Streamline your life with routines

If you are like me you want your life to be mostly effortless or at least streamlined. The only things that should require effort are the things you want to get better at. So how does have to do with routines. Let me explain.

Imagine you get out of bed on a Sunday morning. You don’t have to go to work. You don’t have anything urgent to do. No people to react to because everyone’s still sleeping. Do you keep lying in bed starting at something on your smart-screen? Do you go out for a walk? Do you go have brunch with someone?

At least for me it’s staring at the smart-screen until it’s too late in the morning so I have to get up and do something.

So what do I want to do every morning? I am meditating daily for several months already. I could not help but notice that I meditate much more easily when my mind is fresh after a good night’s sleep. So meditation would fit in perfectly.

For a long time my meditation was my only thing to do in the morning most days. I was managing to do it on workdays but I failed to do it on the weekend. Somehow the laziness overcomes me on the weekend and I procrastinate on my meditation until the evening. On the evening it’s already late meditate: I am tired and it’s hard for me to focus. This means half my meditation is lost in me being in my thoughts instead of being present in the here-and-now. Sometimes I even doze off and wake up as my head and body accelerate to the ground. I think it’s pretty clear why I don’t want to do it in the evening.

There is however another thing I find to be very good to do in the morning – get my body to wake up. Not something big but 30 push-ups and 30 squats tend to wake me up. It’s fine to do them later but the initial boost they give me is lost.

So far I have two things to put in my morning routine: my micro workout and meditation.

There’s another thing I want to do each morning and that’s writing in my journal, reviewing the day before. In there I write a few sentences about the previous day: What I am grateful for, what I was stressing about, where I failed. For each thing that stressed me or I failed at I write solutions I can execute. This helps me improve.

There are a few minor things that I tend to forget often enough to do in the morning – like taking out the garbage or putting on perfume.

I am taking you through my ideal morning so far. None of these things makes a huge difference. What does the difference is that I am starting day after day in the best possible way for me. I am physically awake with calmed mind and have done all I need before I go out.

So here is how my routine looks so far:

[ ] hit the bathroom
[ ] do 30 squats + 30 push-ups
[ ] meditate
[ ] write journal
[ ] have breakfast
[ ] get dressed + deodorant + perfume
[ ] brush teeth
[ ] take out the garbage (if any)

How is my routine helping me?

1. No Forgetting

This part is the single most important thing about routines (and their physical manifestation – checklists). Routines don’t let you forget where you are at. They don’t let you skip things. They don’t let you forget things. Each morning when I see that checklist I know what I have to do. Even if I am late for work I can still manage to do some of the items on the list and this much better than nothing.

2. Lets you plan your time

After you do your routine a several times you can be pretty sure how long it takes. This is great! I know my morning routine takes me about hour-hour and 15 minutes. And I am not rushing it. Meditation takes exactly 20 minutes. Journaling about 10. Breakfast about 20. The rest fits in.

3. Gets you out of your head

Early in the morning it’s easy to get carried away by monkey-mind and start checking your Facebook or your email. It’s also easy to go watch something on YouTube. If you don’t have a plan your mind will wander and you will waste a lot of your mornings. And here comes the next great thing about routines.

4. You are doing the best thing you could be doing

In my case it’s working towards a calmer, wiser mind and a more awake and fit body. If you have a routine you could be working towards your better self too. Again – having a plan that’s easy to follow is of great help.

5. Reduces stress

You have everything planned. Just keep doing what you should. You can’t control the results of your actions but at least you can do the right things, right?

Truth is everyone has their routines of sorts. The most simple one are called reflexes. You hear shooting on the other side of the street and you panic. This is a routine. A very simple one but still a routine. It requires no thinking and it follows a plan. Even if you don’t have a checklist in your hand for it.

How to create routines?

Start simple. For a long time my morning routine consisted only of meditation for 20 minutes. All the rest came in at random. I did not exercise, nor did I journal. I added those later. So if you want to do your affirmations every morning – you can start with that and do it for a week or a month – until you are comfortable. Then add another thing and so on. Try to balance your list so you don’t overwhelm yourself.

How to use routines?

Get them written down and keep them somewhere you can see them. You can hang them on the wall if you live alone. If not maybe put them in a notebook, on your computer or on your smart-screen. I currently keep them on my iPhone. I keep an eye on my checklist during the morning and try to follow the list. That’s all. It’s easy.

Creating more routines

Routines are not only for you. You can have routines for how you work with people. How you write blog posts. How you write computer software how you keep your house clean. They can make you a more organized and productive person.

Maybe watch the video below to see more about routines…

I would like to thank John Sonmez for his video: “The Importance of Having a Routine” that inspired me to write this post.

Another great video on the topic: “Build Your Infrastructure For Success”

  • Johnny Driesen

    Hi Yavor,
    Thanks for this post, Interesting POV.

    But I’m having a complete other opinion / idea about this.

    I like, no, I have to say … I LOVE my freedom, I like to do what I want.

    Beside the daily “hygiene & health todo’s” I avoid routine as much as possible.
    IMO routine blocks your creativity, and makes you act like a robot…

    Kind regards,

    • Hey Johnny, thanks for taking the time to check out my post 🙂

      I guess it depends how you look at it. I don’t want to be creative in my mornings, because I tend to go so creative that I fall back asleep :)))

      I believe we need a certain portion of both. If you need only 5% routines and 95% freedom – that’s fine. On the other hand I think I need more routines to be more creative. Might sound strange but without a routine my brain tends to get distracted with random stuff and not want to do anything useful.

      For example a routine to sit and write for one hour will be highly beneficial and productive if I do it daily. I am not saying what I should write about so I am free about that part. I currently believe that what makes people successful is exactly their habits. That’s also what brings them down. Success at something = great habits in that area. That’s how for example someone can be an alcoholic, psychotic, abuse people and still be a great painter.