Epic Productivity In 2024 – Use Systems And Habits To Rule Your Weeks And Days

How do you organize your time to level up your productivity? It comes down to the old adage about how your habits become your routines, routines become your days, and your days become your weeks, your weeks become your months, months become years, and your years become your life. 

It all starts with what you do day by day and moment by moment. While it is easy to just float from one thing to the next, living with intentionality, and realizing your productivity goals, means that you need to plan and execute effectively.  I have written about reviewing and planning, starting at the year level and working down to the daily level.  If you want to finally get your act together and start doing all the things you know you are capable of, you need to set up systems and routines that support those goals.  And those systems and routines need to support the habits that will slowly but surely get you to the endpoint of your projects and goals. 

Epic Productivity:
1. Use your vision, values and goals to set up your systems.
2. Set up routines that follow your systems.
3. Fill your routines with habits that move you towards meeting your project milestones.

Daily Productivity is composed of the systems that frame your life and direct your routines and habits

Fundamentally, a system is a set of procedures and an intentional framework for your average and/or ideal day.  This means that you have an overall plan for how you want your days to go, what types of activities you engage in, and for how long.  A system, since it is intentional, is guided by your vision, mission, values and goals.

When your day goes sideways, and it will.  You have an idea about what you need to do to get things back on track.  This means that when something unexpected happens and throws you off your plan for the day, you are able to deal with whatever that is, and know when and how you can get back to what you had planned for the day.  Also, it allows you to know what you can reschedule and what you can let go.  A system allows you to see the forest for the trees.  It is what connects the tasks that you need to do with the goals and projects that drive them. 

It allows you to have some checkpoints and metrics for how you are progressing towards your goals.  Having a system keeps you on track to keep working towards your milestones along the path to achieving your goals.

Productivity Routines are what make up your Systems

They are where the rubber starts to meet the road.  Any goal or project that takes more than a few hours to accomplish will need to become part of your routines.  This is where you set aside blocks of time to do the things you need to do to work towards your goals. 

Routines are probably already a part of your life. You probably have a set of things that you do to get ready in the morning or settle down for bed at night.  You might have a routine at work where you know what you will do first, what comes second, when you will have a regular staff meeting, etc.

Routines are nothing to be scared of, in fact they are remarkedly helpful.  Routines allow you to free up brain space and processing for other more interesting and profitable things.  When you can do a set of tasks one after another, relatively seamlessly, you are in flow and your brain works better.  You are able to be more creative, because you aren’t bogged down in constantly figuring out what to do next.  When you no longer have to fight your reptile brain to get things done.  You solely move on to the next thing in your routine.  Life becomes easier, and has less friction, or difficulty with transitioning between tasks. 

Caveats about Routines

There are a couple drawbacks, and things to be aware of when it comes to routines, rigidity, and change.  Yes, it’s true routines can be come so ingrained and rigid that it’s difficult to get out of them.  They also need to be changed as the circumstances change. 

Types of Routines

There are many types of routines, you probably have some of these already.  Pretty much everyone has some kind of a morning and night routine.  It may not be intentional, it may not be fancy or aesthetic, however, chances are you have a set of tasks that you do in pretty much the same order every day.  Coffee, breakfast, shower, brush teeth, get dressed, do hair, put on makeup, walk the dog, pack lunch, etc. may make up your morning routine. 

Your evening routine might include things like, make dinner, clean the kitchen, give the kids a bath, watch TV, read a book, brush teeth, floss, skin care, get in PJ’s, turn off lights.  You probably even have sub routines, like what order you get dressed and put your shoes on. Or a specific skin care routine.  Maybe you have a routine for how you walk through the grocery store, or what you wash first when you’re doing laundry.  The point is you already have lots of routines.  Looking at how they fit, or don’t fit into your intentional system is key for getting them to work better for you and the life you want to live.

Habits are what your Routines are made out of

This is where we finally get to the individual tasks that make up our day.  A habit is a thing that you do without too much thought.  Brushing your teeth every day is a habit.  Brushing your teeth, getting dressed and eating breakfast is a routine.

Habits are closely linked with your Identity and your Values

If you see yourself as a clean person, then you will have habits that have to do with cleaning.  If you see yourself as a fit person, you will have habits around exercise and fueling your body to support your level of activity. Similarly, if you value helping people, you will have a habit of community service, or funding charity.  If you value wealth, you will have habits around work and saving money. 

