed to write every day. He kept a calendar on his wall, and every day that he writes jokes he crosses the date out with a big red X. His goal was to generate a habit to not break the X chain on his calendar. The X chain on his calendar was used as a visual aid for his deep work time4. Long before Seinfeld was born, Charles Darwin was working on his book, On the Origin of Species. According to his son, Francis, Darwin would wake at 7am and take a short walk. He would then eat breakfast alone and go to his study from 8-9:30am. The next hour was dedicated to reading letters and returning to his study until noon. After this he would think over challenging ideas while walking on a route around his greenhouse and home until he was satisfied5. Though their paths and careers were very different, their greatness is owed to the rituals and deep work they performed.

Now let’s get to the nitty gritty, this is why you’re here, isn’t it?

5 Steps to Create a Healthy Work Routine

  1. Decide on where you’ll work and for how long
    First, you’ll need to figure out a time a place for your work. For example, for my graduate studies work I reserve around 2 hours a day, 5 days a week for my studies and I usually study either in my front porch or my home office.
  2. Create rules for maximum performance
    Structure is key to creating a healthy work habits. You’ll need to create some rules or restrictions around how you can get your work done without distractions. My rules generally are no cell phone use or television, no loud noises and a well lit area.
  3. Figure out what will support you
    Find things that will support your work and concentration. Some things that support deep work can be organizing your materials or a taking short walk. I always have a glass of water with me while I work to stay hydrated and sometimes a snack!
  4. Identify your goals
    You need to identify both short and long term goals for the work you’re performing. Ask yourself, ”what is the short term goal for the session of work I’m about to do? What would I like to accomplish?”. Long term goals are the end-game. What is the overall goal of your project or work?
  5. Hold yourself accountable
    Stick to the structure and rituals you’ve created. If you’re the kind of person who is terrible at staying on-task, ask someone to hold you accountable. Tell a friend to ask you periodically how your work is coming along; or be like Jerry Seinfeld and mark it on your calendar.

Finding the right ritual that works for you may take some time and experimentation. It’s okay if it doesn’t flow right away. Good luck!


Sources:

1“Work Deeply.” DEEP WORK: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by CAL NEWPORT, GRAND CENTRAL PUB, 2016, p. 95.
2Hofmann, W., Baumeister, R. F., Förster, G., & Vohs, K. D. (2012). Everyday temptations: An experience sampling study of desire, conflict, and self-control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(6), 1318–1335. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0026545
3“Work Deeply.” DEEP WORK: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by CAL NEWPORT, GRAND CENTRAL PUB, 2016, p. 100.
4“Work Deeply.” DEEP WORK: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by CAL NEWPORT, GRAND CENTRAL PUB, 2016, pp. 110-111.
5“Work Deeply.” DEEP WORK: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by CAL NEWPORT, GRAND CENTRAL PUB, 2016, pp. 118-119.

Cover image: https://medium.com/@flemingjack1995/purposeful-coach-development-the-seinfeld-strategy-874aa45dba28