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Last Updated on December 15, 2020

What Is a Routine? 9 Ways to Define a Routine That Works

What Is a Routine? 9 Ways to Define a Routine That Works
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When we look to define routine and what it means for our own lives to have a routine that works for us, we realize that a routine can come in many different shapes and sizes. We can have a weekly routine, a daily routine, and even various routines for each day of the week.

This has become a kind of burden, as there are just so many different things that we need to do in a certain order or we will fail at it. However, there is a way to deliver and use our knowledge safely, correctly, and reliably, and we can do that by learning not only to define routine in general, but to define our own routines as individuals.

So what is a routine?

We’ll define routine and teach you how to use it to your advantage each and every day.

What Is a Routine?

To define routine, in its most basic form, it is a set of actions (or just one action) that are done regularly or at specific intervals. For example, it may be somebody’s routine to play tennis each Saturday with a friend. That is one action being repeated each week.

Another person may have a complex morning routine involving waking up at 6 am, reading 15 pages of a book, taking a 10 minute shower, eating a healthy breakfast, etc.

Routines can be monthly, weekly, daily, or even hourly, but the idea is that it helps keep you organized, productive, and focused on your short and long term goals.

Here’s how to make a routine work for you.

1. Make It Personal

Your routine needs to work for you and you alone. You are doing it for yourself, not for anyone else.

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And here is the perfect example:

If you want to succeed in the United States, everyone tells you that you need to wake up at 5:00 am because that’s the only time when you have some quiet time.

Where I live, I have quiet almost the entire day, so following up on that advice isn’t applicable for me. I can wake up at 8:00 am or 9:00 am and still have the same quiet time.

Some people find they are much more productive at night, so waking up early also wouldn’t be the best routine for them. Tap into your self-awareness and discover what will be the best action to add to your specific routine.

2. Do It Every Day

The easiest thing to skip is something that isn’t a habit. If you make your routine a habit, you will follow it every single day.

That’s why people have morning routines or night routines—once built, they are as hard to break as bad routines. Stick to your chosen routine every day for at least a month, and you should find that it becomes second nature.

You can see an example of a great morning routine below:

How to Define a Great Morning Routine

    3. If You Can’t Create One, Find One

    Routines are great if they serve you. If you define a routine but feel it isn’t quite working, then find other people’s routines and see what you can get from that.

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    You don’t need to copy-paste them, but read them for inspiration. Ernest Hemingway got drunk every night, but he woke up every morning, sat down at his typewriter at 9:00 am, and wrote for two hours.

    I can (usually do) skip the drinking part, but the allure of the morning writing is the one which inspired me to create my “write 500 words a day” routine.

    4. Create a Checklist

    Our brains are fallible and forget things so easily, but if you create a checklist and have it on paper (phone lists work as well), you have it in written form and out of your head[1].

    So get a checklist for your routine and get it out of your head. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Even the flight takeoff checklist is only 21 items, and they fly a plane.

    Pick the most important elements and write them down for your routine.

    When I publish my articles, I have the following routine (brand publishing document):

    • Meta tag and keyword
    • Grammar check
    • Picture size in-text (560)
    • Create cover photo in Canva
    • MailChimp pop-up
    • Color links in blue
    • Read out loud once to spot faulty paragraphs and clunky sentences

    For me, these are the most important elements when publishing articles on my website, but they don’t have to be for you.

    5. Be Flexible With Time, but Rigorous in Implementation

    When looking to define a routine that works for you, it’s crucial that you do every element from the list. However, you don’t have to maintain the same intensity every single time. Always do the task (read a book today), but you don’t always have to do the intensity (read 20 pages today).

    Be rigorous when implementing the activity because that’s how you create a routine (and a habit), but the intensity doesn’t always have to be there. Just make sure that you do it because your brain values consistency.

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    Going once to the gym to exercise for 8 hours won’t make a difference, but going twenty times for 30 minutes most certainly will.

    6. You Do It for the Flow

    Don’t create a routine for the routine’s sake. Realize that it’s a tool for you.

    Find a routine that will help you slip into a state of calm and focus. For example, before you sit down to work each day, maybe you take a short walk and drink a cup of coffee. This helps put you into a mindset that will more easily slip into a state of flow[2].

    7. Always Follow the Process, Even If You Win

    I did around 100 workshops successfully in two languages and 7 different countries in Europe, for audiences ranging from 20 to 250 people.

    And to have that succeed and define a routine that was successful, I always followed the same process:

    • Research the topic
    • Write a session outline
    • Fill in the details
    • Create a PowerPoint presentation
    • Rehearse once for the flow of the sessions
    • Rehearse once to match the presentation with the talk
    • Rehearse once to match the correct time it takes to cover elements of the talk

    After I’d done it 100 times, I thought I knew what needed to be done, so I skipped the process. The next workshop was a 4/10 when it could have been a 9 or a 10/10.

    Follow the process, even when you become successful, because that’s the thing that made you successful in the first place.

    8. Make Stuff Happen Continuously

    Imagine doing a safety check for plane lift-off 9,750 times and nothing happens. Would you do it for 9,751st time?

    Most of us wouldn’t, but most of us aren’t Chesley Sullenberger, aka “Sully.” If the name sounds familiar, it is the pilot who landed an Airbus A320 in the Hudson River and saved everyone from the plane with 0 casualties. All 155 passengers and all of the crew members survived.

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    All of that happened not because he followed the routine that one time but because he followed the routine 9750 times before that.

    9. Trust the Process

    Imagine yourself in a room, and in front of you, you have an ice cube which you need to melt. The current temperature of the room is -2 Celsius.

    You start running around to heat the room, exercising and making sure you create heat. Suddenly, the room goes to -1 Celsius, but you don’t notice it and continue doing your routine.

    Then, after a little while, the room goes to 0 Celsius degrees, and you just need a little more heat for the ice cube to start melting.

    The thing is that you can’t see the thermometer, and you don’t notice the increase in the temperature, so you conclude that your routine doesn’t work, and you lose it.

    You later realize that you stopped a meter before the diamond mine. This is what happens when you don’t see the results immediately and think that your routine doesn’t work.

    Stick with it for 6 to 9 months and see if it doesn’t work then. For example, going to the gym once won’t make you stronger, but going twice a week for six months certainly will. Reading one book won’t make you wise, but reading one book each month for a year will get you closer.

    But if you do these actions consistently, you will get there.

    Final Thoughts

    When you are looking to define a routine that works for you and your life, remember that it will take experimentation, as well as dedication. It can take months before you see the fruits of a routine start to appear, so practice patience and don’t expect change from one day to the next. Simply trust that change is coming.

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    More About Habits and Routines

    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Bruno Boksic

    An expert in habit building

    13 Things to Put on Your Daily Checklist for Boosted Productivity How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier What Is a Routine? 9 Ways to Define a Routine That Works 12 Changes to Make When You Feel a Lack of Energy and Motivation 11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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