Four Reasons Why You Need a Routine

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I’ve never been great at being scheduled. In some ways, time can just be difficult for me. That probably sounds crazy, and I wish I was joking, but I’m not. I have a hard time estimating time, and sticking to a schedule.

Though being unscheduled can feel really nice, it can make getting things done rather difficult. As Stacia and I have pushed further into the things that matter most to us, I’ve come to realize more and more how important it is to have a routine and to make use of a schedule. If you expect the things you’re doing to be successful, then you need to treat them like a job— particularly if you are self employed or if the things that matter most to you are self-initiated.

Here are four reasons why you need a routine:

1) Routine gives you focus when you feel scattered

There are days when it doesn’t feel good to work on the things that need to be done. This morning I didn’t feel like writing, but I am writing this because I have a commitment to writing most mornings of the week. It’d be easy to spend my day doing the things that feel good, and not doing the more difficult and scary things that really matter. You need a routine to keep you on track when there are so many other things to do.

2) Routine keeps you going through the difficult middle sections

I’ve written about how to keep from starting things things and not finishing them. One of the most important aspects of projects that keep us from finishing them is how hard the middle of a project can be. Starting and finishing are fun. There’s a lot of energy around both, but the middle can feel like a desert. A race is a helpful parallel to a project. Runners don’t quit right at the beginning or the finish line. They quit in the middle, when it really hurts and they can’t hope enough to continue. This is where a routine comes in — keeping you on track through the hard parts in the middle.

3) Routine makes your time go toward the things that matter most

There are a million things that will ask for your time. By scheduling your work and keeping a routine around it, you are setting apart that space for the work that matters most. It might not be the most urgent work on a given day, but if it’s truly important then you should do it first— before you respond to that email, before you make that phone call, before you run that errand, before whatever it is that might feel more important. Stay committed to the work that matters most.

4) Routine keeps you from distraction (take your commitment seriously)

I love and hate this part of a routine. Earlier this week a good friend called me up and said, “Hey! I have an open spot in a golf tournament this afternoon. Want to play?” Of course I want to play! And I was (and still am) so grateful for the invitation! But I am committed to my work. Now, I have the power to choose to play. I could choose not to work and spend the day playing. I believe that play is very important, but I am committed to what I do. Even though I don’t have someone that’s watching my timecard and making sure that I put in my hours, I treat my work as if I do. I can’t take time off unless I plan for it. I can’t leave my commitment on a whim. My routine is what keeps me moving toward the work that has meaning for me. If it matters enough, it will be in my schedule and my routine.

I know that’s hardcore. But, as it’s been said, “you’re not hardcore unless you live hardcore” . Accomplishing great things requires great commitments, and great commitments take dedication to a routine and schedule.

So tell me of your work in the world, and then show me how it is reflected in your routine and schedule.

In the comments:
What has been your experience with routines and schedules? What is helpful and what is not?

P.S.If you need more encouragement, here’s a little song and dance for you:

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  1. Thanks for the post, Dan! Great reminder as I, like you, definitely struggle with time. I laughed when you said “hard time estimating time, and keeping a schedule.” That describes me perfectly.

    #4 is important for me and also what keeps me from sticking to a routine the most. I think it’s time for me to do a little intentional thinking about routine again.

  2. Man this really kicked me in the butt. Funny thing is, I was wasting time when I came across your post! Now I need to go work on my schedule…

  3. “If it matters enough, it will be in my schedule and my routine.”

    Wow. Thanks for that reminder, Dan – seriously. Right now, the only time I have to work on my ‘passion project’ is after I come home from an 8-5 job, but all too often, I find myself doing 100 other things when I get home instead of spending some time investing into what I claim (and truly believe) is so important. Time to refocus and set some daily goals to keep things moving forward!

  4. I’ve been struggling to find the perfect routine all year (which probably doesn’t exist), but here’s what I’m finally discovering works for me: having a set routine to set boundaries, and then allowing myself the freedom to switch it up within those boundaries. It’s my newest routine style (going on two weeks now!) but it’s definitely feeling like my best so far. Also, I’ve found that including enrichment in my routine and work is really valuable alongside all of my to-dos.

  5. I tend to live on a whim when it comes to how I decide what to do next or what I should do next. It’s usually based off how I feel, which comes with lots of fluctuations of stress and peace. When I think of the word routine I think about my grandparents who I’ve witnessed lean into their routines in the times of their life when it might seem hard to keep going. One example is when family comes and goes, which I’m sure is an emotional moment for them. After everyone leaves they’ll spend the next day or two leaning into their routine of cleaning the rooms, sweeping, mopping and vacuuming the floors, and tidying up their house after everyone has left. They seem so calm and so peaceful as if this routine helps orchestrate their transition from having a house full of loved ones to a house of just themselves.

    I personally need to stick to my routine and have more clear cut tasks that are calling me and required of me to make sure they get done in a timely fashion. One part of my current morning routine is that I generally clean for the first hour or so that I’m awake. I do the dishes and pick up around the house and I see some order come to my environment and I feel like their is much more order in my life…but then I leave the house…

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