A routine is a good way to organize your time. I found it easy to incorporate writing in my journal into my morning routine. Over time, it became second nature to write in the mornings. In January, I made a resolution to exercise every day, so I added time to my morning routine, now my morning routine is about three hours long. I get up, feed the cats and clean out their litter boxes. I start the coffeemaker, go into the living room and start the Wii. I work out for at least twenty-six minutes a day. Then I shower and dress. At that point, I take my first cup of coffee into the office area and begin writing the day’s journal entry. I have scheduled thirty minutes for that activity. Then I read email, eat breakfast and prepare for my day. That’s how I developed my routine. I added what I wanted to do to what I had to do and my routine was made.
Depending on when I get up, my morning routine can have me out the door by eight or nine in the morning. That’s a lot to accomplish in two hours or so. I always try to schedule more time for the routine to account for any unplanned events. Is my life predictable? Of course, I find it helpful to know how long my morning routine can take and how closely I can shave things should I need to. Predictability helps in making plans In a pinch, I can shave my three-hour routine to a minimum of two and a half hours. That means that I can get a lot accomplished before I leave for work or any other activity I might want to do.
We humans are creatures of habit, we like it when things are predictable. That’s the main reason we developed routines. They are comfortingly predictable. As I said previously, a predictable routine helps you to make plans. There are some rare cases where predictability is not good. An extreme example is if someone is out to kill you, predictability is not a good thing. Happily, most people can develop routines and not worry about things like that.
Sometimes routines can turn in to ruts, and then it ceases to be a tool and becomes your master. Your routine binds you, which prevents you from growing. The best routine is one that is flexible and allows for growth and change. Ruts are routines that people cling to longer than they should. They don’t want change until forced out of their rut and realize all that they have missed. Routines need maintenance to keep them flexible and useful, so that they don’t become ruts.
A well-maintained, flexible routine is one that helps people do some of the repetitious little chores that pile up in life. They can help us reduce clutter. If it is your Saturday morning routine to exercise and then clean the bathroom, you can keep the cleaning time down to a shorter one than it would be if you only cleaned your bathroom once a year. If it is part of your bill paying routine to file your bills after you pay them, you don’t have a cluttered desk. Routines are beneficial tools to aid us in our daily lives. They can save us time when used properly. The trick is identifying the tiny little chores that we need to do each day and incorporate them into a routine. Once you do that, the larger chores they are part of, melt away.
In developing a routine, you have to sit down and figure out everything you do as part of, say, your morning chores. These are things like feeding the cats, cleaning litter boxes, making coffee and other little chores. All this takes time. Figure out how much time it takes and try to do those little chores in the same order every day. That becomes your routine. After work, or school, or whatever, do the same thing. Identify, quantify, organize, that’s the key to making a successful routine. That’s what leads to the ability to manage your time.
A routine answers the questions; what do you have to do? How long does it take to do that? What order do you do it in? Ok, that last question is probably the least important, but in developing a routine, you don’t really want to mix it up, you know, take the shower first and then exercise probably won’t be popular with the people around you. However, if there is a different order that you can do things in, feel free to mix it up after you’ve developed your routine. This is what I mean by keeping your routine flexible. I incorporate thirty minutes of writing time in my morning routine, if I have to, I can cut that to fifteen minutes. By doing that, if I have to leave the house a little earlier than usual, I can do so. I also double up on some of the chores. For example, I set the coffee up for the next day as soon as I finish the last cup from the pot. I don’t have to do that in the morning. I can just turn on the pot and have coffee in minutes, usually after my workout. It brews while I do other things in my routine. I often eat breakfast and read email at the same time, which saves time as well.
You can use the concept of a routine in almost any aspect of your life. Don’t be afraid to add or subtract items from your routine, that’s how you maintain flexibility in your routine and thus in your life. If you find yourself getting bored with your routine, examine it and see where you can change or adapt it to include something different.
A routine is a marvelous tool. Using it wisely is difficult. It has the potential to hold you back, as well as letting you get on with the important things in your life. The routines that you do every day can serve you well, but remember to be open to change. A routine that has flexibility built into it is a powerful time management tool. Be aware of how long your routines are so that you can allow for it every day. Make your routine your slave, not your master and you will have lots of time for the things you want to do.