The importance of routine
Successful people are sticklers for routine, but why is that? In this article, I explain why using routines can enhance your overall wellbeing.
Often, you hear athletes talk about their pre-performance routines, the things they do to quieten their mind and reach a place of focus and calm. Some are incredibly simple – think of Nadal’s pre-shot routine where he adjusts his shorts and plays with his tennis strings – while other routines are more complicated and long-winded.
I ate the same breakfast every day for five years (training or competition) because we’d tested it and it was the right breakfast. But don’t be mistaken in thinking that routines are just for people who need to perform at a high level. Everyone can benefit from incorporating more routine in their life.
Gain a sense of control by repeating what works
Your mind can be going a million miles an hour before a big event. There are so many variables – real or perceived – that it can create mental chaos. Having a routine to follow is a useful way to calm yourself down. It gives you a safe and known process to ready yourself, a way to focus and use your time effectively (rather than letting a mind under pressure dictate events).
It doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete standing in the start gate, or a parent trying to get your children off to school – think about it in advance, prepare for it, and then practice it. It can be as simple as having a few words to focus on or taking some deep breaths; or using a series of routines – such as a pre-bed routine, a morning routine, or a pre-meeting routine – in an attempt to approach a known or predictable event in the best state possible.
By knowing what routine leads you to where, you can reliably reduce anxiety, elevate trust and improve your ability to consistently achieve desired outcomes.
Reduce decision fatigue
Most people like to have choices – they represent options, flexibility and they allows us to exercise control. However, making too many decisions can wear away your ability to select the optimal choice quickly and efficiently. Research shows that humans do have a mental and emotional limit, so using routines to eliminate lots of smaller meaningless decisions will leave you with a greater capacity to make the best choice when a decision really matters.
Have you ever noticed that you are more productive in the morning, or you find it difficult to concentrate on serious matters later in the day? Many of us are also less resilient after 7pm at night (think impulse eating, drinking, gambling or online shopping). This is all to do with decision fatigue, and once you understand this, you can really use routines to your advantage.
These days, I try to tackle my most important or strategic work first thing in the morning, next I’ll do calls and meetings, and then wherever possible I’ll lump all the smaller decisions/to-do items together in the last hours of my day. I use my diary as a way to routine my workflow. For trivial decisions like what I’ll eat or wear, I make these choices before bed, so I don’t waste valuable decision power in the morning.
By sharing my routines with others, I have support. People understand and respect the way I work, and they have started to adopt routines of their own because they can see the benefits. For example, I have a colleague who does not want to be interrupted when her earpods are in. Another colleague turns off all digital alerts while he’s doing his ‘heavy thinking’ work.
At home, my family now sets the breakfast table at night, and fills their water bottles, packs their school bags and puts out their clothes before going to bed. Our pre-bed routine sets us up for a positive morning, and I have to say, our family morning routine has made a material difference to my wellbeing. We all get out the door on time, calm and happy almost every day.
Be mindful of your subconscious negative routines
A subconscious negative routine is one that has formed without deliberate optimisation for a desired outcome – whether that’s efficiency, joy, quality, or something else.
Consider your own personal morning routine. Is it setting you up positively for the day? Or do you have a subconscious negative routine that invites random outcomes? When so much is in our control, why would you allow chance to make or break the first few hours of your daily productivity (and happiness)? Instead, bed down a method for success, and then utilise it every day.
A common subconscious negative routine that happens every day in the workplace is arriving at work and diving straight into your email inbox – is that really the most productive thing to be doing with the best thinking time of your day? Other negative routines can include trailing habits, where one thing is connected to another ¬– like drinking and smoking together or watching TV and eating. Keep your eyes open for negative routines and take pride in overturning them.
Stick with it
Routines truly are one of the most effective ways to improve efficiency and also heighten your confidence – but you have to choose to create, practice and stick with them. High performers across the world have been tapping into this clever little technique for a long time – and now you have the opportunity, too. Don’t be afraid to use trial and error first, but once you find what works, stick with it!
Originally published on www.onelife.aiavitality.com.au on October 1, 2018.
Alisa Camplin is an Olympic Gold Medalist, in-demand Keynote Speaker, Corporate Ambassador, and Human Performance Consultant who delivers results-driven Resilience and Human Performance Training and Development Programs. Connect with Alisa.