There are numerous tales about the German enlightenment philosopher, Emmanuel Kant, and specifically about how he religiously adhered to an unbelievably strict daily routine for most of his adult life. Kant woke up at 5 a.m and went about the rest of his routine in the exact same fashion every day for 40 years, so much so that his neighbors said jokingly that they set their clock on the time he performed certain routines.
Probably to the 21st century individual, Kant’s adherence to his daily routine makes him a paragon of self-discipline and work-life imbalance at the same time. The latter becomes clearer when one considers that Kant spent his whole life in the city of Königsberg, Prussia (modern-day Kaliningrad, Russia) and never even saw the Baltic Sea, which was only one hour from his city.
What is important in Kant’s story, however, is not the extent to which he followed his daily routine, but this correlation between success and repetitive routines, which has been reiterated time and again by a plethora of successful individuals and motivational speakers. As far as I am concerned, probably no one has summed it up as simply and succinctly as Vince Lombardi, the American football coach, when he said that “winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”
The desire to investigate the importance of routines in the life of successful individuals led me to an admirer of Kant, the most popular content creator in Morocco, Mustapha El Fekkak. El Fekkak, who goes by the nickname of Swinga, is an artist, film director, and Associate Creative Director at Artcoustic Studios. In 2014, Swinga won the Creative of the Year prize and ever since his videos on social media, where he simplifies complex social, economic, and political concepts and procedures in attractive animation videos, have gone a long way, winning him millions of supporters and followers. However, nothing shows the level of popularity and trust that he enjoys more plainly than how millions of Moroccans flocked to his social media pages and channels as sources of trusted news and updates about the coronavirus since the outbreak of the pandemic in the beginning of the current year.
“You see ? It’s Very Simple!”
“I admire how he conscientiously abided by his daily routine for a long time, no matter what!” said Swinga in reference to Kant when I first brought up the subject of daily habits and routines. He tends to see the connection between preserving a daily routine and a high performance, and he acts upon it, which is why he is so careful to stick to his routine. I followed Swinga and asked him about his daily routine almost everyday for a month, and how he had successfully or unsuccessfully committed to every component of it.
Swinga wakes up at 6 a.m every day, puts on his running shoes, and heads to the Ain Diab beach in Casablanca, his native city. He runs for one hour and shoots stories for his massive social media campaign, dubbed Rise and Exercise or (#nod_trini in Moroccan Darija) where he incites Moroccans to make sports part of their daily routine. He then goes back home, showers, has his low-carb breakfast and drives to work. He makes it to his office at 9 a.m, the time to start what Cal Newport calls deep work, as he likes to focus for the first 3 to 4 hours on the most cognitively demanding tasks, leaving the meetings for the second half of the day. These tasks mainly pertain to brainstorming ideas for ad campaigns with his team or closely overseeing the production process throughout all its stages. At midday, he has his diet lunch while he socializes with friends and staff members, ringing the curtain down on the first half of the day.
The afternoon for Swinga starts either with meetings or two-hour online courses, depending on the day of the week. The phenomenal success of his advertising agency translates for him into many long meetings with his clients, which he takes quite seriously. As to the part with less outside pressure, education, he relies on his raw, almost aggressive zeal to maintain the commitment. Sometimes, his professional obligation necessitates that he misses a class or two, but he does not completely pull the plug on them. Around 5 pm, Swinga hits the gym to exercise for about one and a half hours. Then, he heads back home and makes sure his attention is fully directed towards his family and children. Reading takes the last bit of his day, right before he hits the sack around midnight. When he finished describing his daily routine to me, Swinga said “You see ? It’s very simple!”
Since day one, It was quite noticeable to me that Swinga is extraordinarily efficient. However, one might think that the level of success he has attained makes it easier for him to have a well-thought daily routine and to stick to it, than the average Moroccan. This can’t be any further from the truth. The 34-year old operates in the same environment as the rest of us, and is subject to its randomness and unpredictabilities, and his effectiveness is a matter of choice. In the next few lines, I reveal the secrets behind Swinga’s efficiency, 3 principles that he abides by to ensure a successful completion of the tasks that he sets for himself.
“If you can’t do it today, do it tomorrow!”
Sometimes the unpredictable facts of life make it impossible for people to even remember their plans, let alone adhere to them, no matter how disciplined they are. This also holds true for Swinga. However, when many people allow themselves to drift in life’s many currents, Swinga has a trick up his sleeve: He makes sure he catches up within the same week. By giving himself another chance to carry out the routines he misses during the day, Swinga anchors himself to his weekly action plan instead. This way when he looks back at the end of it, what really matters is that he has managed to stick to all his healthy routines. Watching his enthusiasm to commit to them and then to catch up when he cannot seemed to me like a battle that he fights every week … and wins.
“You can’t run? Just walk !”
When I began watching Swinga’s stories in the light of my new understanding of his daily routines, it became clear to me that a big reason why he posts those pertaining to his early running routine is to share and spread the principles that worked for him. On many occasions he says, “if you can’t run, just walk” inciting his audience to build the habit first and perfect it later. I asked him specifically about this point and he implied the strength or the intensity with which an action is carried out is not as important as its frequency, for this latter is what helps instill the habit in one’s system.
“Boring is Good !”
If you look at Swinga’s weekly schedule, you won’t help but notice that there is nothing extraordinary about it. It is simple and repetitive. Yet, the accumulative effect of these small actions or microresolutions is what makes him efficient. At the end of one of our meetings, I asked him to get in touch with another successful content creator, a friend of his, and ask him about his routine in order to review it in the next meeting. When we met again, we went through it in detail and I asked him for his views about a comment that came at the beginning of his friend’s schedule, where he jokingly said, “my daily routine is boring.” Swinga’s response was “boring is good!” and he elaborated that small but consistent steps are more reliable than long and inconsistent leaps.