Routine, in an intelligent man, is the sign of ambition
Routine. You’re probably striving to break it. And yet, routines may be the secret weapon of great minds.
History’s most creative minds definitely had their idiosyncrasies. V. S. Pritchett favored midday cocktails. Freud somehow persuaded his wife into putting toothpaste on his toothbrush to save him time. Sartre and Auden were into amphetamines. Balzac drank 50 cups of coffee a day.
There’s not much in common between them. But there is something they share. They all did whatever they did with iron regularity.
Great Minds Have A Stable Routine
For anyone who’s into philosophy, Nietzsche and Kant occupy seemingly opposing places on the theoretical spectrum. But their schedules were not that different. During his stays in Sils, Nietzsche used to wake up when the sky was still grey, the sun faintly rising. He then proceeded to work without any interruption till 11 AM. Kant followed a stable routine as well. Legend has it that his neighbors in Königsberg could set their clocks by his 3.30 pm walk. He found it hard to wake up early (he used to get up at 5 am), so he gave orders to his servant Martin Lampe, an old soldier, to be insistent. He was very proud he never woke up even half an hour late.
Your Routine Should Include Time Away From Screens
You may be wondering what Nietzsche did in the afternoon. He went for long walks in the forest or along the edges of Swiss lakes. Charles Dickens also loved taking a walk in the afternoon, taking inspiration for his writings. So did Mahler and Tchaikovski. A good schedule includes some time away from your desk. And in a time where televisions and computer screens are actively damaging your brain, going on a walk sure seems like a safe way to increase your creativity.
Your Success Is Hidden In Your Daily Routine
William James argued that sticking to a routine allows your mind to free itself from menial tasks, leaving more cognitive resources for interesting fields of action. If every day you waste time and resources for matters that only tangentially affect your work, you’ll impede your capacity to actually do the work. Moving to the present day, Mark Zuckerberg wears the same clothes to work every day. He says that by doing so, he can better focus on important decisions at work.
The tiny rituals of great minds may not lead you down to the path of success. After all, Balzac died of heart failure at 51. And I can’t think of any sane person who would follow the lead of Freud’s wife. Still, some patterns do emerge. Sticking to a schedule is what smart people did to get on top of their games. Routine introduces discipline and regularity into your life. And if you lack the willpower to master self-discipline, you can take inspiration for your routine from Albert Einstein. By sleeping 10 hours at night and taking several naps during the day you just might inch closer to his genius.