There is something about structuring one’s day in a certain way that allows us to develop a pattern of work that can be productive

On Monday nights, Sheldon must have his mee krob and chicken satay (with extra peanut sauce on the side). Tuesday dinner is at The Cheesecake Factory, where he orders a barbecue bacon cheeseburger: the barbecue, bacon and cheese on the side. Wednesday, of course, is comic book night. As fans of the popular American comedy show “The Big Bang Theory” know only too well, Sheldon Cooper is a creature of unwavering habit; his routine is tightly regimented, and anyone who tries to change it does so at their own peril.

We can laugh at Sheldon’s commitment to — no, obsession about — his routine, his refusal to be flexible and his insistence that everything must be followed just so. But there is something about structuring one’s day — or week — in a certain way that allows us to develop a pattern of work that can actually end up being quite productive. While making sure that we build in time for the things we need to do, it can also help us mark out time for the things we would like to do.

Some people, for instance, set a time every day (or every week) to call parents, if they live in a different place. Others have a routine of going to the grocery store at on a particular day of the week, while still others earmark a block of time to play tennis or football with friends, and nothing can get them to change that — it is absolutely sacred.

Better use of time

The school or college timetable is a kind of routine that is made for us — some might say it is “forced” on us. But, there is a logic to it. It allows the big system of the institution to allocate teaching time in a fair manner, and gives students (and teachers) a basic plan around which to arrange the rest of their activities. A big chunk of a student’s life (and a teacher’s too) is earmarked for the routine of classes. But, there is a significant chunk of the day that is left for other activities, and it helps to create a routine for that time as well. Monday may be the library day, while Tuesdays could be the “catch-up-on-notes” day and Wednesday, the assignment review day. It is a way to build a comforting rhythm to your week.

If you read biographies of successful people, you will find that most of them had some sort of routine that helped them become productive. Successful writers set themselves a certain number of hours each day to write (good, bad, whatever, but those words must be produced). Successful athletes train routinely, morning and evening, no matter what the weather. Those who play the stockmarket have a routine that follows the major markets systematically.

Having a routine doesn’t mean that you have to bind yourself to it. It could then become an empty and meaningless ritual (Monday, at the library, might have you sitting and staring into space or at your phone waiting for your time to be up). You needn’t fill up your entire day with a pre-set routine. Leaving a bit of room around the edges of what you need to do will give you the flexibility to assign time to unplanned activities. The routine, then becomes the anchor that steadies you, and gives you a base from which you can wander away, but also one that you can come back to, and take comfort in.

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