Routines- What and Why:
Alright, so when it comes to routines, what you need to understand is that routines are built on habits, and habits ideally are actions that become so locked into your schedule from so much repetition that you no longer have to think about them- you just do them. The reason that's so powerful is that it literally costs you to make decisions. We have a certain amount of fuel our brains can use to fire the neurons to make decisions, and then our decision making power is toast for that day. Our brains are great at surviving, and they want to avoid anything that will cost them calories, and that includes making decisions.
The only way to regain it is to sleep and wake up refreshed. As long as you're getting enough sleep and your sleep is somewhat scheduled, you should be able to have a lot of decision making and creative brainpower earlier in the day. Sure, everyone needs a little time to come to their senses and not be groggy from sleeping. But the earlier you get up, the earlier you can start making the key decisions, writing the important notes, planning the plans, researching, creating, and focusing. Success mentors in every industry coach their clients to use the early hours of the day before everyone else is up, because that's when you have the most brainpower left for the day, and because you'll have fewer distractions from everyone who will start texting you and knocking on your door once they're awake. I'm creating this blog post right now at 6am, and I've already been up for an hour.
By the way, if possible, get some sun in your face as early as possible so you can trigger the right chemicals in your brain and be more alert. Here is a quick article about sleep cycles and blue light
Your habits can occur any time of day, but if you build into your routine the habit of blocking off an hour or two of time first thing when you wake up, you can use that hour or two to accomplish the stuff most people just give up on doing once they've been at work all day. Throughout the day, we continually use up our brain power until we suffer from something called "decision fatigue." You reach the point where you've made so many decisions, from which shoes to wear to how to respond to a coworker, that you just won't perform as well. You're more likely to get emotional about your decisions, respond to people poorly, and struggle to decide things quickly.
So, if there are things you just can't avoid doing after work, like calling someone who isn't available until then, so be it. But if you want to use your best window of time to make decisions and be creative, the earlier the better. The National Academy of Sciences published a study showing how criminals going before a judge received more favorable parole decisions if they went before the judge earlier in the day. Read more about that study and some more tips on decision fatigue here.
I also want to tell you about a concept Brian Tracy writes about in his book "Eat That Frog." The idea of eating your frog is about doing the thing that you may find difficult or undesirable, but it's something you know must be done. Eating that frog means getting it out of the way by doing it first thing. If you go ahead and eat that frog, you've done your most important item for the day and life can't get in the way and distract you or stop you from getting it done because you did it before you made yourself available to life and the world.
I'm 34 years old as I write this, and I still struggle with creating a routine. But I'm on the right track by learning about these realities of the brain, of decision making, and I know how to build my routines based on that information.
All that's left for me to do is get more and more clear on what I want in life, and what are the actions that lead to those outcomes.
What are your non-negotiables? What major goals and achievements do you want to accomplish? If you don't where to begin, at least start with a project or skill. What would be a good skill for you to learn or project to complete? Go through the imagination steps I described earlier, and reverse engineer the activities and scheduling it would take to get there.
As for me, I know I have more digging to do. I do pray that I’m not blocking the blessings that are meant for my life by not being diligent enough in this area, but I also don’t want to dwell on that in an unhealthy way. I must be aware of my downfalls but lead from my strengths so I can be the most effective and the most able to live out my purpose. With age and wisdom, I'm getting better at anticipating what's going to happen, what I need to do, and how I can protect my interests, dreams, and loved ones. Those are some simple ideas you can plan around, too, and I hope you choose solid habits to ensure the win, not just today but long term as well.
Don't be afraid to get started. Try to install a new habit in your life, and see what time of day works best for you. Be flexible and sensitive to those around you, but don't allow others to force you off your path if the habit is important for you. You can start with a habit that's designed to just give you a small benefit at first, and build your way to mightier dreams. Good habits look good on you, and I look forward to hearing about the ones you've built.
Nuts and Bolts
Let's assume you're starting from a complete lack of routine. What activities should you add to your routine? You should add the activities that will support your goals and move you closer to them. If you don't have goals yet, this paragraph may not be for you- just keep reading on. If you already have some goals, then reverse engineer them and work backwards from the outcome you desire to have.
Simple Goal Setting Process:
Picture that wedding day or that financial goal or whatever, and let your imagination help paint the picture of exactly what it would take to make that dream a reality. Who is there? How do they feel? What happens at that time? What needs to be prevented? What are some potential things that could sidetrack or ruin this goal from happening?
Next: Who can help you do this big thing? What will you need to do in order to reach it? What will you need to stay away from or stop doing to make room for the activities you need to keep up with? Set some yearly, monthly, weekly, and then daily goals that will need to be hit along the way. You will be able to pull items down from the general to-do list, and put some on the calendar each week and then each day. Call that person on the phone. Write that email. Visit that bank. Give yourself deadlines that keep you pushing the pace toward success.
Those daily goals are the clincher. These will not always be exciting or fun. In some cases, they will result in a goal event taking place at a fixed time, such as a great wedding. But in other cases, you may project when you want a goal to take place, like hitting a certain amount of monthly profit in your business, but you have to go on faith that by doing the daily actions, success is inevitable. It may not happen at the time you wanted it to, and you may need to scrap some parts of your daily action plan and replace them with others. But, without those routine steps that you commit to each day, you'll just be shooting blind, trying to move toward a goal without clarity and without being intentional. If you want a great tracker to see visually how much you’re hitting your action steps each week, Darren Hardy has a great one. You just fill in what the action steps you need to do, and tally up your numbers to see if you’re staying on your grind the way you need to be. Download and print it here
The important part is that you have your goal set, and you have your action steps. Come back to this blog to feed your motivation and keep learning, and keep your brain fresh so you can run your race with endurance. I pray that you manifest your goals for the good of yourself and others.
Here's To Your Greatness!