If you’re the star quarterback of the football team then your routines are your linemen.
Your routines are down in the trenches battling to control the line of scrimmage so you’re free to move the ball down field. The linemen set the tone of the game. They bring the heat. They’ve got your back. They provide the stability without which the offense would come crashing down around them. A good set of routines will empower you to move mountains, will embolden you to reach incredible heights, and will free your mind to build a future you never thought possible. Let’s start building.
Calm Good, Chaos Bad.
Fact: Any calmness that can be wrestled from the chaos should be wrestled from the chaos.
You owe that much to yourself, your loved ones and whatever causes you serve. Right now you probably have a lot of different shit weighing on your mind. Family obligations, bills, work projects, the economy being in the shitter, etc. This can all contribute to anxiety and having a restless mind.
What you need is calm. And a crucial first step you can make towards that calm is reclaiming your environment. Having a messy kitchen, an unmade bed, or any other minor tasks takes away from your ability to focus on the bigger picture. Deliberately build your routines and conquer the chaotic abyss. Own your environment, don’t let it own you.
Routines Give Your Day Structure.
Your morning routine lets you open on the strongest footing possible. Don’t show up to work and react, attack it to the best of your ability. Head into the day strong and be proactive.
Your evening routine helps you to reset, review, and readjust so you can get a great night’s rest. And, as anyone who has read Why We Sleep is now frighteningly familiar with, a great night’s rest is crucial to being happy, healthy, and at the top of your game.
If routines are your offensive linemen then the humble spreadsheet is the weight room. The spreadsheet is where you’ll be building, managing, and improving your routines.
By writing your routine down and regularly recording the time of completion you introduce an element of deliberativeness into the process. You aren’t mindlessly going through the motions. You’re actively participating in a process that serves a specific purpose while also creating a historical record to examine if and when things go sideways. You are conquering the chaos.
Build Your First Routine.
For the sake of this post we’ll be building an evening routine (I call it the PMR, short for P.M. Routine) to be completed before you go to bed.
Some people (like me) do their leisure activities (read, journal, television, whatever) first and then do their maintenance activities (brushing, flossing, shower, checking to make sure kitchen/desks/floors are tidy) immediately before they pop into bed. Other people prefer the opposite. It doesn’t matter which order you prefer. Use this post to structure your evening maintenance activities.
Open up notepad or your word processor of choice and make a list of the maintenance tasks you currently do before you go to bed. This is probably things like shower, brush your teeth, floss your teeth, and so on and so forth. What we want to do is add a few high roi habits to that list that will help inch our living space away from being the chaotic clusterfuck it may or may not be and towards the place of peace and tranquility we know it should be.
Here is a brief list to help:
Brush your teeth, floss your teeth, take a shower, check that the bathroom counter is clean, check that the kitchen is clean, make sure nothing is thrown on the couches, check that your desk is clean, make sure nothing is on the floor, add an X to X-effect tracker, Close the blinds, set the thermostat to your preferred sleeping temp, lay clothes out for tomorrow, check tomorrow’s calendar, etc.
Not all of these will apply to you. Start with whatever tasks you currently do before going to sleep and then add 1 or 2 high ROI tasks to that list. Keep the list small and manageable. You can add more later, right now you want to build momentum.
Build the Framework.
You can do this in microsoft excel, but for our purposes here we’ll be using google sheets. It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s available anywhere with internet access.
- Create a gmail account if you don’t already have one.
- Go to https://drive.google.com/.
- In the top left corner click “New” -> Google Sheet.
- Click where it says “Untitled spreadsheet” and enter in PM Routine 2020 (or whatever current year it is).
- In cell A3 put “Date”.
- In cell A4 put “Start stopwatch”
- List out all of the tasks you currently do prior to bed plus the 1 or 2 high ROI additions you’d like to add.
- Below your SMALL and MANAGEABLE list, put “Time”.
- Below “Time” put “End stopwatch and record.”
- Hit enter twice so that there’s a blank row and enter “Notes:” into the cell.
- Hit enter twice so that there’s a blank row and enter in “0 = Didn’t do it”.
- In the cell directly below “0 = Didn’t do it” enter in “1 = Kind of did it”.
- In the cell directly to the right of “0 = Didn’t do it” enter in “2 = Did it”.
- In the cell directly below “2 = Did it” and to the right of “1 = Kind of did it” enter in “3 = Already did it”.
- Hit enter twice so that there’s a blank row and enter in “Change log:”.
- Use the directional keys to go right one and down one and enter in “Date:”.
- Use the directional keys to go right one and enter in “Time:”.
- Use the directional keys to go right one and enter in “Entry:”.
- In cell C1 put “Sunday”
- Continue entering days of the week along the top row until you’ve entered Saturday in cell I1.
Boom! That’s the framework. Now you’re ready to fill in the cells.
How it works.
- When you’re ready to start your PMR you find the correct day, go down to the row with the first action cell (“Date”), and hit Control + ;. This will enter the day’s date.
- Once you have the date filled in you can open up a new tab, google stopwatch, and then hit start.
- Once you have done the action specified in that row’s action cell you hit control + shift + ; to enter the current time and then hit enter to jump to the cell below it.
- Go row by row and continue filling in the cells with a time entry in this manner until you reach the “Time” row.
- Once you’ve entered in the time for that row to give you a close approximation for the ending time you can stop the still running stopwatch and record the total amount of time it took to get through your PMR.
Key Take Aways
If you don’t do the action in the action cell at all then enter in a 0. If you do it, but not to completion, then enter in a 1. If you do it completely then you’ll enter in a 2 (for clustered tasks, covered below) or a time entry. Finally, if you’ve already done it, then enter in a 3.
For example: If you’re action cell is to “check that the kitchen is clean” and there’s a pile of dirty dishes there you can clean them (2 or time entry), clean half of them and leave half for tomorrow (1), or do nothing (0). Ideally we want all 2 or time entries. Realistically that’s not going to happen. The main objective here is to create a historical record of what happened so we can diagnose systemic issues if and when they pop up.
As you do this more and more the PMR will become second nature. You’ll do it faster while thinking about it less. When you start to cluster 3 or 4 of these activities together enter in a “2” for all but the final entry. For the final entry of that cluster use control + shift + ; to make a time entry.
You won’t do this every night. You’ll probably end up doing this something like Sunday night through Thursday night. This is 100% fine (encouraged, even?). On slow weekends I’ll still knockout the PMR because the routine helps me shut it all down and get to sleep. But, as always, remember: life happens, be flexible.
Finally, you aren’t locked into whatever you put on the sheet. That’s why you have the “Notes:” and “Change log:” section. If you notice improvements or changes that you’re not quite ready to act on then write them down in the notes area. Once you’ve made a decision then make the addition, deletion, or change and annotate it in the change log area. Make the system work for you.
That’s a Wrap.
Boom! Post number 7 on the journey for a better tomorrow is in the books. We have a nice mix of both accountability posts for me and pragmatic tooling posts for y’all.
Next week we’ll break down the PMR even more and cover some of the more nuanced entries you may want to consider AFTER you’ve been drilling the basics for awhile.
See y’all next Monday,