1 Big Idea to Think About

  • In just seconds, AI can help you create the foundations of routines that will help you live an essential life.

1 Way You Can Apply This

  •  Ask an AI tool like Chat GPT to help you design an essential routine for tomorrow. Go further by telling AI your top personal and professional goals. 

1 Question to Ask

  • What are the friction points in my current routine, and how can AI help me in designing a more effective routine?

Key Moments From the Show 

  • Less but better (2:36)
  • The power of routine (5:39)
  • How you can use AI to establish a routine in seconds (8:00)
  • The benefits of a curated routine (12:45)

Links and Resources You’ll Love from the Episode

Greg McKeown:

Welcome everybody. I’m your host, Greg McKeown, and I am here with you on this journey to learn so that we can design a life that really matters. What if you could design a personalized essentialist daily routine in seconds? This is part three of a multi-part series about how to use AI to make a more essentialist, effortless lifestyle. By the end of this episode, you will be able to make AI your servant rather than your master in setting up your daily routine. Let’s get to it

And don’t let the conversation end here. Click the subscribe button to stay updated with our future episodes every Tuesday and every Thursday. 

In the enduring realm of design, few names stand as tall as that of Dieter Rams, the visionary beacon of Braun, for many a season. Guided by the singular conviction that most of existence is but a cacophony of irrelevance, he views only a scant few things as truly crucial as artistic endeavor, thus is a relentless filtering process sifting through the dross to find the pure uncompromising essence and relegating all else to oblivion. 

Consider a youthful 24-year-old Rams engaged in collaboration on the design of a record player. Tradition at the time clad the turntable in dense wooden shrouds or embedded it wholly within homely furnishings. Breaking these shackles of convention, Rams and his team stripped away the superfluous, leaving only the raw device covered with a transparent plastic shell. Such was the audacity of this creation that many feared it might usher in the company’s financial ruin with consumers rejecting the unfamiliar aesthetic. Yet as it often does, courage in the face of doubt yielded remarkable results. 

The 1960s bore witness to the gaining momentum of this stripped aesthetic, setting a design precedent that future record players would faithfully follow. Ram’s design ethos finds a concise encapsulation in a triad of German words “weniger, aber besser,” the English translation, less but better. It appears to be the perfect distillation of essentialism. This approach, the way of the essentialist, is a tireless quest for refinement and purity. It is not a fleeting nod to an abstract concept but a rigorous discipline to be adhered to again and again. It impels constant reflection on the worth of undertakings, not simply at the cusp of a new year or during fleeting moments of organization. It is the continual pause to question: Are my energies channeled toward the right pursuits? 

The world is replete with goodness, but our resources and time are constrained. Hence, the essentialist path involves discerning the opportunities that align with our highest contributions eschewing quantity for the sake of quality. It’s not a practice of doing less for less sake but a calculated endeavor to make the most efficient use of time and energy. 

Routine in this context proves an invaluable ally in executing what is truly necessary. Absent a routine, we risk being ensnared by the trappings of distractions. A well-crafted routine, on the other hand, can automate the essential, making it an integral part of our subconscious existence. It spares us the daily expenditure of prioritizing, requiring only initial efforts to establish the routine, leaving the rest to disciplined adherence. 

Scientific evidence abounds to explain how routines make daunting tasks effortless. A salient insight is that frequent repetition of a task leads to the formation of new neural connections via synapses, which strengthen into neural pathways over time. This mechanism facilitates mastery over new concepts, driving, cooking, or any mental endeavor, making them second nature through repetition. The cementing of routine thus paves the way to effortless execution. Routine carries an additional cognitive advantage. As tasks shift to the basil ganglia, mental capacity is liberated to focus on novel activities. This dual approach enables us to perform one essential task on autopilot while actively engaging with another, preserving our focus and contribution levels. 

This shift in cognitive activity, as noted by Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, allows the brain to work less, creating room for fresh mental tasks. This indeed accentuates the power of routine, highlighting its role in the path of the essentialist. 

However, translating what is essential to us to a daily routine is easier said than done. The sheer complexity of our lives can hinder our ability to just get down a first draft of what an essentialist daily routine might look like, nevermind personalizing it for our precise priority decisions. 

Enter AI. ChatGPT and many other forms of AI are tools that require us to prompt them. So prompt generators are becoming a new area of exploration. But let me give you a really simple one. I asked ChatGPT for a sample daily routine for an essentialist. In seconds it had provided what I, on reflection, considered a really solid first version. 

5:30 AM wake-up time. Wake up early to enjoy the quiet of the morning and set a positive tone for the day. Begin the day with a few minutes of prayer or meditation, aligning your thoughts with your deepest values and your highest purposes. 

