The Power of Routine
Whether you are aware of it or not, routine plays a large part in all of our lives.
You have so many “routines” that you are doing right now that you don’t even think about. What is the order that your brush your teeth and wash your face? What is the order that you put your cream and sugar in your coffee?
Yup those are routines.
Creating routines play a huge role in your success. While on the other hand, negative routines may be unwittingly holding you back.
The dictionary defines routine as:
A sequence of actions that are regularly followed
As soon as you read that definition, now you see how the coffee reference makes sense. So how many other routines have you thought about that you follow almost without thinking. These are the kind of daily actions you mindlessly take no matter what.
Do you drive to work the same way, do you walk the building the same way?
Some of these routines are good and some of them …well not so much.
You might not think about these things as a routine per se, but when you read the definition it totally makes sense right.
Do you have a bedtime routine? Do you wash your face, brush your teeth, etc.
This is a routine.
This guide, is all about finally becoming aware of your routines and how to harnessing the power of such routines.
Why Is Routine So Powerful?
Many want to rely on “willpower” to help them make a change. The key here is routine are powerful tools.
Do you have any routines that you already follow everyday? If yes, that is just the tip of the iceberg. When you tap into the true power of routine, and create specific repeatable actions that propel you towards your goals – that’s when shit get real.
The power of routine can’t be overstated. Just revisit the definition mentioned on the last page….
A sequence of actions regularly followed is pretty much the key to succeeding at anything.
- If you want to lose weight, you need to regularly repeat certain actions like eating healthy, or exercising.
- If you want to build wealth, you need to regularly repeat the actions that help you gain and save money.
- If you want to be happy, you need to regularly repeat the actions that make you feel happy.
Healthy, wealthy and happy – that is pretty much success in anyone’s eyes, am I right?
Consciously creating routines actually makes repeating these needed actions easier as well.
Once you have created a routine and committed to it, quite often the actions you are repeating will become second nature.
You won’t have to think about taking action, you will just do it!
On top of that, the more you do something, the better you get at it. By it’s very nature, routine promote and require practice.
- Routine helps you work towards your goals
- It keeps you working towards those goals regularly
- It makes you better at the things you need to do to reach your goals
Sounds pretty powerful to me!
Why Do We Struggle with Routine?
Because we just do it we don’t think it’s important. It’s an act of daily living. You don’t think that you are actively creating powerful routines that could change your life in multiple areas.
Think about it you, you go about your daily life, not fully aware of your routines. You mindlessly repeat certain actions day in and day out. Sometimes to our benefit, and sometimes to our detriment. You gotta take the good with the bad =)
The key here is raising your awareness. When you know how powerful a routine can be, you will actively try to create new powerful ones that can and will drastically change your life.
Awareness also helps you to identify negative routines that we all tend to fall into. The key here is to figure out how you can adjust or eliminate them. You may be repeating negative actions daily without even realizing it.
Another common struggle with routine is ability to commit to it. This is usually because of one of the following factors:
- You are creating routines that don’t match your goals or passion
- You are trying to create too many routines at once
- You don’t have an action plan
- You may not have the support you need to get started
- You haven’t read this guide 😉
What You Will Learn in This Guide
This guide is all about routine awareness!
I will start by sharing some stories of massively successful people and the routines they used to drive themselves towards their accomplishments.
As they say success leaves clues.
I share these stories to inspire you, and help shed more light on just how powerful routine can be.
I will walk you through some simple steps to help you create your own routines. These steps will be universal enough that you can apply them to any area of your life.
You will learn what to do, and what not to do when it comes to creating routines.
If you follow my simple process, you will be able to create powerful routines that help crush your goals.
My goal of this blog post is that the knowledge you gain from this will help you notice and change any negative routines that you may find in your life.
Even while reading these first few lines, you have probably already thought about a couple of negative routines that you have.
Knowledge is power!
Without reading another sentence, you have already taken the first step towards changing negative routines.
Lastly I will share a list of 50 powerful routine examples. These routines might be things you want to incorporate into your own life right away.
