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.

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Stella Thompson says:

    Oh Tommy,, this spoke to me. Routines are so hard for me. Like Poppy, I want to see how I am feeling to decide. I have a hard time with knowing what each day will bring and I want to be flexible to choose. How is that for a routine? Dad plans his day along with breakfast and what he plans he does. After 70 years one would think that I picked up a few tips from him. I am not proud of this flaw but have seemed to have managed this far. I do think, though, that o ur temperaments make us comfortable with what we choose.

    I love your thoughts and they are sometihing important to think about. Sometimes, just a little better makes a lot of difference. You were given a lot of talents and we saw them early in your life. What a joy you have been to every member of this family (except Litt when he was doing his homework). Love you and SO proud of you. Mom

  • Nelson E Ould says:

    What a beautiful testimony from a Mom about a son!

  • Nelson E Ould says:

    I love the concept of a quality morning, a well-planned day and a calming evening. This is a little different, but a “close” word to routine is “liturgy.” Everybody has liturgies. Liturgies are repeated patterns of living that give life its shape. Cultural liturgies are shopping at the mall or rooting for your sports team. Sacred liturgies are a morning prayer time or a coffee with a spiritual friend. In either case, our liturgies reveal what we worship. Thanks Tommy, for helping me have a quality morning, today!

    • I’ve read recently about the concept of liturgies and love it. I like the distinction between sacred and cultural liturgies. Thanks for sharing these thoughts!