One of the first things I do every day is walk down the hall toward a set of cat dishes.
My cat Moon knows what’s up. She knows that kibble will soon land in her bowl. Oh yes, so she leaps out of bed alongside me and trots down the hall. (Her little floofy kitty butt is so cute when she does this!)
In the evening, Moon knows that when I turn out the lights in the living room and head into the bathroom I’m about to get ready to sleep. She jumps up onto the bed and watches me brush my teeth and wash my face. When I finally get into bed, she curls up alongside me.
If I’m too pokey (often), Moon meows at me like Dude, hurry up already. It’s nuh-night time. Nothing like being chastised by your own cat, haha.
These are our routines and they connect us. Yup, even cats understand routine and appreciate the knowledge of what’s going to happen next.
So why is routine often thought of in a negative way?
Boring. Dull. Commonplace.
Some peeps say routine is something we should free ourselves from in order to spark creativity, infuse our lives with adventure, and let loose and have a little fun.
Okay, so that’s all true. It is good to take a break from routine sometimes. Doing so can help us see things in a new light and therefore awaken us to new ideas and solutions. And hellz yeah a change of scenery or pace can be refreshing and fun.
But contrary to popular belief, routines can be freeing, too. And they can be really good for your goal-getting.
Routines take decision-making out of the equation.
Do you go to the gym or not? Should you go back to sleep? (Something I often contemplate!) What do you do next? What do you eat for breakfast? What’s the first thing you do when you sit down at your desk to work?
Whoa, so many decisions and choices to make everyday. It can weigh on your brain.
Routines are basically a string of habits tied together in a tidy little bundle. Because they’re habits, you eventually do them without thinking too much. This frees up your brain for better uses and organizes your time so you can use it more efficiently.
Creativity can become routine.
Let’s say you’re working on a special creative project that’s near and dear to your heart. You’re writing a novel. Lots of people want to write a book, but many don’t succeed.
The most common piece of advice given to writers is to write every day. Oh man, did this advice used to piss me off. During many periods of my life, I scoffed and believed that writing every day didn’t work for me. It wasn’t doable. I had a full time job and other stuff to do.
Yet…wouldn’t you know I wrote a shit ton more when I was consistent with my writing habits? Even if I didn’t write every day, I built a routine. It wasn’t always easy or pretty, but I finished.
Creativity doesn’t show up unless you do. Routines help you show up and get those goals.
Routines signals Hey, we’re doing this now. Your brain is more likely to oblige when comfortably ensconced in routine than when off having fun or delighting in a new experience.
Following the right routine can be enjoyable.
There’s a little somethin’ somethin’ I do each morning that boosts my mood, energizes me, and makes me feel hella satisfied (and sweaty).
Ohhhh yeah, I exercise. (What did you think I was gonna say? Heh.) If I skip a workout, bad times. My day feels off. Sometimes it’s tough getting my butt out of bed. I never regret it, though. I know from trial and error that morning workouts increase my chances of exercise success. In the night? No control cuz wow, I hate working out in the p.m.
Predictable? Yes, routines are like that, but in predictability can be peace, comfort, and safety. It’s not all bad.
Routines can strengthen your willpower.
Willpower is a muscle that you’ve got to flex like a mofo to make strong. In that willpower muscle, each of us has a finite amount of strength. Strength that gets depleted as the day wears on. That willpower demands self-control.
The good news is that exercising self-control on a regular basis can strengthen your willpower. Routines require self-control so they’re pretty much like a set of dumbbells for your willpower muscles. Your goals need you to be strong so stop, drop, and gimme three sets of twenty. Just don’t grunt loudly and drop those weights cuz that’s annoying.
Which routines are most important?
Dude, all of ‘em. But I suggest focusing on how you start your day and how you finish your day. These are foundation routines that can have be the difference between you feeling like a hot mess with no control over your life and feeling like an organized, satisfied goal-getter who’s actually getting stuff done.
When it comes to morning routines, a lot of people seem to dig “the miracle morning” which Niklas Goeke summarized nicely here. It’s based on a book (you’ve probably heard of it) by Hal Elrod whose full title is The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8 am). Holy shit. The title has the word miracle, secret, and guaranteed! (No affiliate links here, just spreading the word in case this info is helpful to some of you.)
Read about the morning routines of successful peeps here for other ideas. Try a few. Reject what doesn’t work for you. Keep what does and make it your own.
Routines built around healthy habits, goal-review, and work can also rock your world for the positive.
They come in all flavors, but the best routines:
- Involve taking positive action.
- Support your goals
- Are best implemented in teeny tiny baby steps
- Help you live your values
- Elicit good feels (eventually) and give you a sense of control
What routines do you follow?
Do you revisit them occasionally to see if they’re still working for you? Any routines you’d recommend? Dish out the details in the comments.