Are your current Productivity Habits supporting you in working towards your Goals?

By this point in time, you might be thinking about the habits that you currently have and how they are helping you meet your goals, or not.  If you are realizing that your habits are not aligned with your goals and vision for the year, you will want some ideas about how you can change your habits.  Honestly, it’s not easy. You have the habits that you have for very good reasons.  They work for you in some fashion. 

Also, if you’ve ever tried to change a habit before, you know that it’s incredibly difficult to change the patterns and habits that are comfy and normal for you. Even if you desperately want to find a new comfy and normal. 

Adding and Changing Habits

Despite the fact that changing habits is hard work, there are some pretty standard things that you can do to increase the likelihood of your success. Which of these techniques you choose will depend on what exactly you’re hoping to achieve. 

The simplest method is to add your new habit to an existing habit.  For example, if you already brush your teeth every day, and you want to start flossing, you might add that to your brushing routine.  In this way, brushing your teeth becomes the habit that you already have, and flossing is simply added on. 

If you are looking to add an entirely new habit to your routines, then there are a couple of more steps to consider.  First, know WHY you want to add this habit to your life.  The reason why you want to add it has to be at least a powerful as the reason why you don’t have this habit right now.  That way, when you are tempted to skip the habit, or go back to your old habit, you can remind yourself why it’s so important that you stick to your new habit. 

Epic productivity starts with a vision and is executed through daily habits and routines.

Small Changes Lead to Productivity Increases

The second thing to remember is that small changes add up, and are more sustainable than big changes. Yes, big changes are flashy, and that’s what they write books and Hollywood movies about, yet they aren’t very realistic in the long run. 

The thing to remember about habits is that they are fundamentally small.  They are tiny little actions that add up over time.  Spending thirty minutes a day, doing something doesn’t seem like much.  However, those 30 minutes add up. Even if you only read 2 pages per day, eventually, you will get to the end of the book. 

Even if you only practice the piano 30 minutes per day, eventually you will get really good at it.  That’s the magic of habits, they are tiny little actions that add up over time.  So, love the books and movies about big changes, and embrace the small changes in your life.  Aim to move incrementally, and you will have success. 

Support, Accountability and Reminders

Finally, habit changes are much easier to start if you have some support, accountability, and reminders.  There are lots of ways to achieve this.  You can ask a roommate, friend or loved one to check in on you, and help you to stay accountable.  Maybe you can use an app to make a bet on yourself. You can make a deal that if you fail, you will have to donate money to a cause that you hate.  There are lots of tips and tricks for getting the support and reminders to stick with your new habit.  Hopefully, ultimately, your habit will stick because it fits into your new life and helps move you toward meeting your milestones and achieving your goals. 

How do these work together for Productivity?

When you are intentional about the way you design your days, systems, routines and habits, you move inevitably toward achieving your goals.  There is a bit of a yoyo or bouncing ball movement between all these parts of your life. 

On a moment to moment basis, your life is comprised of your habits.  Theses are the smallest possible things that you do.  They are so small that you can almost do them in your sleep.  You don’t have to think about them, you just do them.

The goal here is to create routines out of your habits that make sense to you and fit into the framework, or system that you designed for your life. 

The system comes from your milestones that you want to accomplish each day and week. The weekly milestones are made from the monthly milestones that you set for yourself. The monthly milestones come from your quarterly milestones. Your quarterly milestones are based on your annual projects and goals. Your annual goals and projects are based on your overall vision and mission for the year. When you start at the top with your vision and mission, you then break it down incrementally into smaller and smaller milestones.  This continues until you have the smallest possible milestone and /or key action that you can do on any given day.

Getting everything to Productively line up takes time and practice

It’s not easy at first, and you need to learn what works for you and your life. And of course, once you figure it out, something will shift or change, and you’ll have to start again with experimenting to find what works for you now.  That’s normal and part of the process. 

When you align from vision to habits and from habits back to vision, you will increase the likelihood of finishing your projects and achieving your goals.

From Productivity Theory to Practice

How do we take all this and put it in some semblance of order?  We want to start with the systems.  Given that a system is a set of principles, procedures or a framework, we have actually already done the heavy lifting here.  Back when we did the work to identify our vision, mission, values and goals, we figured out the outline of our system. 

