We all have routines (whether conscious or not) that help us get through our to-do lists and days with relative ease and predictability. Our routines, if developed with thought and purpose, can contribute to our productivity and help us to make more time for what matters most. This week I discuss how having effective routines can benefit us in our daily life, and share a bit about my own routines as well.
The value of routines in building a productive life
What is a routine?
To begin with, let's establish what a routine is. The dictionary I consulted defines routine as “a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program”. So basically a routine is a set of habits performed at a regular time and/or place. We all have them, mostly developed unintentionally, such as what time we get up in the morning and what we do first. Routines can be lots of different kinds -- morning, evening, daily/weekly/monthly, health-related (fitness), social, work-related, etc.
How do routines help?
How can routines help improve productivity? To begin with, routines promote efficiency; anything we do repeatedly, we can do more quickly.
Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes permanent.
Routines also help minimize decision fatigue. If we follow a sequence of actions we’ve chosen ahead of time, we don’t have to decide what to do next.
They allow our brains to go on autopilot, freeing up brain power for creative thinking and problem-solving. If you have something you do the same way over and over again (maybe at work or in your kitchen), you have a routine and can allow your mind to wander and think about something else--maybe a problem that needs to be solved.
One article I read stated that “Research has consistently shown that routines can play an important role in mental health". One study, for example, found that routines could help people better manage stress and anxiety. Having a regular routine can help you:
Lower stress levels
Form good daily habits
Take better care of your health
Feel more productive
Feel more focused
That same article notes how important routines can be during stressful times of our life, saying, “Even if you don't typically thrive on a strict schedule, having a routine can be helpful in times of unpredictability, uncertainty, and stress.”
How do we create a productive routine?
* Awareness -- notice the routines you already have in place and then observe and evaluate them. What’s working, what’s missing, what would you like to change (and why)?
Intentionality -- What do you want to accomplish? Serenity? Order? Accomplishment? What’s an area of your life that could benefit from a new or changed routine? For example, Do you want mornings before school/work to be more peaceful? Do you want to set yourself up for productive work mornings by establishing a daily shut-down routine?
It's not about simply adding more stuff into your day, but being strategic about what you routinely do.
Incremental changes are better than attempting a massive overhaul. Start simple, add and adjust as you go.
Give yourself time for the changes to turn into habitual routines. They should be personal to you and serve your life.
Examples of routines
I'm sharing a couple of my own routines, not because they’re perfect, but simply as examples. These reflect the fact that I work from home, my kids are grown and gone, it’s just Mike and me.