“I wish I had more time!”  “I’m so swamped.”  “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”  How often do you hear phrases like that?  Or express them yourself?  Time, or the lack thereof, can cause a lot of stress.  In a recent staff meeting at Catalyst Ranch, our Operations Manager, John Leen, led us through a series of exercises about personal productivity – the idea being that if we assess and improve our productivity outside of work, we will be happier, more energetic and focused when we come to the Ranch.  We considered how we spend our time on necessities, distractions, and rewarding productive work.   Then we thought about the steps we could take to maximize the rewarding things in life by prioritizing and focusing on doing proactive work, setting and achieving personal and professional goals, and spending time cultivating important relationships.

I found these activities to be very useful in assessing my daily routine especially since I had just read the article, “Six Keys to Being Excellent At Anything” by Tony Schwartz, which advocates using ritualized practice to truly improve at something you are passionate about. Schwartz says that Anders Ericsson, a leading researcher of high performance, asserts “it’s not inherited talent which determines how good we become at something, but rather how hard we’re willing to work — something he calls ‘deliberate practice.’”  How encouraging!  So, if something is important to you, you just need to dedicate time for it, and then follow through by sticking to your practice.  This can apply to starting an exercise regimen, writing a novel, or gaining the skill set you need to get your next promotion.  Here is Schwartz’s advice in a nutshell:

  1. Pursue what you love.
  2. Do the hardest work first.
  3. Practice intensely.
  4. Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses.
  5. Take regular renewal breaks.
  6. Ritualize practice.

For further inspiration on how to create a routine that fuels your work, check out “The Daily Routines of Geniuses” by Sara Green in the Harvard Business Review.  Some of the common habits of geniuses included talking a daily stroll, clearly separating busywork from important work, and imposing accountability metrics on themselves, such as writing for a certain amount of time or a certain number of words every day.

One of the most surprising habits that many geniuses had was stopping when they’re on a roll, not when they’re stuck.   Stop when you’re on a roll?  Sounds crazy! Playwright Arthur Miller explains, “I don’t believe in draining the reservoir, do you see? I believe in getting up from the typewriter, away from it, while I still have things to say.”  Or as Carl Jung, the father of analytical psychology, put it, “I’ve realized that somebody who’s tired and needs a rest and goes on working all the same is a fool.”

If you are more of a visual learner, check out this nifty infographic that shows how many historical figures divided time spent on work, social life, meals, exercise, and sleep to achieve success.  creative routineshttp://infowetrust.com/2014/03/26/creative-routines/

How do you minimize daily distractions to maximize your time?  Please share your tips in the comments!