Each day, we are required to make thousands of choices – from what to eat, what to wear, and what to buy. By trimming some of those decisions into manageable, repeatable routines, we can save time and energy to do things that mean to us. Read on to learn more about the influence of routines and how they can help you be more productive and less stressed.
What Is a Routine?
A routine is any actions that are recurred, habitually, and without much attention. Routines come in various dimensions. They can be as small and simple as the need to shift on and open your laptop or as large and complicated as the daily calendar that puts you and your family filled, cleaned, dressed, and attending your work, school, and recreation activities.
To some of us, our days started up of different routines, sewed altogether. We started our day with a routine upon waking up in the morning. We have a routine when we go to work, a routine we do when we go to the office, a routine at the gym, etc.
Examples of Routines That Work
Many successful and creative people have harnessed the power of routine to get their work done.
Early to Bed, Early to rising, Early to Create a Bestseller.
While many writers disdain the tyranny of “office jobs”, some of the most successful writers in the world maintain stricter schedules than most bosses would ever hold them to. For example, Japanese writer Haruki Murakami gets up at 4 am every day and writes for five or six hours. In the afternoon, he runs, swims, or both then reads and listens to music. He then goes to sleep every day at 9 pm. Murakami maintains this schedule for six months to a year while he is working on each book.
Even more disciplined than Murakami is American novelist Danielle Steele, who has written 179 books and counting. Steele is at her typewriter every day by 8:30 am, nibbling on the same breakfast each day: toast and a decaf iced coffee. She keeps typing for hours, claiming to work as much as 24 hours straight when the words are flowing. Note that while this particular schedule may work well for Steele, sleep experts recommend that adults get at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night to be as healthy and productive as possible.
Boring Outfits, Creative Minds
While many creative professionals and entrepreneurs take wild risks in their work, they trust in a routine to relieve stress and free up mental space for more critical decisions in their personal lives. Choosing a daily uniform is one common way that creative people limit the decisions they have to make each day.
We mentioned Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, famous for his limited wardrobe of grey t-shirt, jeans, and a hoodie. While he has been seen in a suit on rare occasions, he mostly sticks to his uniform. He claims that by always wearing the same thing, he reduces the number of decisions he has to make in a day to focus on more important matters.
While Mark Zuckerberg’s wardrobe is minimal, he isn’t alone in limiting his clothing choices. Designer Vera Wang, despite creating some of the most beautiful and extravagant wedding dresses in the world, limits her wardrobe to a handful of basics, all in black. Designer Michael Kors also keeps to a sleek black wardrobe of blazer, t-shirt, pants, and loafers.
Simple Meals Save Time
Many people eat the same breakfast and lunch day after day, but Norwegians take “boring” meals one step further. In Norway, almost everyone brings precisely the same type of lunch to work each day, and this habit may be one reason why Norway has one of the highest scores for quality of life in the world. Every day around noon, almost all Norwegians reach into their packs for their matpakke, a stack of several slices of brown bread with a thin layer of butter and a piece of cheese, meat pate, or smoked salmon. This stack of open-faced sandwiches is always wrapped in brown paper.
This basic lunch has many advantages: it can be made in a few moments; it can be carried in a backpack without harm or mess; it doesn’t require refrigeration or heating, and it can be quickly eaten. This last point is vital. In Norway, lunches last only 30 minutes. These short lunches help keep Norway’s working hours among the fastest in the world, an average of just 38.5 hours per week, which helps boost their quality of life.
The Many Benefits of Following a Routine
As the examples above show, routines can be an effective way to maximize your day. Here are some benefits of following a pattern:
Avoiding Decision Fatigue
Every day, we have to make thousands of decisions. Our brains are always making choices, from the small (which shirt to wear) to the big (which company to award a contract to). Every time we ponder the options and choices, it uses a little bit of mental energy. Our mental energy store is finite, and as it runs out, it becomes more and more challenging to make decisions. This can result in procrastination, snap judgments, and poor decision-making, on top of unnecessary stress.
This is true even when we make fun choices, such as vacation planning or picking items for a registry. For example, one study showed that volunteers enjoyed choosing fantasy items for a hypothetical wedding registry for around four minutes. By minute 12, making decisions — even fun decisions — was exhausting.
Of course, making decisions is an integral part of life. After all, making decisions is how we choose our education, jobs, and life partners. So, how can we escape needless decision-making and preserve energy for those choices that matter? The answer is to set a routine you don’t need to think about for the simple things so that your decision-making abilities are saved for the essential things in life.
Have you ever lost your car keys or even your wallet, or your work badge? How long did you waste looking before your items turned up?
Everyone misplaces something from time to time, but developing a routine can save you time if you regularly lose essential items. Create a place for all the daily things you need and return them to their home every day. Likewise, if you lose track of important documents at work or frequently forget items on your to-do list, developing a routine for organizing and keeping track of your important papers will save you time and energy and let you get your work done faster.
Do you eat lunch out every day? Or grab a daily latte and a muffin from the coffee shop for breakfast? A habit of eating out is a routine, and it could be costing you a lot of money. Instead, develop a routine of buying groceries and prepping simple breakfasts and lunches once a week. You’ll save time and money in the long run.
By a similar token, developing a consistent look can help you spend your clothing budget wisely and avoid impulse shopping for clothing that doesn’t suit you or your lifestyle. It can also save time getting dressed each morning. Of course, a consistent uniform doesn’t have to be all dull black. Think of Angela Merkel’s signature colored jackets, Diane Von Furstenberg’s brightly printed dresses, or Kanye West’s color-coordinated sweatsuits. The idea is to pick something that works for you and stick to it.
According to CDC, only 23% of Americans get the suggested amount of exercise each week. Adults should perform strength training exercises twice a week and get 150 minutes of brisk movement each week, equal to a 25-minute walk per day.
Even fewer Americans get enough fruit and vegetables each day, with just one in ten eating the suggested four to five cups of fruits and veggies per day. If you aren’t the sort of person who wakes up feeling motivated to hit the gym and eat broccoli (and really, who is?), a routine can help.
The key to a routine is that it doesn’t depend on motivation — you do it out of habit. If you want to get healthy, make fitness and healthy eating part of your routine. For example, add a serving or two of fruit and vegetables to every meal, and when you get home from work, walk around the block a few times before you go in the door.
Helping You (and Your Child) Sleep
Another essential benefit of routines is their ability to help you get the sleep you need. If you struggle to get a full seven to eight hours of sleep each night, your pre-bed routine could be the culprit. If you spend the moments before bed reading stressful news articles, answering work emails, or watching action films, it’s no wonder it’s hard to relax and sleep.
Experts recommend turning off TVs, computers, tablets, and phones at least an hour before bedtime and developing your soothing ritual for the best sleep. Whether you stretch, drink warm milk, read a relaxing book, or listen to a calming podcast, find something that relaxes you and do it every night. Before long, your brain will recognize your bedtime ritual and help you drift off faster and sleep more deeply.
Getting a good night’s sleep is even more critical for your child. Studies show that starting in infancy, performing a bedtime ritual helps children fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Good bedtime rituals include a bath, brushing teeth, storytime, and gentle cuddling or a massage. Studies show that such a consistent bedtime routine can help children (and their parents!) sleep better in as little as three days.