“I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.”
– William Faulkner
We’re all familiar with the idea of workflow, whether we know it or not. Workflow is simply the idea of doing repeatable actions in an established way, to produce a specific outcome. It’s sort of like assembling a car – you make the frame and then the engine and then, well, I have no idea how to build a car. But you get the idea.
Workflow, however, doesn’t have to be all about work. Creating a personal workflow, incorporating the activities, habits and routines you want to create for your lifestyle, can go a long way toward accomplishing your goals.
Why would you want to do this? Well let’s be honest, who here, when the new year rolls around, hasn’t said, “Next year, I’m going to ______ (your great thing here).” By developing your personal workflow, you finally can do _______ (that great thing). It’s been shown that people who do the same pattern of activities at consistent times are more effective, productive and successful than those who don’t.
If you work in a workplace, the established pattern may be pretty well laid out for you (if not, and if you figure it out yourself, you’ll probably wind up looking like a freaking genius). But for our personal life, it’s up to us to make up all the rules.
Working from home as I do is a different challenge. There are always projects taunting me and chores mocking me. So it’s important to have a designated time to do the thing I need to do now, so I can do the other thing … in its time.
Here’s a few things you can do to develop your personal workflow –
Decide what’s important for you
What do you want to include into your daily and weekly workflow? How about self-care routines? House chores? Artistic projects? Exercise?
I read a New Year’s resolution someone had made, that made a big impression on me. The girl had resolved to do 15 minutes of exercise every morning. If she had time and wanted to do more, she would do it. But she was going to get her 15 minutes, no matter what. What I love about this is that it overcomes what is typically the biggest barrier to exercise or anything new – inertia (you remember that law in physics – a body in motion tends to stay in motion, a body at rest tends to fall back to sleep).
Maybe you want to develop a morning or evening skin care routine, or do a little “punch list” of a few daily chores to keep you house tidy. Whatever it is, make it part of your routine.
It only takes about 21 days for a habit to “stick”.
Create a schedule
Now that you’ve determined what habits and routines you want to include in your life, put it on a schedule.
It doesn’t need to be fancy – you can use a planner, a Google calendar, an Excel spreadsheet or a bunch of colorful post-it notes on the wall, whatever works for you, starting from the time you want to get up until the time you want to go to bed.
Keep your schedule realistic. If you know Friday night is your date night or chill-out-from-the-week night, don’t plan essential activities for that time. Don’t plan your exercise for 5:00 a.m. if you’ve never seen the sun come up a day in your life (unless you’re really committed to making the shift to becoming a “morning person”).
To give you a broad glimpse of my workflow schedule (it’s much more detailed than this), my day starts at around 4:30 a.m. (because I am a morning person) with a strong cup of coffee while I check emails, use my jade roller, and do a little social media, followed by exercise, and then I’m ready to launch into the bulk of my work day at around 6:00. Most evenings are blocked out for writing projects, but Friday and Saturday nights are open for social engagements. Saturday morning is for house chores (with a little mid-week clean-up slot scheduled for Wednesday, because I can’t go a full week without cleaning something), and Sunday mornings are reserved for a slow, quiet start to the week with my husband – a little coffee and croissant, a little jazz, pretending I’m in Paris …
Set yourself up for success
Once you’ve got your schedule laid out, treat it like your job. After all, it was set by the boss – you. You can move things around, it’s your schedule, but have a little negotiation with yourself to reschedule things so you don’t drop the activities you’ve decided are important to you
Make things easy to accomplish. If you want to get exercise done in the morning, jump into your exercise clothes first thing in the morning after brushing your teeth. I even have one friend who sleeps in her exercise clothes so she’s ready to go in the morning. I tried that, but just didn’t find it comfortable – maybe it was the sit-ups and leg lifts I was doing in my sleep.
If you want to implement a skin care or other self-care routine, have the items you need readily available and staring you in the face. If a regular cleaning routine is your deal, consider making up a caddy with your supplies so you’re ready to pounce on those dust balls when the time arrives.
Learn to say “No” every now and then
You don’t want to be so rigid about your schedule that it takes all the fun out of life, but you do want to give it the respect it deserves. These are the things you said were important to you, so don’t be too quick to give your otherwise-dedicated time away.
I love being social, and sometimes it can be hard to turn down an invitation, or a request to throw a last minute party for ten or 30 of our closest friends. And sometimes it’s the right thing to do – but sometimes it’s not. It goes back to that little self-negotiation – how can I do this without sacrificing that. If you can’t, just say no.
I hope this helps get your wheels turning on how you can make your desired habits a part of your personal workflow, and that you set yourself up to have your best, happiest, most productive and positive year so far.