Updated: Mar 24, 2021
I don’t think I’ll ever really get stuck in a rut. My personality drives me to look for new things: a new restaurant to try, a new movie to watch, a new park to explore – you get the idea.
At the same time, by contrast, another part of my psyche likes order, systems to get things done, loose ends tied up.
That’s why I like routines. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not referring to a rigid schedule that dictates the day, or an inflexible means of washing the dishes or making the bed.
What I am talking about is a pattern of practices that sets us up for a successful day. Not so much a to-do list, a routine is a regimen of actions that prepare you and me – physically, mentally, spiritually – to prosper in our day.
Let me suggest three “rules,” if you will. To help you set up an effective daily routine and to benefit the most from it. And by the way, I’m gleaning said rules from my own practice of routines.
What time do you set up your routine? Possibilities abound. Some folks prefer early in the morning. Others just before bed.
But you dictate what works for you. Now remember that the routine’s job is to give you the best return possible on your day, so first thing in the morning makes sense. On the other hand, a bedtime routine can do the same thing.
So I practice both. I began a routine some time ago to flex my body, clear my head, and prepare myself mentally and spiritually for whatever the morning demanded of me. I recently I also initiated a bedtime routine, which helps me to learn from today’s experiences, get ready for tomorrow, and wind down to rest.
Try either or both. In the end, you choose what’s best.
OK, you’re asking, “What are these practices you keep talking about?” In other words, what goes into a daily routine?
Again, you include what delivers your best outcome. But I’ll give you a peek at what I do so that it might get your imagination working on this.
My morning begins with a short mindfulness meditation to give me focus and clarity to shape my day. Stretching gets my blood flowing, 8-16 ounces of water recharges my brain, and a look at my agenda ensures that I don’t miss an important appointment or task. Add a few other actions and you have roughly the first hour of my day.
The bedtime routine leans into a different purpose, so its content is a little different. I begin with a final look at email, read something relaxing, and journal about my day. I look at tomorrow’s agenda, then end with stretching and meditation. It’s all designed to remove me from technology and wind down my mind and body for a good night’s sleep.
By “movement” I mean adaptability, flexibility. Don’t be too legalistic with your routines, rather give yourself a lot of grace.
For example, I’ve worked late into the night and gotten up early in the morning. So my routine focuses on getting started again – a short stretch, a glass of water, brief meditation. That’s about it. Something similar may shorten my evening practices. Or in any routine I may do things outside the normal order.
In short, you don’t serve the routine; the routine serves you.
A “Good” Final Note
I can’t emphasize enough how important a routine is for final success. If it feels awkward at first or you stumble over it early on, that’s normal. Keep practicing!
Remember… practice becomes habit, habit becomes culture, culture is the pattern of your life.