Life is routine: deal with it!7 min read

I developed this “ideal” daily routine (for me) to address the goals of learning about healthy habits, improving my sleep quality, reducing back pain and enhancing my diet – while also prioritising productivity at work and overall well-being. I try to follow this routine as closely as possible 🙂 but there are times when it’s not feasible. Let’s see!

7-8 h. Wake up at the same time every day. Establishing a consistent wake-up time can improve sleep quality.

8-9 h. Start working: check emails, read papers, organise the day. To maintain high energy levels and prevent a caffeine crash later in the day, it’s important to minimize caffeine intake and wait at least an hour after waking up before consuming it. This allows the body to naturally release cortisol, a hormone that regulates energy levels, before introducing external stimulation. Additionally, choosing decaf coffee can help reduce overall caffeine intake.

9-11 h. Breakfast (including coffee) and long walk (outdoors). Have a nice healthy breakfast to fuel the day to come. I enjoy my decaf coffee at this point. Also, getting sunlight exposure in the morning can help improve sleep quality, boost vitamin D levels, and enhance mood. Additionally, taking a long walk (around 2 hours) can be a great form of exercise and promote overall well-being.

11-14 h. Focused work. These three hours are likely to be the most productive work hours, as one has ample energy from the morning routine – that includes breakfast, coffee, outdoor walk, and shower. By prioritising important tasks during this time, you can make the most out of your energy to achieve your daily goals.

14-15 h. Lunch and (optional) short power nap. Lunch should include a balanced mix of carbohydrates (25%), protein (25%) and vegetables (50%) to provide your body with essential nutrients and energy required to sustain focus throughout the afternoon (rough percentages according to my nutritionist). If you do need to take a nap, it’s recommended to limit it to 20-30 minutes and avoid napping too close to bedtime – since it can interfere with night-time sleep and disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythm.

15-17 h. Focused work. I schedule my meetings and other collaborative work during the afternoon, once I’ve completed most of my important tasks of the day.

17-17:30 h. Take a break, eat a fruit or two, stretch and move. Sitting for prolonged periods can have negative effects on health, so it’s important to take regular breaks to stand up, stretch and move around. Avoid eating food after this time, as it may disrupt your sleep. Late-night eating can interfere with the body’s natural sleep cycle.

17:30-19:30 h. Focused work. I use this time to wrap up any remaining meetings, launch experiments, and send emails to close out the day. Note that due to the nature of my work, I require a time overlap with the American timezone – which is why I need to work until “late” hours.

19:30-22h. Have fun. After work, prioritise spending time with friends/family and engaging in activities that you enjoy. This time should be reserved for relaxation and disconnecting from work-related stressors, which can help you recharge, boost your mood, lower stress levels, and enhance overall well-being, which can ultimately improve your focus and productivity at work.

22h. Prioritise sleep. Establish a consistent bedtime routine and create a sleep-conducive environment (lights and temperature down!). Engage in relaxing activities such as reading, listening to podcasts, taking a warm bath or stretching. Avoid using screens before going to bed!

Some comments/tips by topic:

  • [sleep] In order to improve sleep quality and emphasize your circadian rhythm, consider implementing changes to your sleeping habits. For instance, focus on maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. I like to sleep 8 hours: from 11pm to 7am. Additionally, your sleeping position can play a role in your sleep quality. For most people, sleeping on their back or side can promote better sleep. Also consider reducing your caffeine intake during the morning, e.g., via switching to decaf coffee, and avoid consuming caffeine in the afternoon.
  • [back pain] To improve back pain, it’s important to focus on both physical activity and sleep quality. Regular exercise and movement can help strengthen your back muscles and reduce pain, while getting a restful sleep can promote healing. If I don’t have time for a long morning walk, I like stretching or doing weight-lifting exercises instead. These can be done quickly and help promote physical activity, even if I’m short on time. Finally, ergonomic setups while working and sleeping are a must. Adjust your chair/desk/monitor for a proper posture at work, and use supportive pillows for a comfortable sleep position.
  • [diet] As someone who hasn’t had much education on healthy eating, I’ve recently started studying and found that a healthy diet helps me maintain consistent energy levels and to keep my weight within a healthy range. I’ve found that eating two big meals per day (breakfast & lunch) works for me. It provides energy for my working hours (mornings & afternoons) and, to unwind in the afternoon, I have a light snack (fruits or a small portion of cheese). I typically consume carbohydrates in the form of a sandwich during breakfast, but reduce my carbohydrate intake during the rest of the day. I have a lunch that consists of a balanced mix of carbohydrates (25%), protein (25%) and vegetables (50%). Also, when consuming sugars or carbohydrates, it’s important to avoid overindulging in a single sitting. This is because consuming a large amount can cause a rapid insulin release in an attempt to regulate glucose levels, leading to a subsequent drop in blood sugar and energy levels. This is commonly referred to as hypoglycemia or a sugar crash. Additionally, I avoid alcohol and caffeine since they can disrupt sleep. I believe it’s essential to be both flexible and consistent with your diet while indulging occasionally – since life is too short to miss out on junk food and social unhealthy activities (YOLO).
  • [sun and darkness] I discovered the importance of sun/darkness exposure while developing this routine. I cannot stress enough how significant it is to get enough sunlight exposure in the morning. Sun exposure helps to regulate our circadian rhythm, which affects our sleep quality, mood, and overall health. It also promotes the production of vitamin D. Darkness is also important before going to bed. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle and is naturally produced by the body in response to darkness. To promote the natural production of melatonin before bed, it’s important to limit exposure to blue light from electronic devices and artificial lighting.
  • [productivity] Prioritizing daily exercise and sun exposure made me happier and improved my mental clarity. With the peace of mind and time for reflection during my long morning walks, I’m able to approach work challenges with more thoughtfulness and find better solutions. This has led to greater progress at work and my stress levels significantly reduced.
  • [well-being] By following this routine, I’m able to work more efficiently and make time for enjoyable activities such as sports, socialising and listening to podcasts. Moreover, adopting healthier habits has helped me sleep better, maintain a healthy weight, reduce back pain, increase productivity and maintain higher energy levels. Ultimately, I believe that this lifestyle will lead to a longer, healthier and fulfilled life without compromising my professional goals.

Keep in mind that everyone’s routine should be personalized to their individual needs and lifestyle. While this routine seems to be working well for me, it may not be suitable for everyone. It’s important to conduct research and consult with a healthcare professional or nutritionist before implementing any changes to your lifestyle.

Do you have any suggestions on how I can improve my routine further? I’m open to learning more. For example, one area I haven’t explored yet is supplements.