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The Power of Deep-Seated Routines

Routines are so big a part of our everyday lives that, according to Charles Duhigg, they account for nearly 40% of our day.  In his book, The Power of Habit, he talks about routines and habits as if they hold a magical power.... because they do.

I've been reading through Duhigg's book and even got a copy for my leadership team members for Christmas.  It's that good of a read.  While I'm reading, I'm thinking (isn't reading funny like that?) about my own routines.

How about you?  How concrete are your routines on a daily basis?  Here's a brief quiz to get you thinking:

  • Do you get up at the same time every morning? / Do you get up at a different time each day?
  • Do you go to bed at the same time every night? / Do you go to bed whenever you feel like it?
  • Do you get in to work at the same time every day? / Do you get in to work at different times?
  • Do you work out regularly at scheduled times? / Do you workout at random times each week?

As you go through these questions, you start to get a feel for how deep-seated your routines are. I know for me, I'm very disciplined at some things but very scattered when it comes to other habits.  I'm a work in progress- you too?

Here's the thing- to the degree that you can cultivate deep-seated and routinized habits, strong, neat things will start to happen.  Here are just some that I've been uncovering:

  1. Because I get to work at roughly the same time each morning (between 7:05-7:15am), my morning traffic pattern is predictable and I stress less.  In addition, my colleagues can count on me to be there. This might also be a sign that I have my act together (debatable I'm sure).
  2. Because I write each Sunday morning for my newsletter group (you're not a member yet?), my readers can count on me.  They are then more likely to read my blog and when I have a special announcement, more likely to respond with generosity.  
  3. Because I take my kids to church each weekend, they can count on a weekly message from our pastor and this church-anchor breaks up their weekend into two distinct 24 hour periods of time.  
  4. Because I visit my spiritual director every 6 weeks, my soul is a little less likely to get crusty and whatever issues I'm working through are more likely to be resolved.  This makes me a more cheerful person and increasingly contemplative.  My family then looks forward to when I come home after spiritual direction, knowing that I'm going to be in a good mood.

Habits matter- they matter a whole lot.  They are part of our routines, whether we know it or not. How about you and I work to first inventory the routines that we have down pat. After that, I suggest working towards those routines that you know will pay off.  

For me, this includes getting to bed at a reasonable time each night.  It also involves no meat during Lent (which has been easier than I thought).

As you go through these questions, you start to get a feel for how deep-seated your routines are. I know for me, I'm very disciplined at some things but very scattered when it comes to other habits.  I'm a work in progress- you too?

Here's the thing- to the degree that you can cultivate deep-seated and routinized habits, strong, neat things will start to happen.  Here are just some that I've been uncovering:

  1. Because I get to work at roughly the same time each morning (between 7:05-7:15am), my morning traffic pattern is predictable and I stress less.  In addition, my colleagues can count on me to be there. This might also be a sign that I have my act together (debatable I'm sure).
  2. Because I write each Sunday morning for my newsletter group (you're not a member yet?), my readers can count on me.  They are then more likely to read my blog and when I have a special announcement, more likely to respond with generosity.  
  3. Because I take my kids to church each weekend, they can count on a weekly message from our pastor and this church-anchor breaks up their weekend into two distinct 24 hour periods of time.  
  4. Because I visit my spiritual director every 6 weeks, my soul is a little less likely to get crusty and whatever issues I'm working through are more likely to be resolved.  This makes me a more cheerful person and increasingly contemplative.  My family then looks forward to when I come home after spiritual direction, knowing that I'm going to be in a good mood.

Habits matter- they matter a whole lot.  They are part of our routines, whether we know it or not. How about you and I work to first inventory the routines that we have down pat. After that, I suggest working towards those routines that you know will pay off.  

For me, this includes getting to bed at a reasonable time each night.  It also involves no meat during Lent (which has been easier than I thought).  Both require small bits of sacrifice but they, in return, give me something as well.  Something of value that I can take with me throughout the day.

As a homework assignment, why not check out my friend Gene's website and podcast which features practical ways to stop feeling guilty over small things that don't matter.  

So here's to your well-formed conscience to guide you through the week.  You can do it, that is to say, you can live with joy and spontaneity and freedom... without the guilt.

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