One of the most powerful tools for productivity is your routine—the daily or weekly actions you perform over and over again until they become a habit and you hardly have to think about them. And experts of business and productivity have long emphasized the importance of routines in creating success. In fact, some people even try to adopt the morning routines of successful individuals in hopes that something about the rituals with which you start your day will transform your life.
The truth is routines do have power. Anything that you do repeatedly is something you will eventually get very good at, and it’s hard not to make progress toward something you’re working on every day. Routines allow you to create positive habits and stay productive even on days when you’re tired or uninspired. But perhaps we sometimes forget to put much thought into what our routines actually look like and how they function in our lives.
Today I’d like to encourage you to take a step back and examine the way your routine affects your life. As your life changes, it’s easy for things to fall by the wayside or for new practices to end up in your routine that you didn’t intend.
If you don’t already have your schedule on a calendar, start by getting it on there. What does a typical week look like? Block it out in hours so you can visualize how much of your day is taken up by each task.
While this is certainly an opportunity to look for inefficiencies, it’s also an opportunity to discover where you’re overextending yourself. Are you prioritizing what really matters most to you—your health, personal goals, aspirational business goals, and most importantly, your family? It’s important to make room for all of these things in your routine. Placing them on your calendar so you can see how much time you actually spend on each item can help you get an idea of where you’ve placed your priorities. When you add up the hours, what’s most important to you?
Scheduling time for your family, and especially your children, is absolutely vital. Whatever else you’re striving toward, in your business or otherwise, I promise you it is not worth sacrificing your relationship with your kids. That’s why I regularly schedule time for my children and block it off on my calendar. That time is protected, and no one gets to interrupt it except in case of a real emergency.
Time is the best gift you can give your children. You invest in them with your time. Make sure they know that they’re your priority—it’s an important part of building trust and of building their emotional maturity.
Build strong boundaries around your work and other interruptions when you’re spending time with your family. If you’re distracted, your children can tell. They’ll know if you don’t feel like being there, and it can stick with them on a deep psychological level. Ensure that you’re fully engaged when you’re with your family. Bringing home problems from the workplace can cause problems at home, and problems at home will inevitably bleed into your work as well. Creating a strong and effective routine—one that includes self-care and plenty of family time—helps create a sense of security that will allow you to relax better on your time off and be more present when you’re with friends or family.
However, no routine will keep you happy and productive forever. Not only do routines need to evolve as your life changes, but I believe they need to be broken. Life gets dull without a bit of spontaneity. The times when you break your routine are the times when you really live, the times you will remember.
It’s easy to get caught up in all the things that need to get done and forget to break your routine every once in a while. But it’s an important part of living a fulfilling life. Cancel your Friday afternoon meeting and take a surprise trip to Disneyland with your children. No one will remember the meeting in a week from now, but your family will cherish that memory forever.
Breaking your routine can also help you increase your productivity overall and reset your energy. Have you ever felt a sense of drudgery in your daily life or become bored with performing the same actions over and over? It might be time for a break. That can take the form of taking some time off, or of just mixing up your schedule to try something new. When you come back, you’ll have a new perspective, and may even be more energized. It gives you an opportunity to look at your routine with fresh eyes and make adjustments.
I’m a fan of breaking routines regularly. You can even create a routine of breaking your routine. Schedule in activities that keep you feeling alive and excited, things you can look forward to and things you think up spontaneously. Figure out what feels right for you, depending on your personality. Some people thrive on planning and preparation and feel best scheduling their breaks weeks or months in advance. Others do best taking a day off because the weather is particularly beautiful and driving wherever their whim takes them. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, I encourage you to challenge yourself and try something on the opposite side. You may not like it, but who knows? Maybe it’ll be exactly the refreshing experience you need to return to your work with new energy.
Whether you’ve been in a strong, productive routine for years or are trying to wrangle your routine to create something better, start by breaking it up. Do something different and give yourself a fresh start. Clear your schedule for one day this week and spend the day doing something fun or meaningful with your family. Remember, only you can break a habit and replace it with something energizing.