Some people find routines to be boring. In truth, they can be valuable organizational tools that keep us in a positively charged daily flow. We concentrate on fitness and well-being around here, both physically and mentally. Routines are an important part of staying healthy.
A friend texted me yesterday to ask “how was your day?” My mind involuntarily rewound to the morning. I woke up, I tackled emails, I turned on music, I made coffee…you get it. Yesterday morning is eerily similar to nearly every other morning. Because this structure is similar from day to day, I’m mentally freeing myself up to be more creative throughout the rest of my day. From the Chicago Tribune:
“Routine basically gives us the mental freedom to think about what’s actually important. That way we don’t have to think about all the mundane aspects of life,” says Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” (Random House). “Getting to relegate all those things to sort of an automatic thought process, we gain all the mental bandwidth we need to do the really important things in life. Almost every single species that has survived has the ability to take routines and make them automatic. That way you have cognitive power to invent spears and fire and video games.”
These routines can be part of our larger goals. Practicing routines takes, well, practice. It requires a degree of willpower, and may involve breaking some habits to create new ones. I often tell friends trying to get leaner and stronger that perpetual hydration is critical for losing body fat over the long term. You make cleaner, healthier choices when your body has the water it needs. Therefore, I advise waking up and drink a large glass before seeking out breakfast or even our beloved coffee. This practice should become routine. Particularly if you find yourself craving sugar in the morning, it may be a challenge, but it’s worth the effort to implement new regular practices.
People who are very, very successful don’t forget the importance of routines. There’s a huge correlation between thinking very deliberately about (creating) the right habits in your life and developing successful habits,” says Duhigg, a New York Times investigative reporter who plowed through mountains of scientific research for the book.
Of course, a routine isn’t necessarily ideal simply because it becomes a habit. Rituals with healthy implications are beneficial, others less so. A few drinks after work here and there would be classified as an indulgence around here. As part of a weekly or monthly routine? Great. Practice it daily and you’re bound to hamper your creativity and decision making capacity. We often add counterproductive activities to our routines that disrupt our balance. As always, some trial and error and making smart decisions is key.
“If you have habits you feel are boring, that you don’t like, spend time thinking about how to change that habit,” Duhigg adds. “Once you have the habits that you genuinely want, at that point your life kind of becomes this wonderful place because you have all the mental energy you need to concentrate on the things you really want to concentrate on.”
That’s the key. Preserving the ability to concentrate. We’ve all been at the point of being stressed out, exhausted or faced with difficult challenges in life. Having a set of healthy, beneficial habits to fall back on leaves us free to make positive decisions in those areas while operating on cruise control in the rest of our life. From a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:
When we try to change our behavior, we strategize about our motivation and self-control. But what we should be thinking about instead is how to set up new habits. Habits persist even when we’re tired and don’t have the energy to exert self-control,” says Wood, Provost Professor of Psychology and Business at USC
As individuals with limited mental bandwidth, we have to be cognizant of our energy spends. Routines will unquestionably help us manage and kick ass at our jobs.