Daily Practices for Lives that Are Anything But Routine (Part 3)

dreamstime_m_41709280While top performers in their respective fields might start their days differently, those who are capable of mind-blowing productivity and jaw-dropping creativity have one thing in common—they all have individual routines for the beginning of their day.

In the last couple of posts we’ve explored the importance of creating structure for the first few hours of your morning and setting goals at the beginning of the day to complete high value work.  But once we’ve started the day with a routine we’ve chosen (as opposed to simply reacting to others) and once we’ve identified the important work we need to get done, how do we actually begin?  In some ways, that’s the toughest part. The demon of procrastination seems to be waiting for us the moment we walk into our office, and usually does a great job of keeping us from getting down to doing our high value work and making the most of our “magic hours.”

Here’s what a typical morning might look like for many of us—we sit down at our desk, and instead of getting about the business of using those couple of hours when we’re the most alert to begin our big work, we procrastinate.  We sign onto Amazon and add a few more things to our shopping cart, or we check out Facebook and Twitter.  Or maybe we sign onto LinkedIn—as a more professional form of social networking, we can trick ourselves into believing we’re working. And before we know it, we’ve been sitting at our desk for an hour, and we’ve yet to begin any work that relates to any of our goals for the day.

Then there is the ever present email.  Even if we’re successful in not looking at our email as soon as we wake up, one of the first things we will do when we get to the office is to start going through the inbox, responding to all that’s accumulated overnight.  Is this really the best way to use that first hour or two in the office?  Remember, email is someone else’s request of your time. Prioritize your goals and tasks first before looking at email so you don’t start your day in reactive mode.  Otherwise, there’s a good chance you’ll spend your entire day responding to what others want from you.

Rituals and routines for that first hour or so at the office can be almost as important as the routines you develop for home.  Habits are powerful things.  Once developed they can serve as a cue to activate a certain kind of behavior, without even engaging the conscious mind.  (see Habit—The 95% of Behavior Marketers Ignore).  What you’re looking for is some kind of ritual or habit that cues your brain that it’s time to work.  Maybe it’s pouring yourself that first cup of coffee.  Maybe it’s pulling out a legal pad and your favorite pen, or going to a special screen on the computer. Maybe its pulling out an index card and actually writing down your big work for the day.

The point is, find something that will signal it’s time to get down to work.  Then dive in.  Do it every morning.  Before long, you’ll find it much easier to keep the demons of procrastination at bay.

Benjamin Sells in The Soul of The Law, says that, as lawyers, it is necessary for us to bring our best selves to our work—and this includes all of the soul’s imaginative and creative capabilities. More is required from us than reluctant, begrudging toil. We need to practice law in the same way a musician practices music or an artist practices art.  Routine, habit and ritual make that possible.  They allow us to approach our work more like art and less like drudgery.  And once we begin to do that, we are well on our way to living lives full of meaning and inhabited possibility.


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