I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with productive morning routines.
Growing up, the idea of “practice makes perfect” wasn’t just a mantra, but a creed and way of life. My main memories of childhood involve constant studying, exam-taking, and miles and miles of cross country running practices and meets. Daily routines consisted purely of waking up before the sun rose, an hour+ commute to school, full day of classes, several hours of sports practice, and another hour+ commute home. There wasn’t much room for variation.
In college, this routine was pretty much the same (except no commutes), and for several years after college, it was the exact same, with even worse commutes. Looking back, being stuck in this routine was one of the major catalysts that drove me to self employment. Today, I have a semblance of a routine, but it’s really the lack of routine that I love about freelancing and self employment. You know that ambiguity of whether I’ll get a paycheck every month? I love that feeling. It’s what motivates me to keep working hard to guarantee there will be not one, but several paychecks every month. In that way, you could say that freelancing and I were made for each other.
But not everyone loves that feeling of insecurity, and I admit that lately I’ve been craving a bit of structure in my life more and more. Several years ago, that idea of putting myself on a schedule would have seemed ludicrous, but lately the value of routines has been very self-evident.
Routines are great for improving yourself or reaching a goal.
Practice does indeed make perfect, so if there’s a skill you’re trying to learn or a project you want to complete, routines are your best bet at helping you achieve those goals. Without routines, it gets harder and harder to find time to dedicate to achieving that goal, so routines are the best ways to train yourself to do something new.
Without routines, I definitely would never have been able to run 7 half marathons, keep my business running for 3 years straight, or even write regularly on this blog. Despite my previous negativity toward routines, I’ve come to embrace them especially since becoming my own boss. If I don’t keep myself on track, who else will?
Don’t become a slave to routine.
Despite all the good that come from routines, they do come with a pitfall in the form of over-reliance. I subscribe to a blog called My Morning Routine that, each Wednesday, publishes a piece highlighting the morning routines of professionals. I really look forward to these new entries because I love reading about what literally makes people jump out of bed every morning.
One of the questions that the blog asks every interviewee has to do with how flexible they are if their morning routine doesn’t go as planned:
- On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
- What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
In half the cases, the interviewees shrug off any possible routine changes, saying they’re flexible enough to adapt to any changes. The other half of interviewees give entirely different responses. One such professional, Austin Kleon, had the following answers to the above questions:
- No, which is the number one reason I hate traveling.
- I try to forgive myself and move on. (Sun comes up, sun goes down. Always another chance tomorrow.) One thing about a routine is that the days where you break it can be some of the most interesting days… but they wouldn’t be unless you had a routine to break.
Based on his responses, he’s likely become a bit of a slave to his routines, meaning it’s difficult to let go and accept any variations. This is the point when routines can be bad and start to cloud your vision.
Do you have a morning routine?
Are routines helpful to your life, or are they detrimental? Chime in on the comments below!