Figure out which Systems you need to be Productive

Your systems as simply the next step in breaking down your goals into projects.  Start by Looking at your monthly goals, milestones and key actions. Each of those things is going to take a long amount of time.  You might have a good sense about how much time, or you might not.  That’s ok, give it your best guess.

For each of your goals/projects, how many hours do you need to commit per week, for this month? Once you have a number of hours per week for each goal/project, next look at your life maintenance routines and assign a number of hours per week for that as well.  For example, if you want to spend five hours per week on your project and five hours per week on cleaning, write that down.  Remember to add in all the life maintenance things that you need to do to live the life you want.  How many hours to do you want to dedicate to exercise? Acquiring food and preparing it? Cleaning up after eating? Sleeping? Laundry? Cleaning and maintaining your home?

Make Adaptations

Some of these things are seasonal, so the amount of time may change based on the time of year.  Some of these are also squishy.  You might hire a laundry service, or a cleaning service so that you don’t have to spend time doing those tasks yourself. You might order groceries online and have them delivered so that your don’t having to go to the store.  If you are training for an endurance event such as a marathon or Iron Man, you might need to designate significant amounts of time to training.  You might enjoy cooking homemade meals, and want more time for cooking and cleaning, or you might purchase meal kits, or order out and spend your time doing things other than planning, cooking and cleaning up after meals. 


Figuring out what system works for you and your family is an experiment.  However, setting up these systems and blocking the necessary time to do them is up to you.  You will find that if you are more intentional and assign time in your day so that it aligns with your goals and values, you will reach your goals much faster and with less friction and frustration. 

Be very thorough, think of every possible thing that you need to spend time doing and give it an amount of time that you will pay attention to it and do it. 

Design Your “Ideal” Week

Once you know how much time you want to spend on each and every thing that you want to do, now you get to be creative. Using the method of your choice create your ideal week with all of these time blocks in it.  You can use sticky notes (not affiliate link) on a wall or table, you can use an electronic calendar (not affiliate link), you can draft your ideal week with pen and paper.  Whatever works and makes the most sense to you, do that. 

Please understand that you are designing your “ideal” week.  This week will likely never happen in real life.  Stuff always gets in the way.  Unexpected things happen, and that’s ok.  What you want is a True North. A basic, ideal outline that you can come back to each time life gets crazy.  This is what I like to call Putting the Pieces Together.  There’s another series on my blog about it, if you want to learn more, please head over there. 

Design your Ideal productive day by reviewing how you currently spend your time, intentionally deciding how you want to spend your time, scheduling that intentional time, and reviewing and adjusting as necessary.

Hopefully, you now have a time blocked ideal week.  There is a possibility though that you will have realized about the finite nature of time.  You may have realized that there simply isn’t enough time in the day(s) for all that you want to do.  If that is the case, and it’s highly likely that it is, take a few deep breaths.  This situation is totally normal. 

What If There Isn’t Enough Time?

Once you realize that there isn’t enough time in the day, you will have to start cutting things down so that you can get to your “ideal-ish” week.  This is where you might need to make some compromises.

  Perhaps you want to spend 15 hours a week writing your novel, however, realistically, you can only squeeze in five hours per week.  You can settle on five hours a week as all you can currently give to the project and move your deadline further out in time.  Or perhaps you can get creative about it.  Maybe on a week to week basis you can’t find fifteen hours, but maybe, there is someone in your life (parent, spouse, friend) who can take over your duties at home for a day or two each month, and you can spend 8 or 12 hours in one huge clip working on your novel, or whatever your project may be. 

Maybe you decide to spend money on one of the aforementioned conveniences such as a cleaning service, or meal service to regain several hours per week to dedicate to you and your goals.  This works whether your goals and projects are just for you, or if your goals or projects are relationship based.  Maybe you need to hire a babysitter so that you and your spouse or partner can get a night out to reconnect (if you have a relationship goal.) Maybe, you can scrub the walls and floors less often so that you have more time to dedicate to other things that matter more to you. 

Try, Review, Try Again

There are endless possibilities.  The point is, start somewhere.  Give yourself an ideal weekly plan, and then see where it takes you.  At the end of the week, review what happened and decide what aspects you want to keep, and what you want to try to do differently.  Then reset your ideal week and try again. 

As long as you start with the things that are most important to you and align with your goals and projects, you’ll be headed in the right direction. 

