Structuring Your Day

This is a follow up to my previous article What I Want To Do For A Living, And Why. As the semester grows closer to its end I feel like I lack structure on how my days should be structured. In the previous article I figured out and decided what I wanted to do each day, but not how the days should be structured. In addition I’d like to figure out what kind of mindset I want to have during the 3 month projects and during the 1 month break.

I’ll try to make this post abstract so everyone can use maybe not all, but some of the ideas and steps 🙂

Figure Out And Decide

The first step is to figure out and decide what you want to do and why. Some years ago I was extremely structured and I got loads of stuff done, but quite a lot of those things I got done were no longer things I really wanted to do or had any benefit of. For example I had decided that I wanted to get better at geography. After some introspection two months later I knew that I wouldn’t have real use of it. I might impress people when I know where a country/city is located, but I rather learn something I’m interested in (I’m not particularly interested in memorizing facts) and I’ll have more use of, for example psychology. I’m don’t want to fall into the same trap again so nowadays I think twice, even thrice, before starting a new activity. As I’ve already figured and decided what I want to do in my previous article What I Want To Do For A Living, And Why I’ll skip the ‘figure out and decide’ process in this article. Feel free to check out the article if you have problem deciding what you want to do (disclaimer: it’s quite long :P).

For the sake of simplicity I’ll list all things I decided I want to do. On all weekdays, both during work and break months, I want to read 30 minutes (non-fiction), meditate, practise piano 15 minutes, and exercise (at least) 2 times per week. In addition I’ve set a rule that says I’m only allowed to do fun stuff after eight, although fun stuff might be working on a project or something else. Essentially these are mini-breaks allowing me to relax and put everything behind me after eight, even when I have stuff I “have to do”.

Mindset and Values

The second step is to determine the mindset and what values you want during the day. The mindset I want is that I’m productive, I do things with ease, I don’t waste time, and I take things slowly . One thing I want to clarify is that I don’t think taking breaks or any leisure activity is a waste of time. That’s why I have those one month breaks and one reason why I only work six hours per day. From this mindset I want to create rules, or rather guidelines that can guide me during the day.

  • I avoid browsing Facebook until after six — On previous occasions when I have skipped browsing facebook during the day I’m a lot more productive and don’t get caught up in trivialities. This includes any other media/article that I don’t have in my “to read”-list.
  • I check emails only once per day — Lately I have checked my mail quite regularly, otherwise for the last two years I’ve rarely checked my email more than once per day, usually just 2–3 times per week which has worked like a charm.
  • I rise up of bed directly in the morning and quite early — My greatest weakness by far, but it’s a lot easier since spring when it started to get a bit brighter outside in the morning, so I’m sure this will work out just fine 🙂
  • I always do most important or difficult task first — Most productive way to get things done. Basically this means following my list from the top to bottom, no exceptions.
  • I have time to take breaks — I don’t want to fill my days with activities, I still want to have time to take an occasional longer break whenever I feel I want or need to. Although never because I don’t want to do the next task on the list, except if I’m taking a small break to mentally prepare myself for it.
  • During one month breaks I have no obligations to be productive — If it’s nice weather outside or I feel like doing something else I can go with that flow. That’s exactly why I have these breaks, to try out new things or just do nothing all days (usually I do something as I get bored easily).

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good start. I will probably add and remove items to and from this list in the coming months as some items will become habit, and when new obstacles arrive.

Day Structure

First I want to decide when I usually want to do the specified tasks. I’ll try to schedule things so I can use the same schedule during both work and break months as I want to keep the habits strong during the breaks.

I prefer reading before noon and I get a productivity and motivation boost from reading non-fiction. The best time would therefore be to read when my motivation is low or maybe in the morning (to motivate me for the day). At the same time I don’t want to read during breakfast as I want a peaceful breakfast and I can feel stressed sometimes when reading during breakfast. I’m not sure I want to read directly after the lunch break either as I can have a high motivation to continue working. Ideally I’d want to read just before getting into bed, but then I usually want to spend time with my partner. I guess I have to try out some different options (after breakfast, after work, before sleep) to see which works best for me. For now I’ll try directly after breakfast as it can easily be tied to a morning routine that works during breaks months too.

Currently I’m only running and I’ve just come up with a good routine when to run; whenever my partner works or have anything else scheduled during evening. This works good as it usually happens once or twice per week and I prefer running on evenings 🙂 It might become a problem if I start having other evening activities. As this will probably happen a contingency plan is to start my day an hour earlier so I have time to run any afternoon, or always get up one hour earlier. I prefer doing weight training in the morning and I want to go to the gym twice per week—that wasn’t much about weight training…

Ironically enough I feel that the best time to meditate is directly after the lunch, even though I just mentioned I can feel highly motivated to work after a lunch break. Intuition tells me that after the lunch break or after work is a good choice. As I, however, want to meditate with my partner (and she wants to meditate with me) we will probably meditate in the evening after dinner; I guess we’ll discuss when we want to meditate. In those occasions I or she has other things scheduled in the evening I’ll meditate after the lunch break. Now I know when to meditate, but as I’m new to meditation I’m don’t know what kind of meditation styles there exists and which one I want to you. (I stop writing to go and research this topic so I’m ready to start tomorrow. Half an hour later…) I found this article 23 Types of Meditation; the second style ‘Vipassana’ seemed really good for me as I’ll learn to be more in line with my senses which is I think I’m currently missing. I still read through all the other styles, and although some of them sounded nice I will try out Vipassana for 30 days and see what I think of it 🙂

The last item is practising piano. I already have a good habit for this though; during a longer small break I take when doing things.

I thought a while how I wanted to structure things in the morning and through the rest of the day. I decided to make it simple and neither include any time estimates nor times to start an activity (except getting out of bed), as I want more freedom and don’t want to stress, especially not in the morning.

Morning Routine

  • Get up between 6 and 7.
  • (Gym)
  • Shower
  • Breakfast
  • Work (or Free)

Lunch

  • Lunch
  • (Meditation)
  • Work (or Free)

Afternoons and Evenings

  • (Run)
  • Other Tasks
  • (Meditation)
  • Other Tasks

‘Other Tasks’ include things like doing laundry, going to grocery store, cooking, or other minor projects I want to do.

Conclusion

I might have overanalyzed a bit before creating the structure. Then again, now I feel like I have put enough thought when and how I want to structure my work and I feel more compelled to follow this structure than I would’ve if I just had put it haphazardly together (even though the result might’ve been the same). I like the simple result as it’s easy to follow; both daily structure and the guidelines to follow. As a bonus I got to decide which meditation style I wanted to try out. Now I’m ready for tomorrow and how to structure things when the semester finally ends 😀

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