Eight Ideas To Learn From The Daily Routines Of Famous Thinkers
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There’s a lot of talk about habits and routines as the best way to achieve your goals and design a better life. Because they don’t have the structures of traditional work, every entrepreneur needs to set up good routines if they want to succeed.
Your routine is made up of your individual habits. A cluster of habits, performed in a specific order and way, combine together to make a routine. These habits develop naturally, or they can be deliberately put into place and practiced until they become automatic.
The most famous and successful people throughout history had routines that governed their daily life, and fueled their great works. But what was it about these routines that helped them work towards their goals? And what can entrepreneurs learn from these lifelong routines that will help them improve their lives, and work towards their own goals?
1. Work with your natural rhythms
A good morning routine is often one of the first elements of any discussion on routine design. Many people who swear by their morning routine start early, with breakfast or meditation or exercise. But this isn’t necessarily the best way.
Winston Churchill woke up early every morning, but he refused to get out of bed until 11am. Until that time he would read the paper, eat breakfast and work from bed. He kept this schedule throughout his life, in the most trying times. It worked for his body and his lifestyle. In comparison, Thomas Edison hated to sleep and thought it was a waste of time. He tried to sleep as little as possible.
The key idea here is not to follow someone else’s ideas of how things should be, but to listen to your body’s natural rhythms. A recent study has even suggested that being a morning person may be in your genes. This research is still in its infancy, but claims that natural morning people find it easy to go to sleep early and wake up rested, relaxed, and ready to face the day.
However, natural night owls may have trouble falling asleep. That means that if woken up early they’ll often be unrested and unhappy. If these tendencies are genetically coded, all the work in the world can’t change it. And that’s fine, because there’s no strong evidence that either tendency is superior in any important way.
This means that if you’re naturally more prolific late at night, you shouldn’t try to change this. And the same for morning people who get their best work done before the rest of the world is awake. Whichever way works for you, try to establish your routines around your natural tendencies. It will save you a lot of trouble and time that’s better spent doing something else.
2. Make time for exercise (keep a pen and paper with you)
Winston Churchill took a walk in his garden every day. The composer Tchaikovsky actually believed that it was bad luck to miss or shorten his daily walk. A regular exercise routine, even one as simple as taking a walk in nature, can improve every aspect of your daily life.
Everyone knows about the benefits of exercise. It’s good for your body and overall health, and also has positive effects on your mind. Numerous studies show that regular exercise can improve mood, memory, thinking skills, and creativity. So, there really is no argument you can make against creating an exercise routine.
As an entrepreneur, you probably spend a lot of time indoors on a computer. So, when you exercise, try to make sure that you spend at least some of that time outside in nature if possible. Spending time in nature has beneficial effects on your mood and can even spark your creativity. That’s why you should always have a pen and paper close by, to note down any ideas that come while you’re working out.
3. Try to minimize interruptions to your routine
Ernest Hemingway’s novels are on almost every great literature list, and probably will be for the foreseeable future. He is just one of the great creators who claimed that he preferred to work at times when there were fewer disturbances from the people around him.
This idea of working uninterrupted has lost its shine these days. In our days of social media and devices, it seems like everyone is talking about how well they multitask. Strategies for getting everything done at once are everywhere online. But multitasking may not be as helpful as everyone seems to think. A 2014 study at Stanford University suggests that multitasking lowers the quality of your work and may actually damage your brain. The study found that even people who classed themselves as good multitaskers performed worse on groups of tasks. They just couldn’t stop thinking about the other things they had to do. This distraction affected their memory, attention, and thinking skills. There is even some evidence that long term multitasking could do permanent damage to the brain.
This means that you should turn off your phone, ignore the messages or social media updates on your computer, and not answer the door. This may not always be possible, of course, life just can’t be controlled to that extent, but if it worked for Hemingway, it’s probably worth trying.
4. Don’t make excuses about being busy
Some of the most creative and innovative thinkers in the world had to fit their best work around the demands of daily life. Einstein worked in a patents office while he theorized ideas that still guide modern physics today. Franz Kafka wrote his novels in his free time between family life and working in an insurance office. Everyone has a busy life, but this shouldn’t be used as an excuse to put off the things you want to do. Even ten minutes a day working on a project will yield results. So if you set up a routine that includes ten minutes work, and your routine lasts for a year, you will have a very impressive amount of work to show for your efforts.
Don’t use your busy life as an excuse to avoid the great work you want to do. Set up your routines to find time around the edges of daily life, and gradually work to complete the projects you want to bring to the world.
5. Give up on the idea of perfection
This doesn’t just refer to the quality of your work, it’s an overarching idea. You will never be able to find the perfect environment for you to work in. You will never be able to craft the perfect routine or habits that will propel you to greatness. Life doesn’t work like that.
Jane Austen wrote her books on scraps of paper while she was in the sitting room with her mother and a parade of guests. Agatha Christie couldn’t show journalists her writing desk because she didn’t have one, she worked anywhere that her typewriter could balance.
These examples show that the perfect time to do that big project, that big dream, implement that new routine, will never come. No matter how much preparation or planning you put in, you don’t need everything just right before you start. And if you try to wait for perfection, you’ll never get started.
6. Make time for people
Your life shouldn’t be all about work. As an entrepreneur you’ll probably work alone for long periods of time. Most of your day will be spent indoors, crouched over the computer. This can have devastating effects on your mental and emotional health. Numerous studies strongly link social isolation with mental illness, general unhappiness, a higher rate of disease, and even a higher mortality rate. This is one aspect of your life where you should establish healthy routines fast.
The greatest thinkers of all time knew this as well. Benjamin Franklin, a great inventor and thinker, actually scheduled three hours in the evening for more social pursuits, such as engaging in conversations, listening to music, and so on. Barack Obama, once one of the most powerful men in the world, kept his mornings free for breakfast and conversation with his family.
No matter how much work you have to do, make sure you make room for friends and family. Your business, health and overall happiness will be so much better for it. And if the President of the United States can make the time, so can you.
7. Be willing to toss your routine aside
This one comes straight from Tim Ferris, arguably one of the most prolific and innovative thinkers in the modern world. He designed a fairly flexible routine for himself, and is always willing to throw it aside if something more fun or interesting comes along.
This doesn’t mean you should drop your work for every little distraction. If you do that, your business is bound to fail. Instead it means that if a one-time opportunity to do something amazing comes along, you shouldn’t be afraid to go for it. After all, there’s very little chance that someone will die if they have to wait. You can always finish your work later, but rare experiences or chances don’t come along every day.
8. Evaluate your routines regularly
Every evening Benjamin Franklin asked himself one question: “What good have I done today?” This question aligned with his beliefs, with the impact he wanted to have on the world, and ensured that he spent his days in ways he could be proud of.
Setting goals and intentions for the distant future is great. It gives us something to work toward and hope for, but on a daily basis, everyone needs to know that they are on the right path. This means examining your routines and feeling proud, or adjusting your plans for the following day. This constant evaluation helps to ground you in the present, so you’re not constantly living in the future. It can also be a great way to tell if your routines are serving you and your overall purpose.
The number one thing you should take away from this
Entrepreneurship is about creation. It’s about creating a product and a lifestyle that suits you and your needs. But that doesn’t mean you should completely ignore the past. The habits and routines of great thinkers can give you guidance, and inspiration on your path. Read about these great lives, about how they did their great work, and trial some of their techniques in your life. If it doesn’t work, no harm done. But if something does work, you will have one more tool on your journey toward success and creation.