How I schedule my day to maximize my productivity and happiness

I’m lucky to be working remotely with Buffer, which gives me the freedom and flexibility to plan however I want my day to be like. Over the past year, I have been trying a daily routine that I feel maximizes my productivity and happiness.

In this post, I would love to share my daily routine and the principles behind it with you. It may or may not work for you but I hope you’ll find something insightful that you can apply to your daily life.

My daily routine

My weekday schedule is generally the same throughout the week. This is how it looks like:

Morning

  • 5:30 am: Wake up (no snooze)
  • 5:30 – 6:30 am: Breakfast and read
  • 6:30 – 8:00 am: Exercise
  • 8:00 – 9:00 am: Second breakfast and read

Workday

  • 9:00 – 12:00 pm: Focused work (usually replying to important messages and then writing)
  • 12:00 – 1:00 pm: Lunch and read
  • 1:00 – 2:30 pm: Low cognitive load work (such as update blog stats spreadsheet, republishing blog posts onto Medium, etc.)
  • 2:30 – 3:00 pm: Power nap
  • 3:00 – 6:00 pm: Focused work

Evening

  • 6:00 – 9:00 pm: Dinner and stuff (spend time with family, meet friends, learn something new, etc.)
  • 9:00 – 9:30 pm: Read
  • 9:30 pm: Bedtime

On weekends, I do not have a fixed schedule apart from going for an early morning bike ride with a few friends. I’ll then spend the rest of the day with my fiancée and family.

Exceptions

My weekdays don’t look exactly like this all the time but they are pretty close. Here are a few major exceptions:

On some days, I have early morning video calls with my teammates in the U.S. This doesn’t happen often, maybe around once or twice a month. I like to schedule such calls before my daily exercise and start my morning work session later. This way, I’ll still have a good two-hour block for my workout and breakfast.

Sometimes, I have video calls in the afternoon or evening with my teammates in Australia, the U.K., or Europe. I try to schedule them such that I’ll have time blocks of one to two hours to do focused work.

Another exception is when I co-work with my awesome teammate, Stephanie Lee, or with friends, such as Ali Mese. On such days, I’ll keep the first half of my day until 11 am the same. I’ll then commute out to have lunch and co-work with them.

Principles

My daily routine is built on top of several principles to help me create days when I would feel the most productive and happy (though it doesn’t happen all the time).

First, I prefer to stick to a routine to reduce the mental effort for figuring what to do. Here’s a small but, I think, meaningful example: I always go to bed around 9:30 pm and wake up at 5:30 am (except for very rare occasions). With fixed bedtime and waking up time, I don’t have to decide what time to go to bed, how many hours I want to sleep, and what time to wake up the next day. 9:30 pm, 8 hours, and 5:30 am. That’s it. Some people might find having such routine boring. To me, having a routine that I like takes away much anxiety and keeps me calm.

Second, like I mentioned above, I like to sleep early, wake up early, and have about eight hours of sleep every night. Having about eight hours of sleep is crucial for my productivity the next day. I learned that I cannot function well if I sleep a few hours less. I also prefer to start my day early because I love the quietness and serenity in the morning.

Third, I aim to do some form of exercise every morning. I feel refreshed and energized for the day after being outdoors for a while and getting some fresh air. On most days, I’ll swim or run unless it rains; then I’ll go to the gym. If I sleep late the night before, on those rare occasions, I’ll still aim to have eight hours of sleep. But instead of a full workout, I’ll try to go for a morning walk.

Finally, I try to keep work to just the weekdays 9-6. I found that working in the evening over a long period of time can easily lead to a burnout. I also avoid working on the weekends so that I can spend time with my fiancée and family, who would always meet on the weekends to spend time together. I’m thankful that Singapore is small enough for all of us to meet so regularly.

The result of many experiments

This routine is the results of trying many different things. For example, I’ve tried writing for two hours once I wake up, meditating before I start my workday, and exercising in the evening. Eventually, I found that this routine makes me feel the most productive and happiest, for at least a year now.

Do you have a daily routine? How does it look like?

Image credit: Unsplash (That isn’t me in the photo but it’ll be amazing to start my day like this every day!)

  • Anastasia S

    Hi Alfred! First of all, thanks for writing a post on the topic I suggested. Feels like magic 🙂
    That’s a really productive schedule! And a whole lotta workout – 1,5 hours every day 🙂
    I manage to squeeze in 2-3 hours a week, and that’s all.
    Anyway, you mentioned that this schedule is a results of several routines you’ve tested over a year. I guess that’s what I’m going to start doing – test different schedules for myself.

