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Boosting your productivity: The transformative power of routines and schedules

Updated: Jul 30, 2023

Routines and schedules may not be suitable for all people, but I think they can be helpful when attempting to find a balance between work and personal life, and increase productivity. Keep in mind that while it may not completely solve your problem, it can be a useful tool in achieving your goals and reducing stress levels. Therefore, if you are interested in trying them out, I recommend giving it a go.

In this post, we will explore the benefits of routines and schedules and provide practical tips for implementing them in your daily life.

Routines vs Schedules

While routines and schedules are related, they differ in that routines involve specific actions or behaviours, while schedules are concerned with the allocation of time. Structuring your day with either routines or schedules can be beneficial to productivity because:

  1. Increased focus: By establishing routines and schedules, you minimize decision fatigue and streamline your workflow, allowing you to concentrate on your research and writing.

  2. Reduced procrastination: Schedules that include dedicated time for writing and research help create accountability and reduce the temptation to put off tasks.

  3. Enhanced work-life balance: A well-structured schedule allows for dedicated time for both academic work and personal interests, promoting a healthier balance between the two.

Building a Routine: A Step-by-Step Approach

  • Identify Your Most Productive Time: Whether you decide to use routines and schedules or any other approach to boost your productivity, I truly think that determining the time of day when you feel most alert and focused is critical. This is your peak productivity window, and it's the ideal time to schedule your most important academic tasks, such as writing or research.

One key concept related to productivity and time of day is the individual's chronotype, which refers to a person's natural inclination toward being a morning person (a "lark") or a night person (an "owl"). Studies have shown that people with different chronotypes have different peak productivity periods, corresponding to their preferred sleep-wake schedules. Many elements cause our productivity to fluctuate throughout the day, such as changes in body temperature and hormones (e.g., cortisol and melatonin), and brain activity. Studies have suggested that understanding your circadian rhythm and chronotype can help you plan your tasks based on when you are most productive.

  • Create a Ritual: Develop a ritual to signal the beginning of your work session. This could be something as simple as brewing a cup of coffee or spending a few minutes in quiet reflection.

This ritual helps your brain transition into "work mode." For example, tennis champion Rafa Nadal is well-known for his pre-match rituals, which include meticulously lining up his water bottles, adjusting his headband, and performing specific on-court routines before each point. These rituals help Nadal maintain focus, intensity, and mental clarity during his matches. Similarly, by establishing your own ritual, you can signal to your brain that it's time to concentrate and be productive in your academic work.

  • Break Tasks into Manageable Chunks: Break down your academic work into smaller, more manageable tasks. Instead of setting a vague goal like "work on research," be more specific, such as "review three articles" or "write 500 words."

  • Consistency is Key: Aim to work consistently during your peak productivity window, even if it's just for a short period each day. Over time, this consistency will help solidify your routine and improve your overall productivity.

Crafting an Effective Schedule

  1. Set Clear Priorities: When creating your schedule, identify the most critical tasks that need to be completed and allocate sufficient time for them. This ensures that you stay focused on what's most important.

  2. Block Out Dedicated Time for Writing and Research: Set aside dedicated time in your schedule for writing and research. By doing this, you create accountability and reduce the temptation to procrastinate.

  3. Incorporate Flexibility: While a well-structured schedule is crucial, it's also important to be flexible and willing to adjust when necessary. This might involve rearranging your schedule to accommodate personal commitments or unexpected academic obligations.

  4. Periodically Review and Adjust: Put in the effort to take a look at your schedule from time to time and make any necessary adjustments. This helps ensure that your schedule continues to support your academic goals and personal needs.

Integrating Habits, Routines, and Schedules for Maximum Productivity

Here are some valuable approaches and examples for integrating routines and schedules into your everyday life. Remember, this process isn't like following a precise cake recipe; feel free to adapt these techniques and tailor them to your unique circumstances. Embracing flexibility is crucial to achieving success!

Start Small: Building Positive Habits and Routines

  • The Pomodoro Technique: I have previously mentioned this popular technique which consists in breaking work into short intervals (usually 25 minutes) called "pomodoros," followed by a brief break (typically 5 minutes). After completing four pomodoros, you take a longer break (15-30 minutes). I like to use this technique when I know I have only limited time periods or in between lectures or meetings.

  • Timeboxing: It's a time-management method where you allocate a fixed amount of time, or a "time box," to each task or activity. I like this technique because it encourages you to work within a specific time frame, helping you stay focused and manage your time more effectively. Here's how you can implement Timeboxing:

    • Make a list of tasks: Start by listing all the tasks you need to accomplish during your workday or work week.

    • Estimate time required: For each task, estimate the time you think it will take to complete. Be realistic and account for any potential interruptions or challenges that may arise.

    • Time-blocking: Allocate dedicated time slots for each task, considering the estimated duration. You can use time blocks in increments such as 30 minutes, 1 hour, or 2 hours. Be sure to incorporate some extra time between tasks to accommodate transitions or potential delays.

    • Schedule your time boxes: Add your time boxes to your calendar or planner, designating the specific time of day when you'll work on each task. Ensure that your schedule is workable and allows for breaks and personal time.

    • Stick to your schedule: During your designated time boxes, focus solely on the task at hand, and avoid multitasking or distractions. Once the time box is over, move on to the next task, even if you haven't completed the previous one. You can always allocate additional time later if needed.

    • Review and adjust: Regularly review your progress and the effectiveness of your time boxes. Adjust your schedule and time allocation as needed to optimize your productivity.

Monitor your progress

  • Keep a Journal: Maintain a journal to record the times that you are the most productive, your daily activities, tracking the habits and routines you've implemented. Note any challenges or successes you experience and reflect on how these habits and routines are affecting your productivity.

  • Use Productivity Apps: There are various productivity apps available that can help you monitor your progress. Apps like Evernote, Todoist, or Toggl can help you track tasks, time spent on activities, and even visualize the time you've dedicated to specific projects.

Reinforcing Positive Behaviours

  • Set Specific Milestones: Establish specific milestones in your academic work, such as completing a research paper or submitting a grant proposal. Celebrate these milestones to reinforce the positive habits, routines, and schedules that contributed to your success.

  • Share Your Success: Sharing your accomplishments with friends, family, or colleagues can create a positive feedback loop that motivates you to continue pursuing your goals. It also helps to create a support system that understands and appreciates your academic efforts.

  • Reward Yourself: Create a system of rewards for achieving your goals or maintaining your habits, routines, and schedules. Rewards can be as simple as enjoying a special treat or taking an evening off to relax and enjoy a favourite hobby.

Implementing routines and schedules can significantly enhance productivity and promote a healthier work-life balance. Keep in mind, though, that there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution, and what works for one person might not work for another.

It's crucial to stay flexible, adapt to your changing circumstances, and continually make adjustments to optimize your approach. A key aspect of this process is identifying your peak productivity periods and scheduling your most challenging tasks during those times. By doing so, you can harness your energy and focus, allowing you to excel in both your professional and personal life.

Stay curious, experiment with different strategies, and find the unique blend that works best for you. Embrace the journey toward greater productivity and a more balanced life with enthusiasm and resilience.


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