When it comes to success, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel, right?
If you’ve been reading Daily New Year’s for a while now, it’s probably evident that I talk about goal setting a ton! But if you look deeper, you’ll see several other ideas that come up over and over again, and for a good reason!
One of the things I enjoy is analyzing successful people, study their strategies, and explore what works best for myself. And as I explore the world of personal development, I love to share my findings here on Daily New Year’s.
Over the past year, I’ve noticed that several recurring themes and ideas have been emerging in my content. One of the most prominent trends is that people who tend to achieve higher levels of success do so by developing a powerful daily routine built on positive habits.
I’ve written about how routines have helped me overcome obstacles, how routines can help build strong habits, and how you can combine several goals into a single routine. I’ve even written about how you can build routines around learning new things!What can I say? I love routines!
What I haven’t done (until now) is write a post about why routines are so important to success, how good habits play a significant role in building a good daily routine, and how to establish a new daily routine that works for you.
I’m not sure how I haven’t covered this yet, but we’re going to jump into it right now!
Feel free to jump ahead:
- What is a Daily Routine?
- Can Routines Hold us Back?
- Daily Routines are Vital to Success
- The Daily Routine/Habit Connection
- Habits Help Build Strong Routines
- How to Establish a New Routine
First, What is a Daily Routine?
Let’s start with the definition of a routine. There are several out there, but none that I liked enough for this article. So, I wrote an adapted definition:
A routine is a habitual performance of an established set of actions to the near point of automation.
When was the last time you had to think about your morning routine for getting ready for work?
Most people follow the same steps in the same order every day. Snooze the alarm a time or two, jump or sluggishly roll out of bed, brush your teeth, take a shower, put on your clothes, and so on.
At most, you might have to decide on an outfit, but I’d wager that the process that you follow is mostly automatic at this point. The process you follow each morning is a habitual performance of an established set of actions to the near point of automation, right?
You don’t have to think about it—it just happens.
How do you think it got that way?
Obviously, we’re not going to spend two hours getting ready for work if we can sleep longer and get ready in 15 minutes. Without even realizing it, we gravitate towards the most efficient process through sub-conscious trial and error.
So, if we can build an efficient daily routine for getting ready for work, do you think you could decidedly create new routines in other areas of your life?
I hope you said yes because I’m about to make a case for it!
Can Routines Hold Us Back?
Before we get into why routines are so crucial to success, I want to address the other side of the argument. Some people will argue that routines hold us back from life.
To those of you who see it that way, I want to say that I agree with you, to an extent.
Yes, if you always eat the same foods, watch the same shows over and over (#NBCOfficeAddict!!), go on the same vacations, frequent the same restaurants, play the same games, exhaust the same hobbies, and so on, you might be missing out on all that life has to offer.
The point of today’s article is not to convince you to automate and roboticize your entire life. Not at all!
To live life to the fullest, we have to try and experience new things. I never knew that I would love scuba diving so much until I tried it a few years ago, and now it’s one of my favorite things to do.
The point of today’s article is to illustrate how daily routines can help us achieve success in all areas of our lives.
Daily Routines are Vital to Success
Routines are powerful for many reasons—there are far more than I could list here, so I’ll lead off with my top three.
Routines Reduce Decision Fatigue
Do you ever get tired of making decisions? I know I do!
What am I going to wear today? What am I going to have for breakfast/lunch/dinner? Which task should I do first? Which goal is most important today?
The list goes on and on as options come at us from every angle. It can be difficult to prioritize everything you have to do every day. That’s why people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have been known to wear the same outfits every day—it’s one less decision to make!
Related: 15 Productivity Tips for Getting Your Most Meaningful Work Done
Having a daily routine can help reduce decision fatigue by allowing us to automate some of our decisions.
I wrote about this extensively here, but I built a morning routine around waking up at 4:45, going to the gym, drinking a protein smoothie, and then working on my blog—all before going into work each day.
