The Importance of Routine

In March, I wrote an article on the importance of a good morning routine and offered some suggestions on how to set yourself up for success by starting early. After I wrote that article and as I was reflecting on my own routines, I started to question why this small thing had such a profound impact on my own level of success and how making friends with it had changed my entire life. Here’s what I learned:

1. Success is the sum of small daily actions.

The biggest gains in my business and life, including earning nearly 45 per cent of last year’s income in the first month and half of this fiscal year and letting go of an extra 30lbs of weight came about because I started paying close attention to the daily actions I was taking. I don’t do well with big goals – they tend to freak me out and paralyze me. I panic and end up doing nothing, so I don’t set targets for myself in that way. Instead, I look at the types of actions I need to take to build the life I want and concentrate on getting them done daily.

2. Consistency in small action generates big results.

This level of consistency in small actions, such as eating slowly every day, or moving a little every day, or tracking my expenses every day was an easy thing. Even if I missed a day or two, it was easy to catch up because the actions were so small. I could easily contact five clients a day. I could easily track my time and see where I could be more efficient. I could eat well because I consistently did all my cooking and meal prep on Sundays for the week and I did that prep in very small increments between other enjoyable activities so it didn’t feel overwhelming.

3. It’s tough to be consistent

I found myself wavering here and there, sometimes missing several days in a row, but each time that happened, I would ask myself “What’s missing such that I’m not getting my daily actions finished?” Sometimes it was a lack of balance, maybe too much work and not enough movement, or not enough sleep and not making a consistent bedtime a priority. I did struggle with keeping on track.

4. Routine is the easiest way to “set it and forget it”

The thing that saved me was setting up a routine that worked, or at least starting with one that would get me going, that I could re-evaluate later. The routine was easy to follow, included all my daily and weekly actions and more importantly, it was pleasurable. It felt good. Once I set the routine, it became a joy to get things done and check them off on my tracking system. I didn’t have to think too hard about what I was doing, or plan too far in advance, because the routine carried me.

Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.
— Zen saying

Though the results didn’t come quickly, they were still noticeable. Some days it seemed like nothing was happening, but I kept showing up and having faith that I was moving the needle a little bit every day, or building up enough pressure that eventually the needle would make a huge move all at once. Although there were moments (and still are moments) of frustration, I can always fall back on my system and rely on it to carry me through.

As the summer ends and the busy fall season looms on the horizon, it’s a wonderful time to reflect on your own use of this powerful tool. Where are some places in your life that you can engage routine to get things done? Over the next few weeks, notice where you’re not moving forward and find one small daily action that might help you. Try it out, test it and measure the results. If they’re good, add another small daily action until you start seeing more progress.

Above all, learn to make friends with the routine. It will carry you where you want to go if you set it up right.

Katherine Lazaruk