Why You Need A Routine
(Note: the links to downloadable tools on routines can be found within the article)
We have three school-aged kids running around in our house. So the mornings at our house when they have to go to school fluctuate between anarchy and the rapture. One day, after me telling the kids to brush their teeth for the 80 millionth time, I decided to do something. I thought to myself, “What are all the things that we are yelling at the kids to do every morning? I’ll just write it down and then they can just read it.”
Strangely enough, it (mostly) worked! They would look at this sign in the kitchen and do their things. Every once in a while, if they got too careless, the consequence is that they must do the routine 5 times that morning (e.g. pretend-brush their teeth four more times, get dressed and undressed four more times, etc.) I was in the military so...don’t judge me.
There’s an important lesson here. It wasn’t only that we had better mornings when they were on a routine, it was that the kids had a better and calmer morning when they were on a routine. They knew what to expect and so they had more stability and peace of mind. It was a great way to start the day.
I think now about the phenomenon of anxiety and the chaotic world that we live in. Many of us are facing uncertainty and significant disruptions to our previous lifestyle and work rhythms. Some stability and foundation through the application of routines may help; it’s not just for kids.
Let’s discuss two key routines that you should consider having: the daily routine, and the weekly routine.
THE DAILY ROUTINE
Most of us lead fairly busy lives. We don’t always get to control the emails that show up in our inbox or the other interruptions that appear throughout the day. There are however, two times in the day when we can have more control, the time right after we wake up and the time right before we go to bed. These two times are significant. How you start your morning affects the quality of your waking day. How you end your night affects the quality of your recovery through sleep.
Therefore, start you day off well through a thoughtful routine. For me, I incorporate meditation and gratefulness (spirit), reading inspirational articles (mind), and green juice and exercise (body) into my morning routine.
If you are thinking about beginning a routine, I have a tool that can help you. Below is an example of a daily routine worksheet that I have developed that you can use. The blank version can be downloaded from this link.
At night, take time to slow down and reflect upon the day. You have accomplished a lot. You have learned a lot. You have things to forgive yourself for. One source for the evening reflection that is meaningful to me is the Daily Examen by St. Ignatius of Loyola.
THE WEEKLY ROUTINE
Since the birth of our first child, my wife and I have had a weekly “date night”. We wanted to make sure that even as kids demand much of our attention at home that we set aside at least one night a week where it’s just about the two of us. For fourteen years, we have been on date nights without fail each week.
There’s a lesson here too. Whatever it is that is important to you, be intentional about it. Had we said, we should have a date night, but not incorporated it into our lives (via routine), it would soon be forgotten at the next distraction or crisis. Is family important to you? Is health important to you? Then where is it showing up in your routine?
Whereas in a day, you can focus on one or two things and not others, in a week, anything that is important in your life must show up somehow.
If you are thinking about beginning a weekly routine, I have a tool that can help you. Below is an example of a weekly routine worksheet that I have developed that you can use. The blank version can be downloaded from this link.
ROUTINES AS A TOOL TO CREATE YOUR IDEAL LIFE
Let’s say starting tomorrow, when you first wake up, you have two choices: eat a doughnut or run a mile. Would you notice a big difference after a week, if you ran a mile every day versus eating a doughnut every day? Not likely? How about a month? How about a year? How about 10 years? In ten years, the you that ran a mile every morning would be completely different from the you that ate a doughnut every morning.
How do you transform yourself for the better? How do you create the things in life that you want? You can’t become a world-class runner in a week. You can’t have an amazing career in 10 days. All shortcuts are bullshit.
How you create the life you want is through small incremental actions and decisions. After fourteen years, the “date night” is just a part of my life. I don’t have to think whether I have time for it this week. What is the reward for a lifetime of date nights? A solid, loving marriage.
Through routines, the right actions and decisions become “automatic”, you inexorably move towards the goal that you seek.
Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson