Do you have a rhythm to your work life?
I’ve always struggled with regimens. Strict routine. I find myself naturally finding ways to breakout of said routine, even if I know it’s the best thing for me.
But I’m also just as uncomfortable with having zero structure during my day. Free-wheeling days with nothing definitive gives me anxiety. I get cranky and irritable when I don’t know what they day will bring.
I like structure. I like order. I like knowing what’s coming.
This tension of liking routine but not TOO MUCH routine is very real. I’ve dealt with it my whole life. If you’re an entrepreneur, you likely have as well.
If this sounds like you, I have good news. You don’t have to pick one or the other. You can have a blend of both: the structure and order of routine with the the flexibility of an unfettered schedule.
I call it a Rhythm.
Think of your day like a jazz song. To the untrained ear, a jazz song can sound like an tangled mess of audible spaghetti. You can’t tell where the song starts and ends!
But if you listen to enough (good) jazz, you can definitely hear there’s an invisible hand guiding the musicians through the song. The hand has a name…it’s called Rhythm.
MY favorite jazz songs are the ones that go on for 10, 20, 30 minutes. They’re almost always live, which means the musicians are feeling out the crowd and going with the flow.
They dip in and out of the sheet music, sticking with the notes most of the time but going “off-script” once in awhile as the spirit moves them.
I want my days to have the same cadence. The same flow.
There’s “sheet music” (e.g. My list of priorities) to the day, but I can riff and go off-script as-needed.
I can stick with a call that’s going well for an extra 30 minutes…
I can read another chapter in a book that’s got my attention…
I can hang with a problem just a little bit longer…
Or, if I need it, I can take an extra long walk…
And it doesn’t throw the whole day off. It’s accounted for. It’s baked-in. The rhythm, not the sheet music, is my guide.
A rhythm allows you to float in and out of your daily structure as you wish. There are three main rhythms I use throughout my work day to help me get the flexibility I want while “sticking to the script” I need.
This is the bread and butter of work week. Obviously. Monday through Friday, I follow a predictable schedule to keep me locked in and focused.
Here is what most weekdays look like:
- 5:30 AM – Wake up and get ready to work out (3-4 times per week)
- 5:45 AM – Complete my Morning Structure
- 6:15 AM – Workout
- 7:15 AM – Breakfast with family
- 8:30 AM – Clean up and get ready for the day
- 9:15 AM – Start work by diving into Creative Time, a blocked of section in my calendar where I can read, take online courses, review goals, write, etc. It’s blocked off and protected most days because if I don’t, it won’t happen
- 11:00 AM – Meetings and calls start, start focusing on my top five priorities for the day as listed out in my Morning Structure
- 1:30 PM – Break for lunch, preferably by myself
- 2:30 PM – Take a walk and meditate/reflect
- 3:00 PM – Continue to attack top five priorities of the day
- 5:00 PM – Start and complete wind-down ritual
- 6:00 PM – Dinner and time with family
- 7:30 PM – Kids put to bed, relax with my wife (alternatively we will both address tasks that need to be completed during this block and push relaxing to 9 PM)
- 9:00 PM – Relaxing, reading a book, watching TV, etc.
- Between 10:30 – 11 PM – BED
It’s taken some serious tweaking to get my schedule to this point. But for the season of life I’m in, it’s optimal.
I’m naturally nocturnal.
I know this because when I travel or my wife and kids are out of town, the above schedule gets shifted later by about 2-3 hours. But having small kids means a lot of my life need to be lived on THEIR terms, not mine.
I have challenged myself to take off two weekdays per month, right in the middle of the week. There are multiple reasons for this:
- I want to build a business that knows how to operate without me. My team is filled with bright, motivated people. They do not need me constantly meddling to get the job done. They are perfectly capable on their own.
- I prioritize times of rest and relaxation. Physical rest is vital in the life of an entrepreneur. I believe in seasons of pushing through and getting the job done. But 80% of my entrepreneurial life must come from a place of rest. Anything less is unsustainable.
- It’s “dress rehearsal” for where I eventually want to be in business. My lifelong desire in business is to bring along smart people to run the day-to-day and build on the foundation that I set. Taking off a weekday allows me to see what this is like, real-time.
Some months I get two days in. Some months I get no days in.
But I’m intentional about practicing the habit.
In my estimation, this one activity has bolstered my productivity and business mindset more than any other change I’ve made to my schedule. Absolutely transforming.
I take the first Tuesday of every month and block it off. This means no meetings. No calls. No lunches. Nothing. I have three objectives on this day:
- Review yearly goals
- Review progress of previous month’s goals
- Set goals for upcoming month
Occasionally I will adjust yearly goals during this day based on current progress and desires. (For instance, just recently I changed my profit margin goal as the one I set in January was unrealistic.)
I started this habit after watching myself set goals every year and then pushing them into some random Evernote file, never looking at them again.
Doing this monthly ensures my yearly goals are always in front of me. I never lose site of them. They are always in my viewfinder. Even if I need to make adjustments to them, I’ll know it faster and can course-correct sooner with this day firmly planted on my calendar.
I find I’m more relaxed with rhythms. I know that I can still “finish the song” even if I go off-script. In other words, the system supports me. I don’t support the system.