6:00 AM Exercise. Participate in physical activity that you enjoy. This could be a brisk walk, a run, yoga, or any form of exercise that helps you start the day energized and focused. 

6:45 AM Morning routine. Follow a structured morning routine that includes a healthy breakfast, shower, and any other personal care rituals. 

7:30 AM Review your goals. Look over your goals and priorities for the day, week, and month. Make sure what you are planning to do for the day aligns with your long-term goals. 

8:00 AM Begin work. Start your workday. Focus on your most important task first. When your energy and concentration is at its highest. 

12:00 PM Lunch break. Take a full lunch break away from your workspace. Use this time to nourish your body and mind and perhaps go for a short walk or engage in another form of light. Exercise 

1:00 PM Continue work. Resume your work, focusing again on high-priority tasks. Remember to take short breaks to rest your mind and avoid burnout.

4:30 PM Wind down work. Start to wind down your workday. Use this time to review your progress. Respond to any urgent messages or emails, and plan for the next day.

5:30 PM Personal time. This could be time for hobbies, reading, learning something new, or simply relaxing. The goal is to do something you love that replenishes your energy. 

6:30 PM Dinner. Have a healthy dinner and use this time to connect with family or friends. 

7:30 PM Evening routine. Engage in relaxing activities that prepare you for sleep. This could include reading, meditation, gentle stretching, or a calming hobby. Avoid screens during this time to promote better sleep. 

9:00 PM Prepare for sleep. Follow a bedtime routine that signals to your body it’s time to sleep. This could include a warm bath, reading, or listening to calming music. 

10:00 PM Sleep. Prioritize a full night’s rest to ensure you’re refreshed and ready for the next day.

And it adds this. Remember, an essentialist routine should be personalized to fit your unique needs and priorities. The purpose is to ensure that your time and energy are spent on what matters most to you, which requires ongoing reflection and adjustment. 

That is not bad for a three-second creation using a single simple prompt. What happened for me was I immediately used it to contrast my current routine and rituals. What stood out most to me was a portion of my evening routine where after dinner, we as a family will put on something to watch – a carryover ritual from the lockdowns. Perhaps something else will stand out for you. 

This, of course, is just a sample; I played with it further. Using the following prompt: Write out a daily routine for an essentialist with my top personal goal being health and fitness with my wife Anna, and my top professional goal being writing my next book. And again, within three seconds, I had a personalized list. 

I have sat in workshops. I have worked with executives. I’ve provided executive coaching for individuals who are trying to design their daily and weekly routines around the things that matter most to them. There is a non-trivial cognitive burden for having to think through and write up every piece of your routine. And that is largely eliminated with the use of Chat GPT, at least for coming up with version one or version two, that you then can further personalize and make more realistic for where you are in your life. Because first, you need the mindset and then the toolset, and the order really matters. 

In this, the third installment of our essentialist Effortless Lifestyle series, we turn our gaze towards the promise of the essentialist daily routine. By the end of this narrative, you will have discovered how AI can become your ally, not your overlord, in crafting a life of purpose, stripped of the superfluous and imbued with the essential. So let’s venture forth into this realm of possibilities. 

Envision, if you will, a life where each day is curated with a discerning eye, a day devoid of the meaningless and brimming with the profound, A routine that arises not from the chaos of life’s many demands but from an intelligent, deliberate selection of what matters most. This is the promise of an essentialist routine, a harmonious interplay of productivity, fulfillment, and rest. 

What if you could start your day not with the clamor of a hundred tasks vying for attention but with a sense of gratitude? Your day unfolds in purposeful stages with clearly demarcated time blocks for focused work, physical well-being, relaxation, and personal growth. Your work now distilled to its core essence, gains, depth, and impact. You are not just ticking off tasks but are meaningfully contributing to your life’s mission. And when the day winds down, you do not collapse into bed exhausted and spent.

Instead, you look back at the day where a sense of fulfillment and anticipation for the dawn of another day in your carefully designed life. This could be our reality. With a meticulously curated essentialist routine, at least, it’s an ideal to pursue. And in this pursuit, we must remember that AI is a tool, a powerful instrument that, when yielded with discernment, can bring simplicity and focus into our lives. The challenge lies in learning to master this tool to harness its capabilities without succumbing to its pervasive pool. Used wisely, AI can automate the non-essential, leaving us with the time and energy to focus on what truly matters. So join me in this journey of exploration and transformation. Let’s design an essentialist routine that brings clarity to our days, purpose to our work, and fulfillment to our lives. And with that, we draw this episode to a close, but the conversation is far from over. We will continue to explore the many facets of the essentialist effortless lifestyle in our future episodes. So hit that subscribe button and join us every Tuesday and every Thursday for more insights and inspiration. Here’s to living life the essentialist way.