I am often asked for advice on productivity. People want to know how I get things done.

The truth is I am not well organized, I don’t use any productivity tools.

I work hard but I don’t work all of the time. I have a decent work life balance.

My secret, if I have one, is routine.

I try to do the same things at the same times every day or every week.

Some examples:

– I like to meditate first thing after I wake up.

– I like to handle personal financial matters on Saturday mornings (something I learned from my Dad).

– I need to blog before I leave home or I have a hard time getting that done.

– I work out before breakfast.

When I stick to my routine, I seem to be able to get a lot done.

When I get out of my routine, things fall apart quickly. It is like dominoes. One falls down and knocks down all of the others.

There are challenges with relying on routine. Lots of traveling, for example, makes it hard to stay in a routine.

But I have not found any organizing principle more powerful than routines and I try to apply them to as much of my life as I can.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Really useful.To me moving about, I find that I rely more on my habits as blocks and less on the routines that string them together.Whatever works, works I guess.Meditating, working out, writing are parts of my every day in my own way.

  2. Alex Sebastian

    Yes. I have been working hard on learning how to adopt a new routine/habit. I cannot think of a more powerful talent. I can only imagine how successful I would have been had I learned this as a part of my formal education instead of in my 30s

  3. JLM

    .Lean gruel.Organization is over rated. You need enough to know where the limits of existence are and not one drop more.”A foolish consistency (substitute “organization”) is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well as concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradicts everything you said today.”Ralph Waldo Emerson in Self Reliance 1841One may pour their energy into organization or thinking, but not both.I suggest that your routine feeds your mind.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. sigmaalgebra

      My approach: Keep down distractions so that sitting in my office I have nothing to do but the work. Then I start into the work and BOOM — it’s TERRIFIC fun and I get a LOT done!

    2. Vasudev Ram

      >A foolish consistency (substitute “organization”) is the hobgoblin of little mindsHa ha, good one. I only knew the first part of it, the part I quoted, from it occurring in the Python programming language’s style guide, called PEP-8:…Also didn’t know it was from Emerson.Good to see the full quote and know who it is by, thanks. Admire Emerson from what little I’ve read about him, must read his work.And speaking of Python, a little news from my end – I published an article about Python and Linux in Linux Pro Magazine somewhat recently:Exploring the /proc filesystem (with Python programs and Linux commands):…And a plug for my Python (and other) training, thanks to mine host, who allows it (in moderation):… – the page has course outlines and client testimonials.

      1. Vasudev Ram

        Also, I had used a quote I liked from Thoreau in my page in my high school yearbook (graduation year).…Just saw in the Wikipedia page about Emerson that he was a mentor and friend of Thoreau.

  4. Dave McWade

    Are you reading any technology/news apps are part of your morning routine? If yes, which ones?

  5. Gayatri Sarkar

    I thought I always have some room to be little lazy and still be productive. Being a new mom I realized routine is such an important part of my life now if I want to be productive. I’m trying to put myself into the art of atomic habits so that I can eventually grow them into full fledged ones.

  6. PhilipSugar

    You know one of my employees told me about the concept of “no zero days” it means you always do something towards a serious goal never take a day off, but you could have better days and worse days just no zero days. That turns into discipline. Mmmm. Son of an West Point Army officer that blogs…….sounds familiar.

    1. William Mougayar

      Discipline. yes, that’s the key word.

    2. Mac

      Dropping by AVC has become a daily routine. It is both enjoyable and educational. Therefore, I have “no zero days”. Nice concept.

      1. PhilipSugar


  7. William Mougayar

    Routines, Habits or Ritual….I think it’s the discipline to stick to them that matters, as Phil Sugar just mentioned.

  8. Tom Labus

    You know when you are in rhythm. You can tell it in others too.

  9. Robbie Bent

    My siblings and I started a new routine around family recently — we setup a recurring calendar reminder on Friday mornings to send an email with a memory from childhood to our parents. Since we all live in different cities, it provides a medium for the whole family to connect even if everybody is busy and has had a huge impact on our parents — scheduling the time weekly has lead to a bunch of excitement for Friday mornings! (sounds dramatic to schedule family time — but since starting we connect every week no matter what)

    1. LE

      If that works for you then that’s good. The issue that I personally have with things like that which require creativity is that they are not motivated in a pure way they are forced to fit a mold and a requirement. In that way they become a negative (in my mind) and a drag because you have to continue doing them.This is one of the reasons I hated being on the cross country team in high school. I hated being told to run every day. I hated the one programming course in college that I took (APL). I hated being given assignments. Stupid ones that had no practical use in the real world. I like things that flow more naturally from personal motivations or a need. So along those lines I have pretty much run 98% of the days in a year for the last 22 years (and longer but not every day) and I have done all sorts of ‘programs’ that have made me money. Just not ones that someone gave me an assignment to write.Likewise I comment here almost every day. But nobody is requiring me to do so.

      1. AMT Editorial Staff

        “…from personal motivation or NEED” — our caps. Need drives. By chance are you a younger sibling? We note that our Team’s younger siblings do NOT like being told what to do outside the confines of an established relationship protocol…like boss to employee etc. Last, always exercise first is HUGE.

        1. LE

          Nope not a younger sibling.

  10. kidmercury

    It’s like how we roll in sixers nation. #TrustTheProcess

  11. Sebastian Gonzalez

    Routines are key for me too.Daily routines are easier, but weekly routines are a lot harder to incorporate. How do you create weekly habits?

  12. Mike Chan

    Routines and discipline are invaluable. Another little hack I use is time-boxing in your calendar.Need to write? Set up an event in your calendar for an hour (or however long you’d like). That time is yours, and only yours, and you’ll get a reminder for it.Then you’ll need the discipline to stick to this routine!

  13. JamesHRH

    Self awareness is the key.Certain types of people benefit from habits that would not help others.Discipline that works for you.

  14. steve ganis

    I have been focused on importance of sleep as a routine, as a predicate to priductivity. Science shows we need 8 hours a night. If Fred for example is meditating every morn at 530 , you have to be disciplined to getting shuteye by 10 pm.

    1. jason wright

      i need 9 hours.

  15. Pete Griffiths

    Automation helps.I’ve put a huge amount online, heavily organized, labelled, timetabled.

  16. jason wright

    ‘routine’ and ‘rut’ appear to have a common etymological origin. The ‘secret’ is to be constantly aware of the ‘why’ of the behaviour. “Why am i doing this?”. The answer needs to ring true.

  17. Mark Gavagan

    @fredwilson, Are you interested in trying an early version of Streaker’s Journal, which helps focus on habits and what’s most important each day (work, relationships, fitness, etc.)? https://uploads.disquscdn.c