What did you do this morning? Chances have you ingested some caffeine, (hopefully) brushed your teeth, and set upon your inbox before you even crossed the office threshold.
Chances are also that you repeat this routine most every day. Daily routines or “rituals” are extremely common for the average working professional. As author and businessman Tony Schwartz points out, “rituals … (are) highly specific behaviors, done at precise times, so they eventually become automatic and no longer require conscious will or discipline.” Certain rituals (like kissing your wife goodbye or locking your door when you leave the house) are innocuous, but some behaviors are doing you more harm than good.
These days, we are frequently expected to work longer hours and get more done (often in less time and with fewer resources). But there is a small minority of people who are managing to get the important things done and still have a life. While the average person is spending considerable time going through emails and messages every morning, these people are prioritizing, focusing, and in some cases even exercising. What is more, is that it all comes down to a difference in rituals. Anyone can enjoy the benefits of effectual rituals if they can commit to changing a few habits (for example, trading in your phone for your treadmill). Of course, this will not be easy initially, but the good news is that modifications in behavior can eventually become part of your “ritual” so long as they are specific repeated actions.
That being said, are you up for a new morning routine? Don’t check your email as soon as you get up. Studies show that people waste considerable amounts of time engaged in lengthy email discussions that could have been solved quickly by telephone. And if you think about it, in a true emergency, someone will call you. Keep your Blackberry or iPhone off. Instead, look through your to-do list and pick a high priority task that will take about an hour to do. Focus on completing it before 9am when the rest of the world typically stumbles into work.
Better yet, don’t limit your routines to mornings only. Set specific times for checking email, taking your break, or even calling your own mother. According to a study at London University’s Institute of Psychiatry, the IQ of workers who are interrupted several times by e-mail, telephone calls, and chats dropped by 10 points. Eliminate interruptions by scheduling time for certain activities you would have normally interrupted your work for. Not only will organizing your time improve your levels of happiness and productivity, but it will actually help you make smarter decisions during your workday.
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