The term “routine” can have a negative connotation for the type of person who tends to be more spontaneous. One thinks boring, monotonous, constricting. Yet, we all live by routines, even if they are unwritten or not well defined. In the best sense of the word, a good routine allows us to do regular tasks in a positive way with minimal thought. It prevents us from having to reinvent the wheel for everything we do, every day. In important areas of life, routines allow us to be intentional instead of reactionary.
Two of the most important routines to be intentional about are our morning routine and our evening routine. These routines act as bookends, framing each day in either a positive, neutral, or negative way.
The first place to look is our evening routine. Evenings can be a time for great relaxing, special time with family and friends, and de-stressing from busy days. Evenings, well spent, can be the icing on a satisfying day. Nights can also be a time when we try to extend the workday, fall into bad habits because we are too exhausted to resist, watch too much mindless TV, and stay up too late. Beyond the obvious negatives, our bad nighttime routines tend to bleed into the morning by leaving us fatigued from too little sleep, ruining our best opportunity for health and growth.
The morning is the time when so much positive possibility exists. We can enjoy precious, unrushed time with God. We can think through and plan our days for maximum effect. We can create a relaxed rhythm for the rest of our waking hours, setting a tone and spirit that allows the best in us to emerge. The problem is that many of us, exhausted from the night before, have left only a few minutes, if that, for all of this good to occur. Instead, we go into our already hectic days out of breath and frazzled.
So I want to encourage you to give some clear thought to your nighttime and morning routines. These routines are deeply ingrained in us. Any changes will take determined and clear conviction. But there are very few changes that we can make in our lives that will have more impact over the long haul than adopting life-giving morning and evening routines. Here are a few questions to consider:
- What time in the morning do I need to wake up to allow myself unrushed time for reflection, growth, and planning the day?
- Counting backward from our desired time to wake up, what time do I need to go to bed in order to make sure I am not exhausted?
- What evening habits do I need to add or subtract that are affecting how I end each day? Evenings, when our willpower is weakest, are the time of greatest temptation. How do I resist temptation?
- When do I need to shut down technology?
- How do I want to spend my mornings? How much time optimally for each activity (quiet time, planning, getting ready, other)? Be generous with this time. Unrushed mornings can be the path to real intimacy with God and great clarity of purpose for each day.
Changes are always very hard to make! To help with the challenge, imagine the effect of changing these routines for the positive, multiplied by 20 years of daily practice. The end result? A changed life of meaning, growth, intimacy with God, health, and even greater effectiveness. Very few changes have such an undeniable upside.
Frame the beginning and the end of your day well, and the middle will likely take care of itself.