The Power of Routine

When I arrive in a hotel room on a business trip, I set a five-minute timer. The timer indicates how long I have to unpack my bag, change my clothes (if needed), and get out the door. I created this routine years ago to avoid the trap of turning on the TV and getting sucked into flipping channels.  

In all honesty, I have numerous business travel routines. I have a clothes-packing routine, a bedtime routine, a wake-up routine, and a pre-presentation or client meeting routine. When COVID hit, business travel halted, and so did many of my routines. In recent months, travel has picked up, and I’ve re-engaged and revamped my old routines.  

Unlike habits, which we tend to accomplish unconsciously, routines are often the product of deliberate thought. Routines are often multi-step endeavors. When well designed and consistently followed, routines can deliver proven, repeatable, and predictable results. Just like the habits we form, our routines can be potent.  

I imagine that you have a number of routines in your life – no doubt, some serve you well, and others are less effective. I invite you to find ways to reinforce the former and improve the latter. To help your efforts, I offer three routine considerations: 

Routine Thinking 

There is nothing routine about choosing to adopt practices that drive great results. My colleague and co-author, Shawn Moon, reminded me earlier this week that adopting new practices shouldn’t start with the behaviors but with the thinking behind the behaviors.  

As Stephen R. Covey said, “If you want small changes, work on your behavior; if you want quantum-leap changes, work on your paradigms.” 

Routine Assessment  

Simply because a routine served you well in the past doesn’t mean that it meets today’s challenges. Just like I’m revisiting my business travel routines, you too should assess your routines. Ask yourself: 

  • Why did you establish the routine in the first place? Does the need still exist? 
  • What steps do you follow? Is there a better way to do it? 
  • Who or what could help you to create a better routine? 

Routine Advice 

Assuming that you find opportunities to revamp, refine, or discontinue a routine, consider how you will approach the transition. Don’t underestimate the strength of inertia.  

Your desire to change a routine and commitment to follow through needs to be strong enough to overcome the short-term pain of adjustment.  

We designed this week’s video and tool to help you to think about the routines in your life and to put routine thinking, assessment, and advice into practice. Additionally, I wanted to share with you a conversation I had with Atlanta Braves shortstop, Dansby Swanson. Dansby and I discussed his pregame routine and how that routine has served him well throughout his baseball career. I hope that the video, tool, and podcast discussion will encourage you to leverage the power of routine.