I often start my day with a morning bike ride. It leaves me feeling refreshed and invigorated. I’ve been taking the same route on this particular bike path in Brooklyn, NY for years. I take Max out of his basket at the same spot every day and he runs alongside me for the same distance every day. As a matter of fact, if we go past the spot, he’ll just stand up in his basket to let me know it’s time for his morning run. (Ceasar Milan would be proud:)
There’s something about routine, that is somewhat boring, yes, I’ll admit, BUT, when you are settled into a comfortable routine, you don’t have to think about it. Your mind is free to do what it does best – problem solve, come up with great ideas, plan, you know, the higher order stuff.
In my recent training with Julie Morgenstern (I trained in the Time Management from the Inside Out coaching methodology), she emphasized that routines actually save you a lot of time. The example she used, quite interestingly, was taking the same route over and over.
What she has found is that when you take the same route it becomes familiar, you don’t need to think about it. You don’t need to worry whether there’s an incline here or a decline there, or whether there are obstacles up ahead. You don’t need to be vigilant and focused on the mechanics of what you are doing. The routine becomes second nature. This frees up your energy and time.
It takes a lot of time to navigate new things. Going somewhere new, almost always takes a little bit longer than getting back because you are in unfamiliar territory. This slows you down. Just as it is the case with driving or bike riding, it’s the same with your schedule. When you have routines in place, your mind and time are freed up.
It also takes a lot of time to stop and make decisions on what to do next. Having to think about whether you are going to go to lunch with a co-worker, continue working on a report or go buy your mother a birthday gift during your lunch hour, takes a lot of energy. Using what Julie has termed a Time Map with routines etched into your schedule like well worn grooves will help you avoid this time wasting dilemma.
With a Time Map, you would have a “bucket of time” dedicated to report writing, networking with colleagues and errands. While planning out your schedule, your to do’s will have a clear bucket to go into so when lunch time rolls around you know exactly what you are going to be doing.
An easy, and painless way to implement routines (even for the most diehard creatives among us;) is to have the same wake up time and sleep time. Implementing routines around meal times will also anchor your schedule. You can then implement routines around your work, home and family activities.
For example, if you dedicate 10-11 am and 2-3 pm for processing email it will save you a lot of time a) because you’ll be able to focus on getting your work done and b) you’ll avoid interruptions and it could take up to 20 minutes to refocus after an interruption.
So here are the take aways…
- Routines free your mind up for higher order thinking, planning, problem solving and creativity.
- Routines save you lots of time.
- Anchor your schedule with regular wake up, sleep and meal times
- Use a Time Map to create “buckets of type” for different types of activities.
- Filter your to dos into the appropriate buckets of time.
What’s your take on routines? Love em or hate em? Do you have a routine you find particularly useful? Leave a comment below and let us know.