The Power of Routines for Progress
- By Morgan Horton
- May 14, 2019
We’ve talked about how routines are essential to making progress in your goals. But what happens when you’ve layered in so many routines that you’re drowning in a mental checklist? When your morning routine takes an hour and a half, you leave events early, show up late & end up more stressed than enriched.
Or maybe you take more of a laissez faire approach to your schedule & find yourself listless or filled with anxiety as you face your to-do list. Routines do more than just help you reach your goals. They give you focus, create calm & can take just one more decision off of your plate and out of your head on the daily. Can we get a sigh of relief?
The key to a good routine is starting with what is important. Yes, we all want to be the kind of people who make a fresh & nutritious balanced meal every single morning & follow it with mindful meditation & journaling. Maybe we do a back-to-back morning sweat session & weave our own quilt before skipping to work in the morning (walking is SO much better for you).
BUT, alas, life isn’t like that. We’ve got appointments to make, meetings to lead, work to complete & a million other factors competing for your time. Starting with the things that are the most important to you is crucial. We’re talking about three things max. When you are identifying these, consider the following factors:
- What do I know to have a huge effect on my attitude/ability to get things done?
- What are my top goals at the moment?
- What are your most vital relationships & what do the require? Time? Follow-through? Daily check-ins?
Once you’ve thought through the above, you’ll have a better idea of what should be the heart of your routine. For me, for example, I know that I need to have down-time. I’m talking at least 30 minutes a day where I don’t have to make decisions or think through problems – my brain needs a break. This time is preferably spent in the sun, moving my body or checking something off of my to-do list that benefits me. I also know that I need to have a steady supply of snacks/meals throughout the day, because I’m a monster on an empty stomach. I also know that my relationships are one of the most important things in my life. I need to carve out social time (that doesn’t intersect with my down-time) to call my mom, have date night, catch up with a friend, whatever.
This is a really helpful exercise to understand what your basic needs are. Get real with yourself so that you can stay focused on what’s important and perform your best. From there, you can see what triggers anxiety or stress. Is there a certain circumstance that raises your blood pressure? Do you find yourself slumping at your desk at the same time every day? It could be a never-ending stream of emails or a serious blood sugar crash in the mid-afternoon. Bake conquering obstacles right into your routine.
Maybe you only check your email first thing in the morning and right after lunch. Or maybe you need to tackle the first item on your priority list before even looking at your email. Maybe at 1:30PM every week day, a calendar reminder goes off to tell you to take a 10-minute walk. When you know what your predictable obstacles are, you can become a pro at fighting them off before they even start. If you’re not a morning person & your lifestyle doesn’t require it, stop forcing yourself to wake up tired & push your body/brain when it’s not at it’s best.
Then, thing about your biggest goals. Break them into smaller goals. Then break those into individual tasks. Put a timeline on them. Be gentle with yourself if you don’t always hit the deadline, but don’t waste your time planning them into your routine if you have no intention of following through. This is your biggest goal, right? Go make time for it. Every single day.
Finally, who do you need to take care of beyond yourself & what does that require? Be really honest about how much time you need to dedicate to keep your most important relationships thriving. When you accept what others need & commit to rising to the occasion, your relationships will benefit & you’ll feel so good knowing that those you care most about are on great terms with you.
Lastly, and I know this is an obvious one, COMMIT. Block your calendar off, write down your routine. Look on Monday morning at your whole week and lay out your priorities. Try your routines for a few weeks & toss em’ if you don’t start to see the benefit. Layer new ones in when your priorities shift. The important thing is to make these routines concrete, so you can automate your progress in a way. When you don’t commit to hitting the gym each evening, you simply won’t. When you don’t get honest about your priorities, you’ll drown in all of the possibilities and lose focus. Save your decision-making brain power for when it matters most, because it is a finite thing. The power of routines have the ability to lift up your foundation so you can spring into the life you want to create for yourself.