Your Ideal Productivity Day

Now that you have an ideal week somewhat blocked out.  What does an ideal day look like?  Again, this should be more granular than your weekly schedule.  Play around with a calendar or sticky notes and time block out your whole day.  It might be amusing to start with what your current day looks like.  Do you spend 90 minutes reading the news and scrolling Facebook while you drink your coffee and eat breakfast before work?  Start by writing it down.  Everything from your current morning routine including how much time it takes you to shower and brush your teeth, to your night routine, skin care, reading, and more scrolling.  Write it all down and give your self a mini intervention. 

Does Your Phone Limit Your Productivity?

Having trouble being honest with yourself here? Many modern phones have a setting that will tell you, in detail, how much time your spend with the screen turned on, as well as what you are looking at.  Social media? Shopping? Games? Many of us reach for our phone when were bored, scared, nervous, hungry, or just waiting for the next thing to happen. 

Find Lost Time

When you say that you don’t have time to write your novel, yet you spend over 4 hours per day on your phone, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your routines and habits. 

It’s Not Always Subtracting, Sometimes It’s Adding

Sometimes it’s about what you can add in.  For example, if your goal is to knit an Afghan, and you like to watch TV for three hours every night.  Maybe you can knit WHILE you watch TV. You don’t miss out on your TV time, and you are still able to meet your goal. 

However, if your goal is to write that novel, you probably can’t do that while watching TV.  Reaching your goals is going to require you to give up something that you already are doing to make the time in your schedule for what you need to do to accomplish your goal. 

Productivity is Sometimes about setting limits for yourself 

Maybe your phone has some Parental Controls or time limits that you can set for problematic apps.

Remember way back when we were setting goals, and one of the questions was, “what are you willing to sacrifice to reach this goal?”  This is where the rubber meets the road, on a day-to-day basis.  If you already had time to do what you need to do, you would have reached this goal already.  Reaching your goals means you have to change the way you spend your time so that you have the time you need to do each of the individual steps that make up your goals and projects.

Redesigning your routines and habits goes hand in hand.  Once you know both how you are actually spending your days, and how you want to spend your days.  You can work to make your routines and habits support your goals and projects. You will know what you need to swap from your old habits and routines to your new habits and routines. 

Old Habits Die Hard

There’s a good reason for the expression that “old habits die hard.” It’s true.  It will take time and effort on your part to get into a new groove with new habits and routines.  It won’t be a straight line. You will have a good day where you do the things you wanted to do.  And then you will have a bad day where you go back to your old habits and routines.  Maybe it’s because you just were not paying attention.  Maybe it’s because you were tired or stressed and just wanted to do something that felt familiar. 

It’s ok.  Give yourself grace when you fall back on old habits and routines. Your old habits are there for a reason.  They worked well at a point in you life where you needed them to work well, they got you through to this point. Your old habits aren’t bad.  They also aren’t what you want or need to do to accomplish your goals.  So, when you feel better, no matter how long it takes, pull yourself together and do your new routines and habits.  Keep working towards your goals.  Stress, bad luck, whatever happened, know that these are things that happen to everyone on the journey of becoming the best version of themselves.  Allow yourself whatever time you need to deal with whatever happened, and when you’re ready, get back to doing the things you really want to be doing. 

Staying on Track

This day to day stuff is where you might need to play games with yourself, bribe yourself, talk to your inner child and help them understand that there’s a very good reason why you are doing things differently now.  Reassure yourself that it truly is ok, and it will be ok to take a different path.  Again, there are so many options for what might sideline you and what might help you get back on track. You will have to experiment and accept that some things will work reliably to get you back on track, and something will work once and never again.  If you want to accomplish your goals, you will keep trying. 

Intentionally Designing Your Life and Meeting Your Goals

In conclusion, there are a couple of steps to take to get to a point where you are actually able to do the things you need to do to accomplish your goals.  First is to give yourself a time audit of exactly how you spend you days and weeks. Second is to design your “ideal” day and week.  Third is to figure out how you can realistically live as close as possible to your ideal day and give yourself all the space you need when it doesn’t work out.

If you live your habits and routines such that they support you in accomplishing your goals, you will accomplish your goals  Because your habits make up your routines,  Your routines make up your days, your days make up your weeks, your weeks make up your months, your months make up your quarters, and your quarters make up your years.  If you want to have your best year ever, you need to start from the top down with you visions and goals, and then work from the bottom up with your daily life, your habits and routines to steadily make progress on those goals and living your vision. 

Productivity relies on aligning your vision with your daily habits and routine.

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