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The power of routines lies in wrapping multiple habits or actions into an easy-to-do practice for every day. Because you intentionally and thoughtfully create a routine, it becomes comfortable and very efficient, freeing you to be more productive.
Ok, I have to tell you the truth. I’m conflicted when it comes to organization.
I love having a neat and tidy home and workspace. It makes me feel good to look around and see clean counters, tidy shelves, and everything put away where it belongs.
But I’m a total mess when I’m working.
I have a million tabs open on my computer when I’m writing, and stacks of print-outs, bills I want to pay early, correction tape, multiple colored pens, post-its, my water bottle, my phone, and my notepad, all cluttering my desk.
I’m also guilty of leaving clothes on the bed at the foot of my bed. My nightgown and robe, maybe my comfy sweats I’m planning to wear again tomorrow because I’m on a writing sprint. I’ve never mastered the art of having a perfectly neat bedroom (though my bed is made every morning as part of my morning routine). Where do people hide their PJs? Under a pillow? In the closet? Beneath the bed?
When I cook … I was about to say that I make a mess all over the kitchen. But actually, it was cooking that taught me how to create easy routines that fit my life and keep my home organized with very little work.
The trick is in using the power of routines.
The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.” Mike Murdock
A lot of people confuse routines with habits. They’re connected, but they’re not the same.
A habit is something you do without thinking. Habits are so ingrained in you that you have to work hard to change them.
A smoker reaches for a cigarette automatically throughout her day. You make a bowl of popcorn every night as you sit down with your family to watch TV. The first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is reach for your phone to check your messages and Facebook feed.
Routines are a group of tasks you do one after the other.
Using the example of reaching for your cell phone in the morning, a morning routine could be:
- Relax in bed for 5 minutes and check messages.
- Get up, go to the bathroom, make the bed.
- Feed & water the dog.
- Get some coffee and breakfast.
- Make your lunch for work.
- Change into workout clothes and do 30 minutes on the treadmill.
- Shower and dress for work.
- Rinse the breakfast dishes and put them in the dishwasher.
- Put out frozen dinner ingredients to thaw, or load the crockpot.
- Gather work papers and your packed lunch and head to work.
Now you might already be doing all this on autopilot but that’s exactly why you need to examine your existing routines and create improved ones. Harnessing the power of routines is how you will be more productive and get more out of every day.
You want your routine to become consistent, something you do day after day. When you do that, your mind simply won’t let you skip it. Maintaining your routine will be your new habit.Routines are not habits, but maintaining a routine, day in - day out, can become a habit.Click To Tweet
How will routines help you?
You can create routines around all three of the important elements in accomplishing your big goals. Time management, goal setting, and a positive mindset. Routines focused around necessary, but repetitive, tasks become second nature and free you to focus on your important goals.
1. The power of routines is in getting things done.
Have you ever found yourself floundering to get ready for work? Did you get up this morning to the sight of the kids’ toys and snack messes from the previous night? Has laundry pilled up all week, forcing you to spend hours of your precious weekend to getting it done?
Solid evening and morning routines replace morning chaos with clarity and the calm assurance that you are ready to face a challenging day and let you wake up to a tidy home. Laundry and other housekeeping tasks become part of a regular and easy weekly routine.
2. The power of routines is in decreasing stress.
When you have a plan for getting things done, you don’t need to waste time reinventing the wheel or worrying about what you didn’t finish. Youll do tasks in a specific way and, when you repeat them over and over, you’ll do them without really thinking about it.
The less you have to think about tasks you can do effortlessly with a routine, the less stress you’ll feel about your schedule.
Some people (like me) create what some people might think of as a mess as part of their creative work process.
I do multiple things throughout the day and I hate having to go find another notebook or dig up another file or pull out pens and notepads when I need them. When I make myself put away things after using them, my focus is interrupted and my productivity goes downhill.
My mind is its sharpest and most creative when I work this way so I don’t try to make it fit anyone else’s idea of how things should be.
I have a routine for the end of my workday.
When I’m ready to quit, I spend 15 minutes or so cleaning up my office. I put photos and documents in the proper folders, and delete temporary files. I put the URLs for web pages I’ll need again in my Trello boards.
(If you are a Plotting A New Course community member, you’ve likely seen my desktop organizer system. I include it as a gift for new subscribers. Let me know if you somehow missed it)
Then I tackle my desk. Books go back to the bookshelf. If I’ll need to use them the next day, I just leave them on the corner of my desk. I file loose papers, my pens and correction tape go back to their places in a drawer, my water bottle travels back to the kitchen, and my phone gets plugged in to charge. I look over my planner to see if there are any other tasks I can do before closing shop, make some notes for the next day and then even my planner is put away.
With my work area clean and tidy, I’m done for the day and I feel relaxed and stress-free.
3. The power of routines is in decreasing your workload.
It might not make sense at first thought, but when you have a routine for certain tasks, they become second nature and you accomplish them quickly. By doing some jobs as part of your routine, you also avoid a build-up of tasks that could take longer to finish.
A good example of that is my cooking and cleaning routine.
Before I took a culinary school certification course (doesn’t that sound fancy?), I would prepare dinner and load the pots, pans, and utensils I used into the sink to wash after our meal. By that time, there was usually at least one pan with baked-on food that required harder work to get it clean or needed soaking overnight. And on rushed mornings, the pan wouldn’t get cleaned until much later in the day.
