It took me a long time to learn the secret.
Coming out of college I was ready to tackle the world. Each day I would wake up with mountains of energy and optimism, and end the day depleted and exhausted. My willpower didn’t have much power. My effectiveness was stunted by the erratic way I lived. Desperation led me to finally find a better path that is foundational to my life now.
I learned the power of a good routine.
My learning began in the mornings. I hated the feeling of rushing from the moment my feet hit the floor. For me, it was like starting a 100-meter race 10 meters behind the rest of the field. I was always in catch-up mode. Out of desperation, I began practicing a morning routine. At first, my routine was just a few minutes to settle myself, read, think, and pray. The routine wasn’t very effective at the beginning but was a huge improvement over nothing. Over the years my morning routine has become the most important and favorite part of every day.
Once I understood the power of routine from practicing it each morning, I began to instill routine into other areas of my life. Two other key areas for me are evening routine and planning routine. The trifecta of a quality morning, a well-planned day, and a calming evening create a sustainable rhythm that counteracts the inevitable chaos that slams each day. Routines are great ways to address any areas where we struggle. So many people would benefit from having a routine in place when they come home from work. An after-dinner routine could squelch snacking temptations. Good routines help us successfully manage transitions.
Why are routines so important for effective living?
- Routines give structure amidst chaos.Apart from quality routines, we are effectively recreating the wheel each day. We end up flailing from one activity to the next, days bleeding into months of breathlessness and exhaustion.
- Routines also create consistency.With quality routines, we assure that our foundations are solid, which strengthens the rest of the structure. Professional golfers know that a quality pre-shot routine enables them to perform at their highest when under pressure.
- Routines preserve energy.Through routines, important areas of our life happen without exerting energy.
- Routines automate success.I feel confident that when I begin the day well, plan thoroughly, and end the day restfully, I am giving myself the very best chance of being successful in the middle. This is the power of routine.
Routines, though, can easily become ruts.
Only a few letters separate the two words. Ruts stifle and sap joy and spontaneity out of life. Ruts are rigid, legalistic, and guilt-inducing. The best routines look very different from ruts. The key difference is adaptability. Ruts become entrenched in the exact same pattern, while good routines flex as often as needed to maintain freshness.
The presence of key routines in my life have aided me for a long time. The specific elements of each routine have varied as life situations have changed and lessons have been learned. My morning and evening routine look very different now than they did when I was in the throes of raising young children. I imagine that they will continue to change and adapt, and hopefully improve over the years ahead.
What are the key routines of your life? How are they working for you? What might you do to improve them, to avoid them becoming ruts? Is there a routine you need to add to your life? What rut do you need to eliminate? Take a little time and reflect on this critical area that has the potential to radically improve your every day.