If not, they may inspire you to think of your own powerful examples. Either way, you will be taking your first steps toward success.
It doesn’t take too much digging into success stories to find examples of powerful routines.
These routines not only help people reach their lofty peaks, they were likely quite integral to them.
Here are 8 stories of famous people and their routines.
There a hundreds of success stories, but wanted to narrow them down to a few so you get the idea
Every good success story starts with a routine!
In the stories I share I will give you a takeaway from each story. My hope is that these powerful tips that will help you when you create your own routines.
Don’t worry if you can’t remember every takeaway as you read. We include a handy bulleted list at the end of this section.
“If today was the last day of my life, would I be happy with what I’m about to do today?” – Steve Jobs
One simple question, each morning in the mirror.
This quote was the focal point of Steve Jobs morning routine. I am sure he had a number of routines, but this one is particularly fascinating.
After he would wake up, he would face himself in the mirror and ask that question. If he answered “no” too many days in a row, then he knew he had to shake things up.
Jobs knew that life was too short to waste time doing things that don’t make him happy. He wanted to make sure he was doing important, fulfilling work each day.
By checking in each morning, Jobs made sure he was being true to himself and it helped keep him on his chosen path.
What a simple, yet powerful routine. How many times do you wake up and just start getting ready for work?
What could be your power question so that you can start your day with intention versus just going through the motions.
How powerful would it be if you actually took a moment to ask yourself a simple question like that?
It’s really easy to think that routines have to be this huge thing and require a massive life overhaul to start or even sustain them.
Think about the simple question Steve Jobs started his day with? My boyfriend, Tony Robbins say if you ask yourself better questions you will get better answers.
Are you ready to ask yourself better questions?
“The alarm clock would go off at 5, and I’d jump in the shower. My office was 5 minutes away. And I had to be at my desk, at my office, with the first cup of coffee, a legal pad and write the first word at [5:30], five days a week.” – J. Grisham
John Grisham is a writer. He has written several best sellers that have gone on to be box off hits. A good routine should complement your passion.
Every working day, Grisham would get up at the same time and be ready to roll at 5:30am. His goal was to write a single page every day.
Another simple yet powerful goal. He was a writer and his routine was… to write. It could take an hour, or it could take 5 minutes, but the routine was the same – a page a day.
With dozens of massively successful books under his belt, it is safe to say it worked.
Making your passion part of your routine can be very powerful. If you know your passion and are actively following it, then why not create a daily routine based around it?
Another lesson to be learned from Grisham is that choosing a results based routine can be very helpful. Instead of forcing yourself to do something for X amount of time, why not focus on the result you want instead? In Grisham’s case, he didn’t force himself to write for 2 hours each day. Instead he set a goal of a single page with a much more flexible time frame.
I take a page of John Grisham’s playbook. My passion is fitness and everyday I move my body at least 30 minutes each day.
Beethoven, one of the most successful and renowned musicians of all time, was widely known as a man of routine.
In fact, he took it to the next level in some cases. He purportedly started each morning by meticulously brewing his morning cup of coffee by counting out 60 coffee beans.
For the focus of this guide though, I want to look at his afternoon. After a morning of work and a midday dinner, Beethoven would go on a long, often vigorous walk.
The key to this walk was that he always brought a pencil and couple sheets of music paper in case he was struck with musical inspiration.
He used a change of state and environment to break up the monotony of his day, while at the same time making sure he was ready if inspiration struck.
Create routines that help you in multiple ways. Beethoven’s midday vigorous walk, while simple in it’s nature, is actually complex when you look at the effect it had on him.
This one single routine, actually addressed multiple issues. A vigorous walk is a wonderful way to stay active. It is even better if you commit to it daily. On top of that, it was a great way to shake things up. A midday walk breaks up the doldrums of working all day and help inspiration strike. Beethoven made sure he was ready by carrying pencil and paper. (In the 21st century we’d have a iPhone and use the recorder or Evernote to help us track our thoughts and ideas.
This one routine was actually a triple threat!