Before I converted this series of actions into a daily routine, the decision to get up at 4:45 every day was an exhausting, internal battle. Pushing myself to the gym each morning would tax my decision-making ability even further.
As the day would wear on, each decision would become more difficult until I would reach a point where I would start making poorer and poorer decisions.
Here’s the main takeaway: the more routines you can build into your life, the more decision-making power you’ll have for the essential things in your life.
Routines Conserve Willpower and Motivation
Much like decision making, each day, we have a limited amount of willpower and motivation. When we use it all up on trivial things, there is little left to achieve what matters.
And just like in my previous example, if you waste all of your energy pushing yourself to the gym, you may not have enough willpower or motivation left to do something even more important later in the day.
If that’s the case, building a daily routine around the gym to the point of automation can help conserve your willpower. Are there areas in your life that drain your motivation or willpower? Could building a routine around those things help save your energy?
If so, keep reading!
Routines Build Momentum
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times:
Taking action and building momentum are the keys to success in any endeavor.
Do you agree? I’ve written about taking action and building momentum several times before, but I’ll give you the SparkNotes version here.
Starting something new isn’t very impactful if you keep quitting. Think about a rocket ship. What if a rocket repeatedly used up all of its fuel to take off only to land immediately, refueled, and took off again? It wouldn’t make much sense, right? It would be horribly inefficient!
Starting and stopping over and over again in your life is just like that rocket ship wasting fuel.
Building momentum, however, is like breaking free of the atmosphere and reaching space. Once there, the zero gravity keeps the rocket afloat, and the pilot only uses relatively small amounts of fuel to propel and steer the rocket through space.
I read an article from The Huffington Post, and it said, “In 1967, Apollo mission to the moon, the Saturn V rocket’s needed over 500,000 gallons of fuel just to break free of the Earth’s atmosphere. The final stage of the trip only required 86,059 gallons of fuel. That means it took nearly 5.8 times as much effort to launch as it did to keep the momentum.”
Are you seeing a trend here?
When we build strong routines, we reduce the number of decisions we have to make, we conserve our energy for the essential things, and we build massive momentum towards our goals!
Successful people understand how to use daily routines to their advantage. They automate the mundane or repetitive tasks in their lives so that they can focus on their long-term goals instead.
However, you cannot build a regular daily routine without first building a foundation of positive habits.
The Routine/Habit Connection
I’ve been listening to The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg on Audible, and it’s fascinating how much impact habits have on our lives, even if we don’t realize it.
In the book, he talks about a medical patient named Eugene Pauly, who suffered damage to his medial temporal lobe, an area of the brain responsible for memory.
Even though Eugene’s medial temporal lobe was severely damaged and he couldn’t remember new information for more than a minute or two at a time, he was still able to follow habit-based routines that were established far earlier in his life.
That’s incredible, wouldn’t you agree?
The book goes into far more detail than I’m sure you want to read here, but the critical discovery that doctors and scientists made was that habits are stored separately from our memories, making it easier to follow daily routines, even with damage to the memory center in our brains.
Because we receive so much new information every day, our brains subconsciously store habits to reduce processing power. Imagine how little we would get done if we had to remember or relearn how to breathe or drive our cars every day. Thanks, but no thanks!
Have you ever noticed how it gets easier to back the car out of the driveway the more times you do it? That’s a stored habit at work!
Habits work by initiating an impulse to perform a behavior with little or no conscious thought. Habits are simply how the brain learns to do things without deliberation
Habits Help Build Strong Routines
What comes first, the habit, or the routine? Some might say that building a routine creates steady habits. Others might say that our routines form around our habits.
Let’s look back at my morning routine.
I used to have to decide to get up at 4:45, to go to the gym at 5:15, and then to drink a protein shake at 7:00 every day. But, when I followed the same daily routine, new habits formed around my routine, helping to solidify the routine.
Once solidified, my brain was able to follow that routine with far less energy than it did at the start. Waking up at 4:45 was a habit. Jumping in the truck and going to the gym was a habit. But together, these actions became a forceful routine.
