We have accumulated horrendous know-how and have put that knowledge in the hands of the highly trained, highly skilled, and hardworking people in our society. But this knowledge has both burdened us and saved us.
It burdened us because there are just so many different things that we need to do in a certain order or we will fail at it. The volume is enormous.
But there is a way for us to deliver and use our knowledge safely, correctly, and reliably and we can do that by using a simple tool which has been around since the First Men. It’s creating a routine.
So what is a routine?
Let’s define routine by looking into how impactful a routine can be from the world’s greatest tennis player whose career looked like it was created in Hollywood.
The Powerful Routine of the Greatest Tennis Player
Roger Federer might be the best tennis player of all times. But someone will come after years and be better than him. The truth is that there will always be “the best” tennis player out there.
But there was just one who has the greatest tennis player ever. One which filled the seats and who people loved. The one who argued with the judges for 10 minutes to have them pronounce his last name correctly. The one who, at the age of 20, was foreshadowed by Ion Tiriac to “win five Wimbledon’s in a row,” only to never win one.
His name was Goran Ivanišević and he was the greatest tennis player who never won a Grand Slam in his life.
His life’s goal was to win Wimbledon and for years, he was in top 10 of the tennis world. He was in three Wimbledon finals and he lost all three of them.
After he lost his third finals, he said in the newsroom that it was better to be born without a d*** then without luck.
Since he was the only player in the history of tennis who folded a match because of lack of equipment (he broke three racquets in a single gem) and because he was fun for the audience to watch, the nice people at Wimbledon gave Goran Ivanišević, a guy who didn’t win a tournament for two years, a Wild Card invitation to Wimbledon.
He picked himself up and at the age of 30, with massive shoulder pains and 126th place on the ATP list, went to Wimbledon with 2 t-shirts and 3 racquets – just enough for one training and the first round.
Two weeks later, he was serving a championship point in the fifth set at 8:7 against Patrick Rafter.
The fourth championship point was the “lucky” one for him, making him finally achieve his dream at the age of 30, 126th on the ATP rank, with a destroyed shoulder and a Wild Card invitation on what was the last People’s Monday finale of Wimbledon (played on Monday instead of Sunday because of rain).
The world’s greatest player who never won anything finally won something and that something was Wimbledon – the biggest, oldest, and most difficult tennis tournament in the world.
And the one thing that made him have such a sustainable tennis tournament was his routine which put him in the right frame of mind.
Goran’s routine for the tournament was the following:
- Wake up at 9:30 am
- The entire team watch Teletubbies at 10:00 am in his room
- Wash his two t-shirts which he got at the beginning of the tournament
- Same food in the same restaurant every day for the time of the tournament
- Everyone from the team sits at the same place in the box at the court
- Never step on the white line when entering the court
And the last one, which is a bit weird:
- He would always urinate in the same bathroom stall
One time a member of the All England’s Club was urinating in the empty toilet but Goran waited for him to finish to do his business. Reason? The gentleman was urinating in his bathroom stall.
We can laugh about it and even Goran probably laughs about it- but it helped him win Wimbledon so we might take the time to learn the lessons from it.
And the lessons regarding a routine which we can take for us are the following:
1. Make It Personal
Your routine needs to work for you and you alone. You are doing it for yourself, not for anyone else.
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 8:00am or 9:00am and still have the same quiet time.
Make it personal because it is personal.
2. Do It Every Day
The easiest thing to skip is something which isn’t a habit. And 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. So if you do it every single day, you will make a habit out of it. And habits become easier to do over time.
3. If You Can’t Create One, Find One
Routines are great if they serve you. If you have one but you think it isn’t serving you, then find other people’s routines and see what you can get from that.
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 9:00am and wrote for two hours.
I can (and have skipped) 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. Checklist It
Our brains are fallible and forget stuff so easily that it’s embarrassing sometimes (like your wedding anniversary). But if you checklist it and have it on paper (phone lists work as well), you have it in written form and out of your head.
So get a checklist for your routine and get it out of your head. Your mind can forget, but paper can’t.
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 creating a routine, it’s crucial that you do every element from the list. But you don’t have to do the 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 our brains value consistency more than intensity.
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.
Goran didn’t sit down to watch Teletubbies. He watched them with his team because he wanted to get into Flow, a special state where time stops and you gain immense focus on the task ahead. It’s the thing that keeps gamers glued to the screen for 5 hours straight without blinking (I know, I was one of those).
Have a routine because it gets you to where you want to go.
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, I always followed the same process:
- Research the topic
- Write a session outline
- Fill in the details
- Create a powerpoint presentation
- Rehears once for the flow of the sessions
- Rehears once to match the presentation with the talk
- Rehears once to match the correct time it takes to cover elements of the talk/workshop
But after I’ve done it 100 times, I thought I knew what needs to be done, so I skipped the process. And there you have it- 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.
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 rings familiar, it is the guy who landed an Airbus A320 in the Hudson River and saved everyone from the plane – 0 casualties. All 155 passengers and all of the crew members survived.
All of that not because he followed the routine that one time. But because he followed the routine 9750 times before.
9. Trust the Process, the Results Are Always Lag Behind
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.
So 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 – just one more needed for the ice cube to start melting.
But 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.
Only to realize later on that it took you just a little bit more to melt the ice cube – 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 6-9 months and see if it doesn’t work then. It’s like going to the gym – going once won’t make you buffed. Or reading one book won’t make you wise.
But if you do it consistently, you will get there.
If you trust the process, you will win it. Just as Goran won his Wimbledon.
More About Habits and Routines
- How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop
- Powerful Daily Routine Examples for a Healthy and High-Achieving You
- Habits and Motivation: Master Both for Big Results
Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com
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