“We have a semblance of a normal life. We have a drink together and
have dinner. Maybe after dinner I’ll read to him what I’ve written that
day. He doesn’t comment. I don’t invite comments from anyone but
my editor, but hearing it aloud is good.” – Maya Angelou
Another successful writer, Maya Angelou was also a firm believer in routine. Are you starting to see a pattern here?
When she was working, she had a strict routine that she followed each and every day.
A normal working day for Angelou, would start with a 6am morning coffee with her husband. After that, they both head off to work. She would head to a sparsely furnished room where she could focus on nothing but her passion.
She would work until the afternoon (exact time depended upon how well things were going) and then meet up with her Husband for a drink and dinner together.
The highlight in this routine is balance! Angelou works hard and focuses, everyday, but she also ensures her life has balance. In her own words, “we have a semblance of a normal life”.
This is an important lesson for anyone. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our goals and passion, that we forego life’s simple pleasures. Or we think that we can strike a balance between our goals and our lives.
Being able to have a drink and dinner with a loved one, is something you shouldn’t take for granted.
Do plan to create daily routines that honor multiple aspects of your life – emotional, spiritual and physical.
“I look to build a lot of consistent routine, Same thing every day.” – Jack Dorsey
Jack Dorsey might not be as universally known as some of the other people in this list, but that is definitely changing.
Dorsey is the co-founder of tech giants Twitter and Square.
Like a lot of tech big brains, he has a fairly strict daily routine that allows him to simplify certain aspects of his life.
His morning ritual is simple. He wakes up at 5am, meditates for 30 minutes, works out and then rewards himself with a caffeine fix.
I know it’s not earth shattering, but it has 2 key takeaways that make it worth highlighting.
His routine allowed him a measure of control even when the rest of his day was throwing all sorts of crazy obstacles at him. Routines can be a source of calm, even in the middle of chaos.
Secondly, leaving his coffee until after his routine is finished, adds a reward to the whole concept. His subconscious knows that if he focuses and gets his routine done, he will receive that reward of coffee at the end. This can be motivating even if you don’t consciously consider it a reward.
In the book, The Power of Habit this is called a habit loop that were their is a trigger a response and a reward.
Repose (meditation and workout)
“I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon.” – Stephen King
You’d be hard pressed to think of a more prolific or popular writer than Stephen King. Like the other writers we have focused on, he also has a routine. Just like them, it isn’t anything intense, it is basically all covered in the above quote.
He wakes up, gets ready and then he writes. The key for him, is the repetition.
He not only keeps his routine the same, but also his surroundings. Right down to the placement of his papers!
Again this isn’t groundbreaking stuff but it illustrates an important takeaway…
What you consistently matter most. It doesn’t matter what you accomplish in one day, it matters what you accomplish at the end of a year (or longer) of those days.
What might seem silly and simple in the moment (i.e. making sure your papers are in the same place) is in fact a mental cue that helps you maintain your routine, recapture your state of mind and repeat it each and every day.
While she may be a somewhat controversial figure to some, no one can ever doubt Sontag’s accomplishments and commitment to her chosen causes.
She not only produced a massive amount of content, she was also refreshingly open about how she accomplished it.
Below is an except from her published journal (As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980)
I will get up every morning no later than eight. (Can break this rule once a week.)
I will have lunch only with Roger [Straus]. (‘No, I don’t go out for lunch.’ Can break this rule once every two weeks.)
I will answer letters once a week.
This isn’t her full daily routine, but I chose this excerpt because it illustrates a remarkable takeaway.
Commitment to your routine is key, but do you see how she built flexibility into it by allowing herself a weekly rule break?
It’s important to build some flexibility into your routines, so you don’t feel like a failure the first time you miss a day. Commitment and repetition of routine is paramount, but don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day. Real life happens.
I refer to this as structured flexibility. I have my three non-negotiables and I’ve created them in a way that I can honor them when I’m traveling or I’m at home.
Anna Wintour is a massively successful journalist and editor. In fact, she has been the editor in-chief for Vogue magazine since 1988. Whether or not you are a fashionista, you should appreciate just how important of a figure she is in that world.
