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5 Steps Successful People Take When Creating a New Daily Routine

Everyone has their own unique daily routine—some favor long walks, others obsess over the perfect cup of morning coffee, some jump out of bed at 5 AM, others slowly warm up to the day with a bit of journaling.

But as individual as our habits might be, that doesn’t mean that when it comes to designing a productivity-boosting daily routine, anything goes. As much as tastes vary, the truly successful use surprisingly similar principles when they set up their schedules.

Exceptionally productive people may disagree on details like coffee versus tea or morning run versus afternoon gym session, but according to Jocelyn K. Glei, author of Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind, almost all of them follow a few essential principles. According to a post boiling down the wisdom of Glei's book on blog Farnam Street, these are the five things successful people consider when building their daily routines:

1. Do Important Work First

Your brain is generally at its best in the morning. Successful people figure out how to put that reality to use, doing their most important work when their mind is firing on all cylinders. “Do your most meaningful creative work at the beginning of your day, and leave ‘reactive work’—like responding to email or other messages—for later,” instructs Glei.

2. Jumpstart Creativity

Just like a little before-bed ritual can help your body start to wind down, a pre-work ritual can signal to your brain that it’s time to gear up for productivity. Glei suggests you “establish ‘associative triggers’—such as listening to the same music or arranging your desk in a certain way—that tell your mind it’s time to get down to work.”

3. Take Breaks

Humans aren’t machines—our energy levels and output aren’t consistent over time, but instead dip and rise. Highly successful people learn to work with that reality not against it by taking regular breaks between surges of productivity.

4. Incorporate Solitude

The amount of time may vary depending on whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, but absolutely everyone who wants to do great work needs to find some time for solitude in their routine. “Make a point of spending some time alone each day. It’s a way to observe unproductive habits and thought processes, and to calm your mind,” advises Glei.

5. Show Up

It is perhaps the most profound principle underlying the routines of the most successful. Sometimes you feel like working, sometimes you don’t. Those that accomplish great things sit down at their desk either way. Glei stresses you must “show up, whether you feel inspired or not.”

Want more insights on how to tune up your daily routine for success? Mason Curry wrote a whole book on the routines of creative geniuses, while time use expert and author Laura Vanderkam has specific insights on how to put your mornings and weekends to better use.

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