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Easily Overcome the 5 Biggest Reasons Your Favorite Routines Don’t Work Now

a man in a dress shirt stands against a wall, removing his glasses with his eyes closed, a look of weariness or stress on his face

This post was first published on my Medium blog—follow me there for the most up-to-date entries!

Daily routines shouldn’t be mindless repetitions of meaningless steps. Rather, the routine should help you to begin and end your day with more ease and productivity. If that’s not happening, it’s time to modify your routine(s). Here are five reasons why your routines aren’t working for you.

You’ve got “shoulds” rather than “feels”

I’m guessing that somehow, you deliberately developed or gradually acquired a routine for:

Somewhere, you may have gotten the idea that a routine would create consistency in what you do. Certainly, a routine does help with consistently getting stuff done.

But the bigger question is, how does that routine serve you? What is it you want to feel when you complete the routine?

For example, I never go to bed until the kitchen is cleaned up. That’s because waking up in the morning and seeing a kitchen with dirty dishes or clutter on the countertops immediately puts me in a bad mood. It makes me feel like the previous day hasn’t been “closed out.” I need to feel like I’m starting a new day.

So, ask yourself: Did I build this routine based on what I should do, or how this routine makes me feel?

Resolve to get your head around this, because how it makes you feel is part of the equation for having a routine that makes you more productive.

Try to name the feeling you’re trying to achieve for your wake-up, work start-up, work shutdown, and evening sleep-settling rituals. Here are some words you might use:

  • Confident
  • Connected
  • Energized
  • Focused
  • In control
  • Organized
  • Peaceful
  • Ready

If none of those work for you, see if this wheel of emotions helps you to recognize what feeling you’re looking for.

If you can’t name the feeling you want to achieve, it will be tougher to develop and consistently carry out a routine that helps you to have a more productive day.

You have too many steps in your routine

I recently heard a guy talking about having 35 steps in his morning routine. I was wondering, how does he ever get to the real work that’s on his calendar for that day?

How many steps should we have in our routine? I doubt there is any magic number.

But for the moment, let’s consider Hal Elrod’s morning routine which he describes in his book, The Miracle Morning. The author says that each morning, he has six life S.A.V.E.R.S.

  • Silence
  • Affirmations
  • Visualization
  • Exercise
  • Reading
  • Scribe

(Okay, the “S” for “scribe” means journaling.)

My routine is very similar to Elrod’s. To me, having somewhere between four and eight steps is probably about right. (In a separate post, I’ve suggested many details to help you develop an effective personal morning routine.

You have too few steps in your routine

If you’re just getting started with developing a morning routine, having two or three steps in your routine is probably about right. But if you’re feeling that the routine isn’t giving you much benefit, maybe it’s because you need to add something.

Here’s an example. If you’re new to using daily routines, maybe your work shut-down routine entails packing up your laptop and donning your jacket. Okay, that’s a good start. But that’s unlikely to help you feel like you’ve had a successful day today or feeling that you’ve set yourself up for a successful day tomorrow.

Your routine isn’t wrong, but isn’t quite right

Sometimes, we’re doing something that almost works. But not quite.

For example, I don’t like to listen to audiobooks in the morning. But I could cheerfully consume that information, or something similar, by reading in the morning. Or I could — and do — listen to that audiobook later in the day.

Before you add or replace an activity, think about an activity that might be similar, but is more effective at achieving the feeling you want to have with you finish the routine.

Your life has changed

Doing the “old” routine when you’re living the new life probably won’t cut it.

For example, maybe you always went to the office, but now you’re working from home. Maybe you’ve moved, and the gym is now around the corner from your house. Maybe you’ve got a new baby in the house!

As the scriptures warn, you can’t pour new wine into old wine skins. Or, in more modern-day language, you can’t put new ideas into old mindsets. You can’t get new results with old behaviors.

Similarly, you can’t use your old routines for your new life. Choose which of those steps in your routine is making you feel the way you want to feel and modify your routine accordingly.

How do your routines make you feel. Can you use a word to describe it?

Part of a series on routines: learn to maximize your Morning Routine, Work Startup Routine, Workday Shutdown Routine, Evening Routine, Getting to Bed on Time, and What to Do When Your Routines Aren’t Working

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