Like all the uber-successful people in this guide, she has a daily routine. Unlike some of the people already mentioned though, she has an interesting twist. First lets look at her morning…
The part I love – is the hair blown out. Now, in the world of fashion, it is probably pretty important to look great. However, It’s how that blow-out makes her feel that I am interested in. A simple pleasure like getting her hair done, makes her feel ready to take on the world.
I love this because of my great pleasures who be someone to do my hair daily or cook for me.
She doesn’t just start her day looking great, she starts it feeling great.
Embrace routines that help you feel empowered, no matter what it is. (Hint) I am actually telling you to be selfish. All of your routines don’t have to be about some greater goal. Sometimes it can be about making yourself feel happy.
Don’t be afraid to embrace your personal preference when you create daily routines. You might not want to get a morning blow-out each day, but if you have a daily ritual that really helps you feel better – embrace it!
Revisiting The Takeaways
Below is a list of takeaways from the routine success stories above.
Feel free to revisit this list often. You can even print this page out, and post it somewhere to remind yourself of these tips.
Reading these takeaways daily could become your first routine!
- Simple daily routines can be powerful — Steve Jobs asked himself a very simple question
- Create routines that match your passions
- Create routines that help you from multiple angles
- Create daily routines that honor multiple aspects of life – emotional, spiritual and physical
- Routines can add a level of control to otherwise chaotic days
- Build a reward directly into your routine
- The cumulative effects of routine are what matter most
- Don’t fear a little flexibility in your routines
- Don’t be afraid to embrace your personal preference when you create daily routines
Improve and Create Your Own Powerful Routines
We will examine some of the best practices to help you improve your current routines, as well as intentionally set new powerful ones.
These steps will be general enough you can use them to focus on multiple areas of your life.
Step One: Your Motive
You can also call this your why. Look at your daily tasks and routines and think about what do you really want to accomplish. What is your real motive behind you wanting to tap into the power of routine?
The easiest way to do this, is to examine (or set) some long term goals. You should have goals that focus on the things you find important. Successful people usually have goals based around things like:
Take the time think about your long-term goals for each of those areas. This is important, so that you can see if your current routines are working and what you may need to tweak.
You will look back on this when you don’t “feel like it”.
It’s also good to look back and see how far you have come.
Step Two: Examine Your Day
You may already have routines that you aren’t aware of. Remember the example of the coffee and brushing your teeth I gave you earlier.
You may also be on the cusp of having helpful routines, and just need a nudge to get there.
Start journaling/logging what you do on a daily basis. Ideally you will do an entire week.
You’ll start recording what you do when you wake up, right up until you go to bed.
- Think about the things you do first thing in the morning
- Think about everything you need to do to help your family get their day started
- Consider the repeatable tasks you need to do for your work/business
- Consider the repeatable tasks you need to do to keep the household running (cleaning, organizing, eating, etc…)
- Ask yourself what errands you need to complete
- Ask yourself what things you do to stay in good health
- Think about the things you do for your financial health
Once you have jotted down all of your tasks, you will have a master list of the things you do already
Step Three: Examine Your List
Now that you have your list, examine it and take stock of the things you do daily.
Ask yourself the following questions about each task…
- Is this a positive or negative daily action?
- Are these actions progressing me towards my goals?
- Are these actions an efficient use of my time?
If you find a number of daily tasks that are positive, fit your goals and efficient uses of your time – highlight them.
These are powerful daily routines that you already have and you should commit to continuing and perfecting them.
Alternatively, if tasks don’t tick off all the 3 above boxes, dump them, and replace them with new routines.
Step Four: Look For Weakness
Earlier you wrote down (or set new) goals that addressed a number of areas in your life. Looking at that list try and pinpoint any weaknesses in your daily tasks routines.
- Are any of your goals not being addressed properly?
- Are you doing things everyday that progress you towards each of your goals.
- Are the things you are doing, as good as they can get?
If so – then congrats you are using the power of routine already!
