Last Saturday night, I was talking to my friend (Mahmoud) discussing a project then I offered to specify a weekly time to discuss the updates every week. My friend asked WHY I have recently introduced a little fixed routine in my life (which is against my personality!). This is an important question and here is the detailed answer.
Throughout the past year (since the beginning of March 2020), I had already finished my internship practically (but not officially). I decided to spend the entire year (2020) with no fixed routine. So, was this good? The answer is Yes and No. Yes, because I felt FREE and LIBRATED from any work obligations. No, because my attention span was reduced and my stress levels increased. I noticed a decrease in how long I can keep my mind focused on doing one thing at a moment simply because my mind is very busy with long to-do things that I have to navigate through and I have not set the appropriate system to enable me from navigating inside all the studies, tasks, work, activities, business, and research that I’m involved in.
By the beginning of 2021, I decided to introduce a fixed routine to my life gradually and the results were surprising both ways. Then I recently listened to the two books entitled “How to be a productivity Ninja …” and “Atomic Habits”. Both the authors of these top-rated books emphasized the need for attention management. We are living a busy life where everything is competing to take our attention including work, family, mobile phone notifications, friends, news, social media, … etc. Our brains are receiving an overwhelming input of information every day. Seven years ago, I read a similar sentence by Brain Tracy in his famous book “the Focus Point” but at this time, I did not fully understand the meaning (perhaps my life was not too full to realize this problem). Now, this sounds true, I personally receive an average of 20-40 new important emails per day and I am involved in dozens of projects and works.
From January 2021, I decided to make a fixed time to address all inquiries, questions, and revisions required for my research team. Every Tuesday from 6:00 PM to 8-9 PM, I dedicate this time to my team BUT throughout the week, I never receive any notification, question, or inquiry about anything related to this work which keeps my mind less distracted. Then I started to gradually set a specific time for all recurrent tasks in my life. This turned out to be a great step. The results were good on both my stress levels and attention span. Also, my mind is now much clearer to focus on other things. Furthermore, when you specify a time for every routine recurrent task, your brain will automatically learn about the pattern of behavior and will help you to be mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared for things before they happen. Every year in March, I have a vacation usually in Ras Elbarr (If I’m in Egypt). This week, I canceled my booking at Steigenberger Hotel El-Lessan at the last minute and I did not go because I found I do not need to take a break.
This transition from the “time management” concept to “time & attention management” was helpful for me. I realized that even the minute I wasted in the past checking my email inbox on my smartphone was not well-spent, simply because I did not reply until I opened my laptop. When I opened my laptop, I found all emails marked as “read” and I had to search again through the inbox for every important email. Furthermore, I had to keep (in my mind or written) a list of all important emails to address at the end of the day or the next day. So why this extra effort? It is better to determine a specific time to check, read, and respond to emails immediately. We have to fight the unresistible desire and curiosity to know whatever new things are coming to us and are important for us.
Following these personal experiences, I now realize that a bit of a fixed routine is important to organize the information digestion process, increase attention, and decrease stress.