Thursday, May 27, 2010

An Examination of Routines

I am the type of guy who really likes routines.  I think it's tied to this weird obsession I have with finding the most efficient way to do everything.  I recently stumbled across this website where the routines of famous people are listed.

One of my favorites is Benjamin Franklin:
The precept of Order requiring that every part of my business should have its allotted time, one page in my little book contained the following scheme of employment for the twenty-four hours of a natural day.
5-8: Rise, wash, and address Powerful Goodness! Contrive day's business, and take the resolution of the day; prosecute the present study, and breakfast. (The Question. What good shall I do this day?)
8-12: Work.
12-2: Read, or look over my accounts, and dine.
2-6: Work.
6-10: Put things in their places. Supper. Music or diversion, or conversation. Examination of the day. (The Question. What good have I done today?)
10-5: Sleep.
Making time every day to ask "What good shall I do this day?" and "What good have I done today?" is reason enough to work on building a routine.  The practice clearly worked for the underrated Franklin.

Another interesting one is Barack Obama:
Although his presidency is barely a week old, some of Mr. Obama’s work habits are already becoming clear. He shows up at the Oval Office shortly before 9 in the morning, roughly two hours later than his early-to-bed, early-to-rise predecessor. Mr. Obama likes to have his workout — weights and cardio — first thing in the morning, at 6:45. (Mr. Bush slipped away to exercise midday.)
He reads several papers, eats breakfast with his family and helps pack his daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, off to school before making the 30-second commute downstairs — a definite perk for a man trying to balance work and family life. He eats dinner with his family, then often returns to work; aides have seen him in the Oval Office as late as 10 p.m., reading briefing papers for the next day.
“Even as he is sober about these challenges, I have never seen him happier,” Mr. Axelrod said. “The chance to be under the same roof with his kids, essentially to live over the store, to be able to see them whenever he wants, to wake up with them, have breakfast and dinner with them — that has made him a very happy man.”
In comparison I jotted down how my usual morning breaks down:
  • 6:30: Wake up (sometimes set alarm at 6 and hit snooze until 6:30)
  • 6:50: Shower/dress
  • 7:10: Eat breakfast/check email, google reader, facebook, google news
  • 7:45: Leave for bus
  • 8:15-8:30: Arrive at work
My routine is far from ideal.  I enjoy having time in the morning to reflect a bit on the day ahead.  My current schedule usually does not allow much time for doing this.

I will be starting law school in less than three months so my routine will definitely be changing.  I am planning on taking this opportunity to instill a much more structured, Franklin-like routine.

An easy criticism of these routines are that they are boring and non-spontaneous.  I think this is fair.  But I also think that this type of structuring can allow for maximization of time to do great things.

From looking at the routines of famous and accomplished individuals a theme seemed to emerge; rigid structure allows for focus and bursts of creativity.

A few links related to the subject:

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