If not, and let’s be honest, most of us can do better, then you should jot down where you think you are struggling.
Create a list of the areas that you don’t do enough each day to address.
For example – maybe you are exercising but you aren’t, but crushing in with saving money for a new home. If this is you, then you would write down “exercise” as an area of struggle.
At the end of this step you should have a number of areas in your life you need to focus on.
Step Five: Brainstorm New Routines
Using the list you created last step, focus on the areas of life you feel you aren’t properly addressing yet. Make a list of a 2-3 things you could do each day to address them.
If you feel like you have hit a wall this is something that you and I can sit down and have a conversation around to help you get organized and headed in the right direction to hit your goals.
For example, of you highlighted “health”, go ahead and write down a daily task or two that can help you with that. The task could be something like going for a walk at lunch time, hitting the grocery store weekly, or giving up snacking after dinner.
Step Six: Schedule Your New Routines
Ideally after the last step, you will have a number of potential new routines you can start to incorporate into your life.
You should take some time now, to figure out how these will best fit into your life.
If you are someone who already has a day planner, and you schedule your life down to the hour – then you will simply plot these new routines where they fit.
If you are a little more flexible with your time, then you will still want to take some time to think about where these routines naturally fit into your day.
Instead of stridently scheduling them into your day, you can simply categorize them by the time of day that most makes sense. Keep it simple with 3 categories:
- Morning routines
- Afternoon routines
- Night routines
When you are separating your routines into these categories, remember to honor your own personal preference. Some people like to get more complex tasks done early, while some people like to spend their mornings in a more reflective or laid-back state. This is your schedule so you are in charge of how you spend your days.
Some people find their creative juices flow the best when they first wake up, while others like to spend their nights being creative.
The important part here is being true to yourself.
Not only do you have to be true to yourself, you need to be true to your circumstances. If you are rushed off your feet in the morning already, then creating a 30-minute meditation routine during that time, won’t fly.
Instead of trying to adopt other peoples routines. Take the time and adjust your routines to fit your personal preferences and circumstances. When you approach it this way, it’s much easier it is to fit your routine into your life, and you will have a fighting change of sticking to it.
Speaking of which…
Step Seven: Stick To It
Simple right – just keep on doing the routine!
Wait a sec… Actually it isn’t that simple. Yup!! Enough with the overcomplication!!
Committing to doing a new daily task, no matter how trivial, isn’t just as simple as wanting to do it. If that were the case, we would all get enough exercise, save a ton of money and have a totally clean and organized house.
The truth is, committing to a new routine is much tougher than simply creating one.
To help your routine stick you should take a couple of steps:
- Commit to 30 days – There is a lot of info out there claiming there is a specific timeframe to make a habit/routine stick. I don’t know how true it is, but I do know that 30 days is both reasonable, and long enough to get into a groove.
- Use a calendar or app to mark each day done – There is something really powerful about seeing your progress right in front of you. Jerry Steinfeld when he first started he told himself that he would write at least 1 joke/day. He got a paper calendar and a red marker and everyday he wrote a joke he crossed it off the list. He visually saw he’s actions.I know that seems really simple, you could also use color coded stickers totally your call. You decide what will help to keep you motivated.If you want a more high-tech option, there are plenty of habit-creation apps that will also allow you to track your month of new routines. One note here though – make sure you enable notification on these apps so that you will get regular reminders. It’s much easier to forget to use the app, than it is when you have a physical calendar in your face.
- Build in flexibility – While aiming for everyday is pretty important. Let’s not forget that life happens and we need to be flexible at times. When life does happen give yourself grace vs bullying yourself and just start right back up, no more waiting till “Monday”.
Remember Susan Sontag? She built flexibility right into her routines when she wrote them down. She allowed herself a free rule break once a week.
If you don’t like that idea, you could make up a rule that you can break your new routine for a day, as long as you don’t do it again on a consecutive day.
No matter how you incorporate flexibility (and the two examples from above are hardly the only ways) you just need to figure out what works best for you.