    Thanks again for this post!
    Anastasia

    • Hey, Anastasia, thanks for the great idea! I’m not sure if I’ve properly covered the parts about learning to code and traveling. Perhaps another post!

      Ah, haha, yeah, I really like to exercise. It’s my hobby rather than something I have to make myself do. 🙂

      Oh, hope you find a routine that you like soon!

      • Anastasia S

        Thanks 🙂

  • Hi Alfred, I’ve been testing lots of schedules since I’ve started working remotely (6 months now).
    This is the one I’m testing now. The only significant difference from yours I think it’s the exercise in the evening instead of in the morning, though ideally my yoga habit would be the very first activity in the day.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/21b78b7806b09b354b3e731c6fd772cd38d9e16df985e58d5adb0ca31f5fbc42.png

    thanks for sharing 🙂

  • I find that I’m most productive when I start my days early – but I’m not a morning person, ha. We have standup meetings once a week on Monday’s. Those days, I have a super productive morning.

    I use Trello to crank through my daily To Do’s and I keep a Bullet Journal to write down the times that I’m most productive and making progress.

    Anyway, dig the schedule. Thanks for sharing!

    • Oh, haha, that’s interesting! Why do you think you’re not a morning person? 🙂

      That’s great. I keep hearing about Bullet Journal. How do you use that and Trello at the same time?

      You’re welcome, and thanks!

      • Re: “Why do you think you’re not a morning person?”

        It’s mostly my own fault. I go to bed late. I go to be late because I like going to the gym it the evenings, I enjoy reading late in the evening, and I enjoy writing late in the evening. I’ve forever been a nightowl I suppose. So the change should be a simple change in habit. But like I said, I have noticed a change when I wake up early on Monday’s for our weekly team meeting – I’m generally pumped! Haha.

        Here’s how I’m using Trello to manage projects: our startup (RightMessage), my ebook, my course, and my writing schedule for my blog.

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4de8e31bb42bb4442bd1a66b0d4cc1bc0ef6192fe586fe407c8f7a6d2eb7d623.png

        In my journal, I write out my to do’s for that day. Today:
        – Publish “Why Personlization Matters”
        – Share updates in Slack
        – Publish post descriptions for articles in Learn Center
        – Write blog post for tomorrow
        – Schedule posts for tomorrow morning

        I jot down my hours and take note of what I’m working on and when.

        • Oh, gotcha! Thanks so much for sharing, Ricardo! 🙂

      • Wrote a detailed post on how I’m using Trello to manage my projects here: http://www.ricardobueno.com/trello/ (pardon the link)

  • koomerang

    Will have to try that afternoon power nap!

    Your discipline and consistency is incredible.

    • Hey, Kumi! I find having an afternoon power nap so helpful because I usually get post-lunch food coma 😅

      Thanks! I’m quite surprised myself that I’ve kept most of the routine (waking up early, exercising regularly, etc.) for several years now.

  • How do you manage getting to bed at 9.30 every day? Social life is always contained in the 6-9PM slot? Most of my friends work until 8PM so it’d be hard to adapt to my social circle :-/

    • Ah, you discovered a key to my sleeping early habit. I rarely meet friends on the weekdays, unless they can meet me early enough. I spend more time with my fiancée and family on the weekdays and meet my friends mostly on the weekends.

      • hah, gotcha.
        I’m in no luck then, as my partner works late every evening, so if I want to spend time with her I gotta stay up later :-/
        Thanks for replying !

  • Have you always been an early riser? Also, how did you come to place your exercise in the morning? Have you experimented with doing it later in the day, perhaps to break up the work day?

    • Not until about five years ago! Yeah, I have experimented with exercising later in the day and during the day. I prefer exercising at the start because it wakes me up. Also, it’s often too hot and humid to exercise in the afternoon in Singapore, and I find it harder to fall asleep when I exercise in the evening.

  • That’s an excellent schedule. Thanks for sharing.

    1. What does focused work look like for you? Do you work straight for three hours? Do you check email or attend to other notification? Do you use pomodoro or something like it?
    2. What is your opinion of real time chat? I find it detrimental to productivity at any time of the day. I would rather have people take time in asking questions and in replying to them. But for now my solution is to only open the client, read, reply, and close.
    3. Do you continue to use computer/laptop post your work hours? Sometime you may find yourself having spent a whole day in front of the screen for non-productive reasons.
    4. What’s you social media consumption like? This one can also take up significant amount of time.