What words come to mind when you read or hear the word “routine?”

The Power of Routines
Routines don’t have to be boring or monotonous. They can be life-changing. (Tweet That) | Share this Graphic on Pinterest | Share on Facebook

Perhaps words like:






Wait a minute! What? That last one doesn’t fit.
Or does it?
What if I told you that routines can be life-changing? What if I told you that the key to achieving your big breakthrough and finding more joy in life could be found in a routine?
Well, it’s true. Routines are powerful and as boring as they may sound at first glance, I’ll show you some little known truths about routines that will have you living a “routine life” before you know it.

The definition of insanity

You’ve undoubtedly heard of the “real definition of insanity.” Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
But last year, I offered a different, and I believe more accurate, definition:

A great idea without execution is the definition of insanity.

I then encouraged you to stop reading what I write, nodding your head in agreement, and then going on with your life exactly as it is now.
Instead, I said:

Don’t be insane like that. Be insane like Sugar Ray Leonard.
Be insane in your commitment to execution.
Be insanely committed to making things happen.
When you read something here or elsewhere, digest it, think about it, and apply it. Apply it within 72 hours.
Stop thinking about it and do it.

I know, but…

I’d heard for years about the power of journaling. I’d read all of the research on the subject. I even knew about the research from Martin Seligman that says that just journaling about three things for which you are thankful each morning can increase your happiness and productivity by 31%.
I knew all the reasons why I should be journaling, and yet I did it sparingly, missing entire weeks or even months. I knew the power of journaling and writing out my gratitude each day, but I made excuses why I couldn’t commit to something like that.
So what did I do?
I made it part of my routine…only I didn’t have a routine. OK, so I started a routine. I would, without fail, spend a minute or two listing things for which I am thankful.
Some days I was going through the motions. I’d list the same five or six things I listed the day before. Or they’d be so generic I almost had to laugh.  But I kept doing it each day.
And it really does work. Expressing gratitude, whether it be in a journal or a thank you note really does increase my happiness, my energy levels, and my productivity.
My writing routine
The more I practiced little routines, such as journaling at a specific time during the day, the more I saw the value in them.
I realized the energy spark that comes from going through a routine before an important activity. I also noticed how my creative juices flowed when I finished some routines.
One of the most important things I do each day is write. What you are reading now is the byproduct of a routine.
When I first wake up in the morning, I am writing within twenty minutes. That is my most creative time. But what happens in those twenty minutes is important. And for the past year, I’ve repeated the same routine day after day to set myself up for my best writing.

I go downstairs in our house and then I:

  1. Start booting the computer.
  2. Boil some water for my tea.
  3. Drink twenty ounces of water.
  4. Grab my morning snack (usually a handful of nuts or a natural protein bar)
  5. Make the tea.
  6. Get all of my stuff together at the computer and open WordPress and my blog post outlines.
  7. Do a 5-minute workout to get my blood flowing. (You can download my 5-minute workout here)
  8. Write.

It’s literally the exact same routine every time I sit down to write. The routine, as it progresses, is alerting my mind that it’s time to write. And now, when I do sit down to write, I am ready.

Action item: Pick one activity to make a part of your routine today. Perhaps you start with journaling or maybe you develop a coming home routine. Start with one thing, as I did, and add more routines over time.

The little known truth about routines is that they are not boring or depressing. They are far from a grind or monotonous.
They are life-changing.
What routines have you used effectively in your life? What’s one that you plan on adding?

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14 thoughts on “The Little Known Truth About Routines

  1. Let's Grow Leaders says:

    Our morning routines are almost identical (my involves coffee), but still.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Has it changed at all since going solo?

  2. Zechariah Newman says:

    Nice post Matt. Reading your post is making me realize that I need to be more specific in my routine. Thanks! Now I have something to apply today:)

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Very nice. You will find a lot of benefits from doing so.

  3. Steve Spring says:

    I second the coffee. It is the one constant in my morning routine. I plan to add 5 minutes of exercise after reading this article.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      That’s awesome Steve! Check out the book. It’s not revolutionary, but that 5 minutes getting the blood flowing makes me a better writer.
      I also do a 2 minute version every hour or so throughout the day. Totally worth the break.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Depends a bit on the time of year/weather. I can’t stand treadmills or indoor tracks, but I’ll use them in winter.
      When it’s this time of year, in the medium temperature range or in the fall, we like to run as a family so it could be afternoon or mid-morning or even evening.
      When it’s hot, usually first thing in the morning, which does change my writing routine those days.
      When getting ready for a race in the last 2-3 weeks before, whatever the race time is.
      When it’s really cold, indoors in the mid-morning.

  4. Joe Lalonde says:

    I made a routine of running on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays the last couple of years, though this past year I’ve not held well to the routine. While it’s a grind it’s also very rewarding. Seeing the effects of routinely running by the slimmer waistline and lower weight was amazing.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      That is a definitely awesome result of that routine 🙂

  5. Jon Stolpe says:

    I’m a huge proponent of routines.
    One of my routines is waking up at 4:25AM to get an early morning run in outside or at the gym. This is such a great way to get my brain engaged for the rest of the day (plus it helps to counteract my love for eating).

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      HAHA! Sounds like @jmlalonde:disqus

  6. Wan Muhammad Zulfikri Bin Wan says:

    My new routine – taking cold showers. Painful at first, calming after a week.
    Anyway, routine is only boring if we make something we don’t like to do as a routine. Writing, journalling, and other beneficial activities aren’t that boring if we realized the importance of it.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      WOW. I used to start my mornings with a cold shower that got warmer then hot. I stopped when we had our daughter and I don’t want to wake her up in the morning. I miss them 🙂

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