Routine. The word itself is often used as a disparaging description of lifestyle, or habits that have turned into a rut. One of the things most aspiring entrepreneurs relish is the concept of not being shackled to that "same old routine", but to be able to have a more interesting and exciting career experience.
But here's the simple truth; routine is also rhythm, and all of us have a natural rhythm; leveraging that rhythm is the key to our personal success. We spend most of the first two decades of our lives being trained to follow specific routines, and our rhythms are shaped accordingly.
That routine becomes a mainstay during our time in corporate life; it's no surprise that we still find a need for predictable daily patterns, even in self-employment. So, in order to "go with the flow" of success, let's look at steps to build a routine that fits into your natural rhythm.
1. Identify your rhythm - some people are early birds, and some are night owls. However, if you think you're an early bird, but tend to stay up late to "get things done", is it nocturnal inclination, or the fact that you're interrupted less by phone calls, e-mails or other distractions? Either way, if you're shorting yourself on sleep, it can lead to an increasingly deep circadian inversion, and in the long run, drain your productivity.
If you're truly an early bird, plan those activities that require quiet and concentration earlier in the day, before the inevitable distractions begin. If, on the other hand, you find that being up at night and late to rise really works better for you, then stop beating yourself up over "getting a late start", and plan your daily tasks and long-term projects according to your latter-day schedule.
2. Schedule for success - If you find that your rhythm needs a kick-start, add a daily walk or visit to the local coffee shop as your "transition activity", to help put your mind into "business mode".
You might find that your best time to respond to voicemail isn't exactly "work hours"; in that case, write down notes on all the items you need to cover in each phone conversation, and separate them so that you have notes for each phone call in front of you as you return calls during more traditional timeframes.
Establish a specific day for client or vendor meetings, so that your routine during the rest of the week isn't disrupted by "away" trips that cost travel time, and disrupt your ability to focus on other work-related activities.
3. Recognize other people's rhythms - family, significant others, customers. You may find your best productive time period is right before lunch, and your partner may finally hit their stride when the rest of the world in your time zone is sound asleep in their beds. This can lead to some epic clashes regarding quality shared time, household tasks or social time. There is no one right answer to this one; the best thing to do is to allow flexibility in your routine to blend with the routine of people around you.
When your significant other protests that they see the back of your head more than any other part of you, plan an hour or two during your "lull" time to downshift and do activities that allow you to take a break, and enjoy their company. If you have a client who prefers to chat later in the day, schedule a specific time that won't disrupt your regular evening schedule to have that interaction.
Whatever your rhythm is, embrace it - doing so will give you power and strength to succeed!