Does routine — and a structured day — lead to more or less free time?
I’ll argue broad-based structure is a great way to build success, enjoy more free time, and live your ideal day. In other words, I don’t like to plan minute-by-minute, but I do believe it helps to categorically plan my day; so I can spend time the way I choose, instead of haphazardly.
Here’s an example of my typical schedule on a day I am not seeing a patient or in the midst of a large work project:
- Wake up (between 6:30am — 9am)
- Healthy activity for at least 30 minutes (paddle board, kayak, dip in the ocean, quick bodyweight or weight-based workout, massage chair, hot tub, go for a walk, meditate, practice gratitude, etc.)
- Work (15 minutes to 2.5 hours)
- Play with my son (1–3 hours)
- Eat lunch (1 hour)
- Couple’s time (1–2 hours)
- Personal time for health of about 30–90 minutes (same examples as above)
- Family or friends time (2–4 hours)
- Dinner (1 hour)
- Bedtime routine + health activity for 15–45 minutes (like meditation, massage, hot tub, or a wind-down activity that helps me put today — and tomorrow — into perspective)
Health is built into my “routine”, but so is a lot of freedom to choose how I want to pursue health or any other goal. I like to keep my health routine dynamic, as well as my free time. I like to make sure I have hours carved out of the day that are specifically for my top priorities: health, family, friends, healing, and self-reflection. I like to treat family relationships as both unique and joint, because I find this nurtures them in the best way.
I choose freedoms by having a broad-based outline of what I hope to accomplish today. Tomorrow is built upon today’s freedoms, accomplishments, or lack thereof.
If I’m the middle of a large work project, my time for work will adjust and I’ll put in a long day, week, month, or whatever it takes. If I have an income goal that requires work be adjusted — due to life events or current spending — my time commitment may go up. I represent additional work time as ‘family time’, since it’s my position in our family to make sure bills get paid.
If I’m seeing a patient, I take time away from any category besides personal health and meal time. This way, I’m always taking care of myself and spending quality time with my family.
Other than that, I use this ‘maintenance’ schedule to represent an ‘average’ day, because I find it to be fulfilling, it allows room for peak weeks that are busy due to one of the reasons I mentioned above, and most days I have plenty of freedom to reflect and choose how I want to spend my day.
Today’s homework assignment: plan your ideal day.
This is a day you would live every single day of your life, not just a day of vacation. What time might you wake up? How much structure will you have? Who will you see? What might you feel? Will there be odors in the house as you get out of bed or at lunchtime? What will each meal consist of and taste like? Will you hear background noise, conversation, the love of your life calling on the phone, etc.?
When you know what you’re shooting for, and you’ve planned it out with great detail, it’s a heck of a lot easier to work backwards. I suspect you’ll find you get more ‘work’ done in a couple hours than most people do with their entire days or week. I also believe you’ll see how nurturing your relationships makes everything easier. Last, I’ll bet you notice taking care of yourself makes performance higher in every category.
Once you’re done writing out your ideal day, hide it away for a year or three. Then, take it out and read it; you may be living this life… I know I am.
I’m so grateful for you,
Originally published at drkareem.com on February 17, 2017.