Daily Templates

I have long resisted making my life too structured and routine because I felt it would become too boring and monotonous, where each day is basically a repeat of the one before, and it feels like I’m trapped in the Groundhog Day universe. One solution I like is to use simple structural templates for how I flow through my days, and then I can just pick a template for each and follow it.

For instance, if I want to create a course lesson and a blog post in a day, I can do those in either order. I just want to have both published by the end of the day. Some days I’ll write and publish the blog post first. Some days I’ll design, record, and publish the lesson first. So all I have to decide on those days is which I’ll do first, and with that one decision, the rest of the structure falls into place. My preferred structure is to create a piece from start to finish and stick with it till it’s published. Then I move on to the next item. But the order of those items doesn’t particularly matter.

Some days I don’t record course lessons, so I can use different templates for those days. And of course weekend templates can be totally different as well.

The advantage of having a few templated structures to choose from is that I spend less time pondering what I should do next. I mainly just have to make one decision for how to begin my day, such as starting with a blog post, and then the rest of the day falls into place. Then I can spend the bulk of my day taking action by following the template I’ve chosen for that day.

A template is just a guide for when I have nothing else scheduled. I might need to modify it for any given day, like if I have an interview scheduled. But I can also create extra templates for known scenarios that happen often enough but not every day, such as doing coaching calls in Conscious Growth Club. On those days I know to limit myself to templates that include time for the coaching call.

A template is similar to a schedule, except that I don’t really schedule tasks by the hour. These templates are even simpler. They’re just lists of contexts to flow through in a given order.

For instance, one template for a workday could be as simple as:

  • Breakfast
  • Watch new lessons for the latest course I’m taking
  • Write and publish new blog post
  • Process communication
  • Lunch
  • Design, record, publish, and announce new Stature lesson

This might be a typical template for some weekdays. On other days I might have different items like planning work, administrative work, other creative projects, and so on.

Even with the simple list above, I can create different variations on it. What if I have an idea for a new course lesson right when I wake up, and I don’t want to wait till the afternoon to work on it? Then I can pick a different template that begins the workday with the course lesson. Since the other types of tasks are already laid out in a reasonable order within that template, I don’t have to refactor my task order. The other tasks all fall into place.

Using simple templates like this reduces the mental burden of deciding what to do and when. While it may seem like it’s not a big deal to decide fresh each day the order of every type of task, it actually is a big deal when you consider how much decision fatigue can accumulate by the end of a long day, and you multiply that across many weeks. Using templates saves a lot of unnecessary decision making, and that mental energy can be invested elsewhere. For me it may show up in having more enthusiasm for the afternoon work.

I can also have different templates for different parts of the day, like a few morning routine templates and a few different evening routines. So I could have morning templates, evening templates, weekday templates, and weekend templates. And there can be several variations of each.

I like spelling these out on index cards. Then I can grab one index card for each part of the day, and that gives me the template for the whole day.

I can also have templates for lighter days, half days, and heavier work days, depending on my energy and enthusiasm. There’s really no limit to how many templates I can create. I can even name them on the index cards, so I can quickly recognize each template at a glance.

Additionally, within each template, I can also have subtemplates. So there could be subtemplates for processing communication, and within those I could have different arrangements of tasks like checking email and the Conscious Growth forums. Or I can have subtemplates for creating course lessons because some steps can be done in different orders, like when I record the lesson and when I add the lesson summary and exercise to the course workbook.

Think of templates as recipes. You probably don’t want to eat the same meal over and over, so why would you flow through each day in the same sequence, especially if you have options? But you probably don’t want to plan every day from scratch either, so you can use templates to focus on your known favorites, just as you can use recipes to make your favorite meals repeatedly. This can provide a nice balance of stability and variety.

If you ever feel bored with your templates, you still have the option of breaking away from them and using a different approach when that appeals to you. And you might even learn something that could inspire new template ideas. Just as you may want to freshen up your habitual recipes now and then, you’ll probably want to freshen up your templates sometimes as well.

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Read Daily Templates by Steve Pavlina