So, I’d say that the relationship between habits and routines is symbiotic—as you work towards building a routine, habits form, and as you work to form good habits, routines form
How to Establish a New Routine
Okay, so we’ve covered a ton of info in this post, and by now, you’ve seen how powerful routines can be. But how do we build new daily routines that last?
If you want to read one book per month, you could start a daily routine to read a certain number of pages. If you’re going to run a marathon, you could start a daily routine for stretching and running.
I’m not going to break it that far down for every goal. Everyone’s goals are so incredibly different! I’m going to give you a high-level strategy instead.
If you want to build a robust and success-driven routine, follow these four steps:
1. Identify Your Long-Term Goals
Before we begin crafting a daily routine to help us streamline our success, we need to look at what we’re aiming to achieve. What are your 5, 10, 15, and 20-year goals? If you’re unsure, check out my article about using Blue Sky Thinking. It will help you identify your long-term goals.
Why is it so important to start with your long-term goals?
We’re all going to end up somewhere in life. As life moves forward, so do we. We can either choose a destination and make travel plans, or we can drift through life and hope that we’ve ended up somewhere we like.
In other words, begin with the end in mind.
When you begin to build a daily routine, it needs to help move you closer to the dream you have for your future.
2. Break Your Goals Down
The next critical step in building a successful daily routine is to break your long-term goals into manageable milestones and daily activities.
Two of my larger goals are to write a personal development book on the topic of goal setting and to speak on a stage to a massive audience at the Global Leadership Summit (or something similar).
To move closer to those goals, I need to be writing every week and taking on several speaking engagements. I need to hone my writing and speaking skills and pick up some experience. To achieve those goals, I need to rack up hundreds of small wins and build on my success.
You need to do the same thing.
How can you break your long-term goals down into monthly, weekly, and daily actions?
3. Build a Daily Routine Around Your Goals
Once you’ve broken your goals down into manageable pieces, begin looking for ways to combine your actions into a routine.
For example, to continually release weekly blog posts and podcasts, I have a daily routine to move the needle on my goals. I use time-blocking to carve out time every day for research, writing, editing, designing, generating social content, and promoting my articles.
My daily routine isn’t the same set of actions every day, but my routine is to wake up at the same time every day, exercise, and then spend two hours on the blog. Every Monday night, I write for 4 hours. My individual tasks vary, but my schedule does not.
A daily routine does not have to be the same actions in the same order day in and day out. Your routine can be rigid if you want, but it can also be a fixed schedule with flexible tasks.
The point is, by building a routine, you reduce decision fatigue, and conserve your willpower and motivation. Every Monday, I know I’m writing and every day I know I’m getting up at 4:45. Without fail or deliberation, I follow my routine.
4. Stick to the Plan!
The most crucial part of building a new daily routine is sticking to the plan. At first, it may be difficult because you’re going to be battling your old routines, but you need to stick with it.
The more sporadic you are about establishing the new routine, the longer it’s going to take for it to become automatic. Remember, we’re not just building a daily routine—we’re also building new habits, and those require repetition.
Back when I first started Daily New Year’s, it was very challenging to write every Monday night because I was accustomed to watching TV with my wife after dinner. It was even harder to work on the blog in the wee hours of the morning.
Flash forward several months, everything became so much easier. As the decisions became almost automatic, the routine took hold. Now, I don’t even think twice. In fact, as I wrap up this blog post, it’s 5:08 in the morning.
This week’s been extra taxing, and I’m tired, but I’m also excited to be writing and sharing this content with all of you. If not for my sticking to my routine early on and embedding it into my life, I might have slept in this morning and pushed this blog post off to next week, but I didn’t.
When you focus on your long-term goals, you need to start with a strong why that’s going to keep pulling you forward. Then, plan and build a daily routine that’s going to help get you there.
Good luck! And remember, I’m always here for you if you need some extra help. I’m always happy to help!