The Routine of Routines

Bill Abbate

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How often do you use routines in life to your advantage? Most of us do whether we think about it or not. For example, many of us have routines for waking up, working out, showering, going to work, cleaning the house, brushing our teeth, going to bed, and many others in between. Routines help us establish and maintain order in life. Yet how often do you give thought to purposely using them to make your life better?

"The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine." Mike Murdock (1946-present)

Routines, habits, and behaviors

What exactly is a routine, and how does it compare to a habit or behavior? Behaviors are at the root of most human activity. Both routines and habits consist of behaviors. In fact, a habit is a behavior requiring little or no thought. Many habits are so automatic we just do them.

All of us have both good and bad habits. Habits do not come or go easily as a rule. Making or breaking a habit can take considerable effort over an extended period.

A routine is very different from a habit, although routines may contain habits within them. Most routines include several behaviors intentionally repeated rather frequently.

While both routines and habits each contain regular, repeated actions or behaviors, a simple way to differentiate the two is:

  • habits operate automatically at a mostly unconscious level
  • routines require a higher degree of thought, intention, and effort

As a final distinction between routines and habits, a routine may contain habits, and if a routine is performed regularly over time, it can become an unconscious habit.

Let's look more closely at what routines can add to our lives.

"Out of routine comes inspiration." Mark Kostabi (1960–present)

The benefits of routines

Did you know routines are vital to living a good life? Routines are known to benefit your physical and mental health by reducing stress and strain. Who doesn't want less stress today?

Routines also give us control. This control usually involves our time, helping us save and make better use of it. Can you think of anyone who does not desire more control over their lives? Imagine using routines to have more time to think, plan, prioritize, schedule, all of which add structure and order to your life. This structure and order will help you be far more productive and efficient in your work and life in general.

Imagine the difficulty you can eliminate from life with the simple use of routines. If routines do not improve your life, you can always do without them. But remember, you must be willing to suffer the consequences!

Routines add so many advantages to our lives it would be difficult to name them all, so let's look at a list of some of the many benefits they can provide you. Routines can help you:

  • Start your day off well
  • Maintain a healthier diet
  • Improve physical fitness
  • Improve mental fitness
  • Improve your home life
  • Reduce stress
  • Add structure to your life
  • Improve your career
  • Become more organized
  • Better use your energy
  • Save time
  • Create more stability in life
  • Improve work performance
  • Earn more
  • Save for the future
  • Sleep better
  • Enjoy your work and leisure time more

This list has only a few of the many benefits we can gain from routines. What others come to mind? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

“When you have set yourself a specific routine, all of the pieces of your life fit together to make you a better artist.” Alyson B. Stanfield (1963-present)

Using routines to create a better life

While daily routines are helpful, what about less frequent weekly and monthly routines you may want to create? Using the list of benefits above, let's look at a couple of examples.

Example 1

Our first example is a typical weekly routine – making or keeping a grocery shopping list. To set up a routine requires a little forethought in the form of planning. Anytime you plan something, you gain more control over your time and the result you want to achieve. Anything that is a hassle can become far easier once you establish a routine.

Contrast the same situation without a routine to better realize how much you can reduce stress. If you have no routine of making a weekly grocery list, many stressful situations can occur. Without a list, you wing it, often forgetting items. During the week, you may run out of certain food items or ingredients. The additional stress this can create may be minor or major, but it will require more work in the form of extra trips, stealing time from your schedule, or that of a family member.

Example 2

You can create many routines to help you in your job. If you have a report due every month, why not create a routine of working on it at a certain time each day for a few minutes. I did this when I ran a company and produced a monthly report for our board. I created a routine by adding an appointment on my calendar each day from 11:00 to 11:15. This brief time consisted solely of working on something related to the report. Once in a while, I would break the appointment, but I could keep it most days. This 15-minute routine helped me stay ahead on the report making it a breeze to publish at the end of each month. Before creating this simple routine, I caused untold stress on myself, my financial, sales, engineering, and operations managers, as well as my assistant. Each of them adopted similar routines, and our lives became far less stressful when it came to producing a high-quality company report each month. Again, this was because we had better control of our time and our results.

I came to name many of the stresses we face each day as "self-imposed." They are self-imposed because we do little or nothing to prepare for them, allowing them into our lives.

How many areas of stress can you reduce in your life by using a routine? That is the million-dollar question and one I am confident you can answer!

Final thoughts

“The only possible way to have it ALL is with structure and the discipline to keep to it, to make it a routine.” Margot Hattingh (1951-present)

Establishing good routines is vital for living a good, purposeful, fruitful life. Rather than take them for granted, why not work on yourself to reduce stress and create more control?

You can start by examining the list of benefits above for areas you currently face problems, strain, or stress of some sort. Give some thought about the routines you can create to alleviate or mitigate these issues once and for all. By doing so, you will take control of and create the best possible future for you and your family!

If you want to learn more about routines and habits, check out the following references:

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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