- Build in a reward – Guess who likes rewards? Duh… Everyone.You should try and think of a reward that you can give yourself if you go the full 30 days with your new routine(s). Try to think of a reward that really means something to you. Don’t think of anything too extravagant or out of your means, just choose a single simple reward that makes you happy in the moment.
Jack Dorsey of Twitter had a simple daily reward of a cup of coffee.
You can choose something that resonates more with you, but that just goes to show you that you don’t have to go overboard.
If you want to reward yourself something really exciting, and maybe a bit luxurious – try and make it match your goals. Ideally I want you to not reward yourself with food, it’s a slippery slope.
Set a new routine to get more active and stick to it for a full month. If you are able to do that, you might reward yourself with a new gym membership, some nice basketball shoes or a new bike.
Those are pretty significant rewards, but they directly address your personal goals, and will quite likely help you accomplish them more efficiently.
Step Eight: Self-Reflection
Once you have reached the end of your month (ideally successfully) it is time to sit back and take some time to reflect on how it went. Ask yourself these questions:
- What went well with my new routine?
- Did my new routine have an appreciable effect on my life?
- What part of my new routine did I struggle with?
- What part of my routine did I truly enjoy?
- What could I do to make my routine more efficient?
- Is this something I want to continue?
- Is there a better use of my time?
Asking yourself these types of questions will help you correct your trajectory (if need be) and tweak your routines so that they are more helpful or efficient.
Don’t be afraid to drop routines that haven’t helped you, or just don’t vibe with your life. On the same token, don’t be afraid to double-down on routines that have had significant impact on your life, or that you love.
Step Nine: Tweak Them And Start A New 30 Days
It’s a routine right? You don’t stop doing it. Take what you learned from the above self-reflection and work on perfecting these new routines.
If you keep going through Steps 8 and 9 after each 30 days, you will be regularly improving your routines until they are perfect.
Your commitment to creating and perfecting routines, will actually become a routine itself!
The power of routine is a powerful force that only gets more powerful as you fully acknowledge and embrace it. Anyone who follows these 9 steps is doing both.
Here are some great examples of routines that you could incorporate into your life. These may not seem life-changing or momentous, but focusing on just a few of them will help you build positive routines that help you reach your goals.
If you are interested in any of these, I would caution you to focus on only a few at a time. Also, try to choose routines that match your goals. Feel free to tweak the below routines to fit those goals as well.
Not every routine below will mention “everyday” or “each day” but that’s the whole point of a routine. If we give an example that doesn’t specifically mention everyday, assume that’s what it means.
- Ask yourself if you are doing something you are proud of
- Find a mantra, and repeat it for a few minutes
- Step outside your comfort zone and try something that challenges you
- Turn off all of your devices for a set period of time
- Take a risk (big or small)
- Tidy your workspace, and prepare it for the next day
- Answer your emails at a set time
- Smile and/or laugh
- Do something that makes you feel beautiful
- Do something that makes you feel powerful
Routine plays such a massive role in all of our lives – whether we are aware of it or not.
If you really think about it we all have some sort of routine in our lives. If you read the list of example routines from the last chapter, you can probably tick off more than a couple that you already go about daily without barely knowing it.
That’s why routine can be so powerful! When you commit to routines that align with your goals, eventually these actions will become something you do without thinking about it. You will be attacking your goals every single day almost mindlessly.
You have also learned about how powerful routine was in the lives in some seriously successful people.
On top of that, you have seen how they used fairly simple routines to reach their lofty goals. That’s the great thing about routine. We don’t need to smash it out of the park each and every day. We just chip away daily, and the cumulative power of doing that can add up to great things.
You also learned how you can start intentionally creating new routines that will help propel you to your own goals. The steps included here are general enough that you can start creating routines across multiple aspects of your life right now.
If you need some inspiration, check out the examples we shared a few pages ago.
Out of those examples, you can find at least one or two to start on right away. If not, just reading them could inspire you to think up your own original routines.
What are you waiting for? Its time that you let the power of routine take control and help rocket you towards your best life!