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Within a sequence of decisions, your most hesitant and vague decision will have the greatest effect on the overall consequences. Alexander Cortes
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Building Good Routines

One of the things I harp on endlessly about is that good routines are at the heart of good time management. This applies whatever time management system you use (or none).

Having good routines doesn’t mean that you can’t be spontaneous or creative. In fact having good routines means you are freed up so you can be spontaneous and creative.

The key word when it comes to building routines is persistence. This is to be taken two ways:

  • Persistence at building the routines
  • Persistence in the achievement of your goals as a result of building routines.

So it’s a case of persistence building on persistence.

Among other things, it’s particulary important that routines should establish:

  • The habit of creativity
  • The habit of extending your boundaries
  • The habit of inbox zero
  • The habit of exercise

How do you build routines? Actually the answer is that you are already an expert routine builder. You have been building them every day of your life. Every habit you have is the result. This applies to bad habits as well as good habits unfortunately.

You build up the good habits I mentioned above in exactly the same way that you may already have build up their opposite bad habits:

  • The habit of not using your creativity
  • The habit of sticking to your comfort zone
  • The habit of building up backlogs
  • The habit of not exercising

If you suffer from any of these, remember that these are habits - not character flaws which are impossible to overcome. They may be difficult to break because after all you’ve spent a long time building them up!

An output (no-list) approach will help to give you a short cut to this. Using this approach, your mind will naturally fall into the same channels each day. All you have to do is check that the channels are right. Fortunately it’s quite easy to check what you have done and to correct it if it’s wrong. For example if you are having trouble exercising put exercising at or near the beginning of the day.

Habits of going to bed and getting up are also very important. The best way of establishing good practice here is to get up at the same time every day, preferably as early as possible, regardless of whether it’s a work day or a day off. If you do this your going to bed time will naturally adjust.

I find that the best output approach for this sort of good routine and habit building is the rotating list.

Reader Comments (3)

Agreed. Since I started 5T, my routines are firming up nicely. It's not no-list, but it's close. Most of my routines are about 5 steps.
April 24, 2016 at 4:31 | Registered CommenterCricket
Hi Mark,

I wish to understand more about routines. I like your article. I keep having this recurring idea of just setting up types of activities in my schedule and have a list within those categories. Like marketing, working on my art, client follow up, exercising, photography work, blogging etc. Try to put the blocks of time in when I can and just intuitively take the next step. Maybe this idea was stated in your first book which I loved btw. Long lists make me anxious. But I do work with a to do list for the day. Putting the time in for a certain activity is less challenging to the procrastinator in me. All I have to do is take my pen out :) I would appreciate any thoughts you have on this. Thank you!
May 3, 2016 at 16:17 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie Nathan

Yes, your idea is similar to what I described in "Get Everything Done". Have you read my latest book "Secrets of Productive People"? There's more about routines in there.

There's a book called "Routinized" by Rick Carter, which I have on my list to read. It's got good reviews on Amazon. It might help you. If you do read it, let us know what you think.
May 4, 2016 at 7:40 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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