Routine: Making Progress from Habit

plannerMy lack of routine in recent weeks has made it abundantly clear how important routine can be for productivity, for creativity, and for creating a life by design rather than by default. The key, though, is making sure to develop a unique routine deliberately, with intent and purpose.

Successful musicians, athletes, writers and entrepreneurs all have one thing in common: They practice their craft, and then they practice some more. They dedicate time for practice by creating structure in their daily lives. By establishing their own unique routines, they ensure progress is made in the most important areas of their lives on a regular basis. Success is about consistency, and there’s no better way to establish consistency than through daily routine and habit.

I’m still trying to figure out a good routine for me, but I’m fairly confident it will follow a few basic principles.

Less is More
I’m learning that elimination is becoming more and more important for my productivity. I’m subtracting things from my life and my days rather than adding more to them. Of course, this brings up one glaring fact, which is that something has to give. I cannot be everything. I cannot do all things. I’m having to reevaluate my life, my business, and my priorities and accept that, if I hope to be successful at the most important few things, I must be willing to let go of the least important lot of things. I’m having to ask the tough questions and really get down to what matters and then, most importantly of all, eliminate those things I cannot give my whole self to right now.

Slow Down
In the movie “Curly Sue,” attorney and workaholic Grey’s co-worker says, “You keep going 190 miles an hour, you’re going to hit something.” I often try to push myself to the breaking point, and when I do, I always think of that quote. The natural rhythm of life involves relatively equal amounts of activity and rest. Trying to fight that reality results in loss of balance, so I’m trying to intentionally create more space in my days by reducing my work hours, adding buffers around major time blocks, and setting hours that are realistic for my life and its demands.

Be Real
I would love to say that outside influence does not impact my life and schedule, but that would be a lie. It does, and so far I’ve been unable to find a way to successfully prevent it from happening. My mom and “next in line” sister call me in the middle of the day. My “younger” sister calls me at 10:30 at night. Friends and family text me at all hours. My family is large (I’m the oldest of six) and many times imposing, and they drive me crazy sometimes, but I’ve thought about this a lot, and I never want there to be a day when they don’t call me because we’ve grown apart from lack of involvement in each others’ lives. We are close, and I think that’s a rarity these days, and I like that they’re all a big part of my life. That’s my reality, and I have to accommodate for it. That means people will be calling in the middle of my work day, but I try to balance it with blocks of productive time (generally two 2-hour blocks of time each day that I try to keep relatively interruption-free). Does it work all the time? No, but when it doesn’t, I make up for it with a late night or weekend work session here or there. The point is, that’s my reality, and if I ignore it, I’ll never set up a routine that works for me.

A routine is a very personal thing, but it can be a powerful tool for creating lasting success in life and business. When set up deliberately, taking into account one’s life goals, it instills discipline and consistency — both of which are necessary in order to make progress.

What principles guide your routine? Do you have any firm beliefs about what works and doesn’t work when it comes to creating an effective schedule?

Image from Flickr by koyochi

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