My friend Amy recently sent me this link – the summary of Charles Darwin’s typical daily schedule. According to Darwin’s son, Francis, he rarely changed this routine, even when guests were visiting.

I’m not suggesting I could in any way maintain such a rigid, unchanging schedule, but a few things struck me as I thought about this over these last extremely busy weeks in the Zug Haus.

A time for everything. Darwin set aside time to “read his letters,” to work in his study, and to walk. There was also a huge chunk of time in the middle of the day for resting and spending time with his family. After lunch he “answered his letters.”

I am incredibly undisciplined in setting aside time for specific tasks, and feel overwhelmed most of the day because my mind is divided between many priorities. Darwin sat down to “read his letters,” then came back to “answer his letters” another time. I read my email all day long, and half the time I never respond because I’m reading the email while involved with another task and I just forget. I like the idea of setting aside time just for reading and responding to correspondence, and closing gmail for the rest of the day.

My face twitched a little just thinking about it. I think the mental withdrawal will be excruciating, but that only confirms it needs to be done.

Know your best time to focus. According to Darwin’s son, 8-9:30 was his best time for focused work. I’m still trying to figure this one out for myself, as it seems my best time for focused work is whenever the spirit moves me. If I’m not feeling inspired to do something, it’s maddening to force myself to do it. And yes, I often feel inspired to clean, or do laundry, so it’s not like my inspiration is biased to all the fun things.

Exercise. I know it’s been a theme at This Pile lately, the lack of exercise I’m engaging in. But seriously, it keeps coming up. In his schedule, Darwin walked, then worked, then walked, ate lunch, answered letters, and rested; then worked, then walked again. His son indicated the distance of his walk “depended on his health,” which implies he walked even if he didn’t feel that great

Sometimes I wonder if I take my exercising (or lack thereof) too seriously. Granted, I have a gym membership so I shouldn’t waste that money, but what if I was a little less intense about the purpose of my exercise? Walking is good. I moves and stretches my muscles, it clears the mind, and if done outside it provides fresh air. Maybe I need to set aside goals of losing weight or running a 5K and just focus on working hard, then taking a walk.

Over the Christmas break I implemented one of these things. I sent my over 500 emails to an archived folder, which left just the ten emails needing immediate action in my inbox. My goal is to respond to emails once a day before archiving them, keeping my inbox to just one page. So far this is working, and I only have 20 emails needing attention – most of which just came in this morning. Hopefully those of you who normally get frustrated with me for not answering emails have noticed I’m actually responding to you!

For a great “map” of an effective work flow, Trisha posted one from the Getting Things Done model.

What is your trusted system of getting things done?

3 thoughts on “Routine”

  1. I always think about this topic as the year changes. Like you, I swing between super-organized ridiculousness and panic over not getting anything done. I loved the idea of going to bed with a plan every night described here: and I think that is going to be my plan for this season. I like the “bigger picture” idea of it, focusing on the things that really matter – prayer/devotion, food choices, and essential daily tasks. I’m hoping it will take away both extremes, the stress of feeling overwhelmed by undone tasks and the rigidness of a set schedule.

    We’ll see how it goes come baby time though, all bets may be off.

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