Since making the switch to Roam for my productivity tool, I’ve started to enjoy the ease and simplicity of using the tool. Once I allocated time to develop a system that works for me within the tool, it streamlined my morning routine even more so than my last system in Notion. The greatest difference between the two systems is that I no longer have to store my daily notes page in any sort of hierarchy. Roam automatically saves a track record of my Daily Notes to the database, and they’re always searchable by date. On top of that, it’s also great to create pages on the fly with the [] keyboard shortcut for brain dumping thoughts around different topics / people / projects / strategies that come up while working. These pages are automatically saved to the database and are always searchable by topic/keyword as well.
Here's a screenshot of how I've been starting my days using my new productivity system in Roam:
As you can see, I've saved this “Daily Routine” template as a favorite in my sidebar so that I can easily access this routine each morning when I begin my workday. The first thing I do when getting to my desk is copy this structure into my "Daily Notes" page. If you're not familiar with Roam yet, the tool automatically creates a new page each day under "Daily Notes." I'll break down each section of my Daily Routine below.
This section consists of some daily habits I like to complete each morning to get my mind right for the work day. I start with 10 mins of meditation, move into a super quick workout with some pushups and situps to spark some good endorphins, write out what I'm thankful for, and finish by defining the most important project that I need to focus on. This process takes roughly 15 mins from start to finish. Once I'm done, I move directly into my Productive Cycle.
I've been geeking out on Deep Work since finishing the book in Q1. Through months of testing and iterations, I’ve developed a system that allows me to move the needle on my projects in an undistracted setting. Within my "Productive Cycle," I aim for 3 separate "Power Hours." This allows focused space and time to move projects forward first thing in the morning. By doing this at the beginning of my workday, I can dedicate the remainder of the day to the "shallow work" such as answering emails, jumping on zoom calls, and customer support. When I'm ready to begin each Power Hour, I expand the bullet point within Roam and begin answering the questions I’ve pre-programmed in the template shown below:
By answering the questions that I've pre-programmed for each Power Hour, I'm able to get crystal clear on exactly what I'm working on for the next hour. I've done some research and have learned that the brain can optimally focus for a a maximum time blocks of 45-52 minutes before needing a break. Therefore, I aim for 45 minutes of focus on the defined activity. Setting an alarm for your finish time does something to the brain to cut out any distractions that would take away from completing the activity. Even though the timer aspect has a profound effect on staying focused, it’s inevitable that some activities naturally require a few minutes over the allocated time block to complete. By setting the timer for 45 minutes, I’ve allowed for 7 minutes of buffer should the activity require extra time. Ultimately, by defining a time period for my work, I’m naturally more inclined to stay focused on the activity at hand.
The planning portion takes roughly 2-3 mins before starting the actual focused work, and the "Reflect" section takes another 2-3 mins on the back end. If my project goes over the 45 minutes and runs closer to 52 minutes, this puts me really close to the 60 minute mark for the total session length.
By reflecting at the end of each Power Hour before my break, I can quickly capture what I completed and/or what still needs to be done to complete the defined activity. If I completed the activity, I use this time to write down what activity I should work on during the next Power Hour.
When I complete each Power Hour, I take a 10 minute break to refill my coffee/tea and water bottle, use the restroom, and take a quick walk outside to get some Vitamin D and quickly check my phone to make sure nothing urgent is being requested from me.
I’ve noticed that there are some mornings where I’m so in the zone that breaks seem like a nuisance. But, I’ve been working to stay diligent in giving my brain a quick rest in between Power Hours and it seems to be working so far. Not only do breaks physically give your brain a rest, they also create clear stopping and starting points for different activities. AND, on top of that, breaks are a good time to add in some more pushups and situps to keep the blood flow moving :)
I've been starting my Productive Cycle by jumping into my first Power Hour at 7 am so I can be done no later than 11 am. I’m aiming for 3 Power Hour sessions per morning, so after I add in the 10 minute breaks, it puts me finishing somewhere around 10:30am. Inevitably, I often get pulled into a request that needs my attention during a break, so I’ve been allowing the 30 minute buffer zone between 10:30 and 11 to make up for any lost time.
If you're interested in joining me in these Productive Cycle sessions, I've opened up a virtual link for others to join me and some other Green Spaces members via zoom. Send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know that you're interested in joining the Productive Cycle and I'll send over a free link to join the next cycle via Zoom. I’ve noticed an even greater amount of accountability and focus when doing these cycles with other movtivated individuals.
This is where I brain dump during the day. If I have a thought, idea, or to-do, this is the section where I place them. Creating to-do's in Roam is easy... all I have to do is type "/ todo" and click enter and a to-do is automatically created. I follow each to-do with /"today" "/tomorrow" or "/date picker" depending on which day I plan to complete the activity. This is nice because the to-do will show up on whichever day I assign it to in the daily notes filter.
This is arguably the most important section of my daily routine and often the most neglected. With that being stated, reflecting on the day helps tremendously with knowing what I should be working on for the next day. When I take the time to complete this section, I'm laser focused on what needs to be done the next morning when starting my workday.
When I don't reflect at the end of the day, I end up wasting precious productive morning time thinking about what I need to work on when I'm starting the next day.
Moral of the story is: MAKE TIME TO REFLECT. This is as much of a reminder to myself as anything. It literally takes 5 minutes or less and is arguably the most valuable 5 minutes of each day.
Since incorporating this system into my daily routine, I can say with confidence that I've been more productive with my projects than I've ever been in my whole life. Completing my Productive Cycle first thing in the morning allows me to get what I need to get done before I get pulled into the daily whirlwind. It's great because I can dedicate the rest of the day to shallow work and being reactive without feeling bad about it. And working deeply is FUN and ENJOYABLE. I’m able to get into a state of "flow" that is hard for me to find outside of snowboarding or mountain biking.
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