Culinary school taught students to prepare all of our ingredients before starting to cook. That meant multiple small dishes to hold our mise-en-place, a term for having all your ingredients ready to go (no missing something in the middle of cooking because you had to account for it all before starting). Of course, that generated even more dishes to clean.
But they also taught us to be deliberate in all of our movements. As soon as you finished a cooking step, you moved from stove to sink and washed the dish you just used. The little mise en place bowls stacked up as the ingredients went into the dish and then I washed them while dinner was simmering. I wiped my counters and picked up spills as they happened.
Following that system, I had virtually no dishes by the time dinner was ready. I even washed the last cooking pan or dish right after plating each serving.
You might be thinking that the dishes would be getting done either way, but there was one clear difference. When I sat down to dinner, it was at the same time as my family. And when we were done, my kitchen was already clean and I could relax with everyone else.
I still use this routine every day. And it taught me to do the same with everything else that I do every day.
4. The power of routines is in giving you power over your life.
Because routines work best when you create them around regular activities, it’s an opportunity to reexamine what you do, what you want to do, and what you want to stop doing.
Ask yourself whether the tasks that you do routinely every day are actually contributing to your quality of life. Sure, there are some tasks you can’t rid, of but are you doing things in a certain way because … well, because that’s the way you’ve always done it?
When non-stick pans came out, they revolutionized the home kitchen because you could cook without creating sticky burnt pans to clean.
Don’t judge, ok?
My mother taught me how to cook rice on the stove and that’s the way she still does it. A few years ago, I discovered frozen rice that you can heat in the microwave in 3 minutes and I’ve never looked back. Since my family has rice as part of 2 meals a week on average, that saves me precious time I can use on things that matter more to me.
My friend decided that vacuuming was a waste of her time. She bought two Roombas, read the instructions and set them to clean while she’s at work. Her floors are cleaner than mine and she has two dogs!
Whether it’s learning to streamline a job you’ve always done one way, or eliminating it altogether, creating routines around the jobs you rank as important gives you power over your time and how you spend it.
5. The power of routines is in greater productivity.
Routines become unconscious habits that make us more productive.
It’s a little like sports. My kids are swimmers so I’ll use that as an example.
When you first learn to swim, technique is not even a consideration. You just want to stay afloat and keep breathing. You flail about and use a lot of energy to move across the pool.
Fast forward a couple of years and you’re now secure in the pool and you spend a lot of time perfecting your technique and strokes so that you can race. The goal is to get across the pool as fast as possible while managing your energy.
When you do something repetitively, you become more efficient and do it better and faster. String a few of these tasks together and you have a routine that you can do with little wasted motion.
Routines also ready you for whatever comes next.
A good evening routine means that you prepare several things for your morning to go smoothly. It essentially supports your morning routine because morning is the time when you can’t afford to forget anything as you’re getting ready for work. These two carefully-created routines send you out the door prepared, confident and ready to take on the challenge of your day.
You might have a routine for your arrival at work. It could involve a quick moment socializing with coworkers in the break room, followed by closing your office door while you scan your emails, get paperwork ready for a meeting, and place a few calls. That routine also sets up your day and gives you the focus you need to get more done.
How do you create a routine?
You can form habits without really being conscious of them.
Routines, however, come from intentional planning. If it’s your habit to roll out of bed in the morning, stumble into the shower, throw on some clothes, run a brush through your hair, fill your thermos with coffee, grab a pop-tart and head out, you could call it a routine but it’s really several habits you do in sequence.
That won’t help you enjoy your life and work more. In fact, it’s likely to cause you problem.
One caveat! A routine should reflect your personality, your needs, and your preferences.
So I could say you should exercise for half an hour every morning and read a few pages of a good book, but if that’s not what you want to do, it’s worthless advice.
You want your routines to be yours, to feel as comfortable as old pajamas. So build routines you’ll love and that will support the life you live in.
I designed a simple form for you to use when you want to create a new routine for yourself.
You only need a few things to write an effective and intentional routine.
- Understand why you want to have a routine. How will a routine help you? If you understand your why, you’ll be more likely to stick to the routine until it becomes easy.
- Make a list of the various tasks that need to be part of your routine. If it’s an evening routine, for example, think about all the aspects of your life and make sure to include them in your actions. What comes easily to mind is making sure the house is tidy before bed, that your work papers and files are where they need to be to grab in the morning, that you spend some time on relaxation and with your partner, and some self-care to help you ease into a good night’s sleep.
- Decide how you will track your new routine. Until you do it without thinking, a simple list you can refer to will keep you from missing some critical steps. There are also digital apps available for habit tracking if you prefer that.
Creating routines gives your day direction and purpose. It decreases stress, makes for less work, helps you focus on the things you most want to do, encourages better habits, and increases productivity.
Intentional and carefully crafted routines simply make your life easier. And who doesn’t need that?
Do you want to read more about building routines? I recommend Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind, by Jocelyn Glei.
Before you go off to create some great routines for yourself, take a second to join the Plotting A New Course community.
Download my free 10 Easy Ways To Find The Time To Pursue Your Dreams.
You’ll find several ideas that would fit perfectly into a home routine. You’ll also get weekly emails with exclusive member content, free gifts, encouragement and support.