Pin Your Routine to The Wall / by AB Mann

I mentioned earlier that little nudges can move mountains. Having my device wallpaper be my list of Virtues keeps me engaged with them. I'm less likely to want to get a cocktail after work with TEMPERANCE eyeballing meevery time I unlock my phone.

Remember: Mountains are moved one rock at a time. So anything you can do to keep yourself on track each day is how you make progress.

Order Is Automating Your Thinking Routine

I thought it would be an interesting exercise to gather and describe all the systems I have in place to nudge me toward my best self. You may want to use some and, hell, I am curious how bananas thois has all become over time. Complexity, like routine, is built on small changes over time. I'll go through them 1 per post over the courtse of a few weeks so I don't inundate you with reaaaaaaallly loooong text blocks and it may also keep you reading here. :)

Order is Having a Current List of Your Routines And Systems

Think of all of these like scaffolding. It is Order leading into Resolve. These are the systems I build to make it easier to stick to my tasks, work on my goals, and get shit done day in and day out.

These are roughly in chronological order according to my day. Things earlier in the list happen earlier in the day.

  1. Todoist Task at the top of my task list.
    • Generated through a morning routine workflow.
  2. IOS wallpaper on my phone and iPad, which I use regularly throughout the day.
  3. Art of Virtue journal in my pocket.
  4. Morning routine diagram in my notebooks and on my wall.
  5. Calendar reminders to do the things that generate the above.
  6. End of day Virtue Journal workflow
    • Also a Workflow workflow

I want to focus on #5 for the now. #1 and #6 are probably the most useful but the most complicated to discuss because it will require a numerous screen shots and an explanation of the Workflow iOS application

Order is staring your routine in the face

Two to four times a year, I take a step back and review how I do what I do. I review what tools I'm using, what processes I follow, how useful or hindering any of them have been, and ask myself how I can make them better. There's nothing so bothersome as systems built to solve a problem you no longer have or care about.

As part of this process, I actually sketch out all the processes for the various things I do. This can get as specific as how I take articles I find online for research and annotate them (I use Instapaper, IFTTT, and the Workflow app to convert things to PDFs and drop them into Notability). Or as general as how I run my mornings (see below).

So here's what my some of my productivity systems used to look like including my old morning routine (this one is less graphically fancy but you get the idea). The most important recent change comes at the Writing line. I no longer do any concerted research in the morning. I'd start writing, get stuck, then start surfing the internet for "more information" and waste what little time I have to actually put words on paper. Word counts dropped. Frustration increased. Cats abd Dogs Living Together. Pandemonium!

Joint writing/research time became an excuse not to write which I realized last summer around the Summer of 2016. When I reviewed tis last quarter, I noted the shift from how I used to work to how I currently do. This resulted in a separation between writing and research, the latter which became a dedicated process sheet that happens completely outside of my morning routine. And my morning routine itself became all the simpler. Here's what it looks like now:

Morning Routine

Morning Routine

Created in Google Drawings

Each of the squared blocks are sub-processes that I also have drawn out. But now, every morning, I get up, I make coffee, and I get to writing. And every time I sit down at my desk, it reminds me what I should be doing there.

My desk is for writing in the morning, dang it, so I best get to it.

And that's important enough for me that I have this diagram taped to my wall. Here's my desk as I write this:

The View From Here

The View From Here

Routine diagram at center, all of B. Franklin's published writings lined up blow.

This may seem ridiculous, this isn't so complicated that I wake up confused without a diagram to reference. Having it in front of my face keeps me focused and it reinforces the importance of following the process. If I don't, I may not write urging the day. If I don't write, I don't get to help people with their virtue projects, and I lose a little daily happiness.

Order Is Getting Your Brain Out Of The Way So You Do More Of What You Care About

I keep my processes outlined and accessilbe so that I do not have to think about certain decisions. The fewer decisions I have to make, the easier it is to move through the day, to reserve brain power for important decisions, and the less I dither about actions important to me.

It applies everywhere in my life, not just outside of work. On the ottom half you can see I do deep work stuff immediately when coming into the office rather than checking email. Email is the Mind Killer. Email is the little death that brings total obliteration. But it is so easy to do that first thing and then you spend the rest of the day dealing with whatever crap was in there from the night before.

Mostly, writing is important to me. So I do it first thing when I get up and build everything in my day around it. It's how I write this blog and it is how I wrote my first book this year.

What is Order or Routine for you?

THis is one of those cases where I don't necessarily recommend you sit down and map out all the things you do in a system magic way. I do think everyone can benefit from being consistent in how they approach different tasks or types of work. If you have nothing like this at all, start small with these simple questions:

  • How often do I check email?
  • How much time does it take?
  • Can I isolate email to two specific times a day?
  • And can I do it at the same times every single day?

The answer to the last two is more likely "Yes" than you think. Making that routine is hard but immediately satisfying. You can get through mor tasks each day or take more time for the important ones by being deliberate with email review.

But see, that's sneaky. If you do this, you've added a little Order to your life, a little Routine, which is the first step to building a habit. And habits are the gold bricks in the Road to Virtue.

Order is... Feedback?

So, of course, I do this for many more of my routines and processes. I am happy to share any of my diagrams if you're interested. Use the Quick Feedback form to the right or below and incude your email address. I won't do anything nefarious with your email, either. I just like to share and, if you include feedback on my writing, well that's just gravy.

I'm thinking I may need to write about my meta process too? ike, how I actualuy come up with all this stuff to draw/outline/whatever. If that would be helpful for you, please send me some feedback as well.