As children, most of us had strict daily routines. Bedtime, mealtime, playtime, bath time, homework time—our schedules were clearly plotted out to keep us on task and ensure our needs were met. These imposed routines provided structure and taught us discipline. Fast-forward to adulthood.
Without Mom around to throw back the covers on Saturday mornings or a lunch bell to signal that it’s time to eat, many of us abandoned the idea of a pre-determined daily routine. But not without consequences.
Healthy or not-so-healthy, deliberate or unintentional—we all have habits and routines. These behaviors show up in how we move through everyday life and—for better or worse—have an enormous impact on our success and well-being.
Take a moment to think about your patterns. Do you navigate each day with a roadmap or on a whim?
If you tend to wing it, here are a few compelling reasons why you’re better off ditching the ad-lib approach in favor of a thoughtfully crafted daily routine.
1. You’ll have more freedom.
It sounds contradictory, but it’s true. Functioning within the confines of a framework can actually be liberating. Following a routine frees up the time and brain power you’d otherwise spend on planning and decision-making.
For example, instead of scratching your head in front of an open refrigerator, you wake up every morning and go straight for your favorite easy-to-make oatmeal. It’s a small adjustment, but the 4 minutes you spend pondering Fruity Pebbles versus avocado toast add up to just shy of 24 hours per year!
Think of what might shift in your life if you used that time for, say, a 4-minute meditation or gratitude practice. Even seemingly insignificant tweaks can have a big payoff.
2. You’ll become more focused, productive, and efficient.
In addition to time-savings, having fewer decisions to make throughout your day can ramp up your output, plus improve its quality.
By purposefully devising a logical and reliable sequence that coincides with your goals, the laborious chore of deciding what to do and when is now off your plate. Less on-the-fly planning opens the door for more doing. And while plans are important, real progress follows consistent action.
With your priorities guiding your next move, the risk of getting sidetracked by shiny objects dramatically decreases. You already know what’s on deck so you’re able to transition from one thing to another without falling into the time-sucking and focus-zapping traps of contemplation or indecision.
3. You’ll achieve goals faster while getting better at what you do.
Wish there was a tried-and-true method for establishing and maintaining constructive habits? Good news—there is, and you’re already a pro at using this tactic. It’s the same one that produced the habits you’d like to change: REPETITION.
If you want to be a straight-A student, you don’t get there by spending 10 hours a day playing Call of Duty. If you want to be a guitar virtuoso, you don’t get there by practicing scales only when the urge hits you. If you want to be Mr. Universe, you don’t get there by hitting the gym once a month.
We are what we repeatedly do.
Sticking to a routine that is aligned with your goals doesn’t just help you barrel through your to-do list. It facilitates the kind of relentless action that is critical to developing proficiency.
4. You’ll gain confidence and momentum.
A solid routine supports a cycle that—once put in motion—is tremendously fruitful.
The more consistently we do things, the more comfortable, in control, and knowledgeable we feel. Increased competence leads to increased confidence. Increased confidence leads to increased action. More action leads to more competence. And the sequence continues.
The taste of success makes us hungry for more, lessening our reliance on sheer willpower (which inevitably runs out).
Whether your goals are completely out of reach or nearly in hand, it’s worth reviewing your current routine. If you have difficulty identifying patterns off the top of your head, keep a time diary for a week. You may be surprised by what you discover. Pinpoint what seems to be working versus what’s sending you down the wrong path and do some strategic fine-tuning. Remember, structure can set you free.