Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How to Be More Productive: Follow Good Routines

"Routine : a regular way of doing things in a particular order."
 (definition provided by Merriam-Webster)

Have you ever noticed that when you follow certain routines, you are more productive and more likely to accomplish everything you need to get done in a day?

Actually, I don't usually give my routines much thought - until I deviate from them. When that happens, a lot of things seem to fall apart.

Here are just a few examples of how routines have affected my productivity:

First cup
I often feel like I can't function until I've had my first cup of coffee in the morning. It is not that I need the caffeine to wake me up or energize me. It's just that drinking coffee is the first step in my morning routine; without it I feel a bit lost and I can't seem to get organized to tackle everything else.
Activities of daily Living
Most of us follow certain habits when getting ready for the day or going to bed. It is because we have established a habit for when we brush our teeth, apply deodorant, and pack our lunches that we remember to do these things. I always take out (and apply) my right contact lens first and then my left - this habit makes it a lot less likely that I will mix them up. By keeping my car keys always in the same spot, I am able to easily locate them the next day. It is usually when my daily routines become disturbed that I become less organized.
Medication schedule
I used to struggle with remembering to take my daily vitamins. A few years ago, however, I became much better at it. A veterinarian prescribed a daily medication for our dog which I give to her before bedtime, usually right after she comes inside for the night. I began taking my pills at the same time, and I almost never forget them now. Never, that is, unless we are out of town and the dog is not with us. Without the routine of bringing in the dog and giving her a pill, I sometimes forget my own!
Routines at work are as important as they are at home 
In my first job as a registered nurse, I worried that I would never figure out how to keep track of and stay on top of my many responsibilities.  I soon learned that the best way to meet all of my patients' needs was to set and follow some routines. Trying to do certain tasks in the same order (with every patient, every day) kept things orderly instead of chaotic. Of course, when caring for ill patients there are always many interruptions to the best thought-out plans, but a general routine to follow kept things running smoothly most of the time. 

You are less likely to skip parts of a multi-step task if you stick to a routine

Preparing a photo for a blog post is a multi-step process that includes taking the photo; uploading it to a photo-editing program; adding a watermark, a border, a caption; and resizing it appropriately. By always performing these tasks in the same order, I am much less likely to forget one of them. Following a set photo-editing routine can save me a lot of time. 

Routines keep us on the right track

Back in January, I published a post called "My Blogging Routine Broke." I described how my new exercise routine of getting up early was interfering with my previous pattern of writing and blogging late at night. I'm happy to report that I've stuck with the new exercise routine, but I have been slow to establish a productive new blogging schedule. This is partly because I have been taking a few on-line classes and doing some other writing; which are both tasks which I have not previously incorporated in any of my routines. 

Are all routines good ones?

A routine, as stated above, is "a regular way of doing things in a particular order." A good routine is one when all things to be done regularly are accomplished in an order that is maximally effective.
 Example of a routine:
  •  You get ready for bed, brush your teeth, and read for a while. 
  •  Right before you turn out the light, you're ready to take your pills - but one of them cannot be taken on an empty stomach. 
  • You go back out to the kitchen, drink a glass of milk and eat a cracker; take the pill. 
  • Brush your teeth again. 
  • Get into bed and turn out the light.
Example of a good routine *
  • Drink a glass of milk and eat a cracker, and take your bedtime pills
  • Brush your teeth, get ready for bed, and read for a while. 
  • Turn out the light - and get 5 to 10 more minutes of sleep than if you follow the routine above!
* Note that these are the same tasks as above, but the order in which they are accomplished is more efficient)
Routines help us remember to get things done. Good routines help us to get things done in an efficient  and timely way. 

Have you established good routines?

Think about all the things you need to accomplish on a regular basis:
  •  Evaluate whether you do those repetitive activities in an effective order. 
  • Are you doing them at a time when it makes the most sense and/or you have the maximum amount of energy for them? 
  • Are these all things you really need to be doing, or can you streamline your list of tasks?
I am taking a close look at all of my routines and trying to figure out ways to improve my own productivity. I know the secret lies in good routines, and I hope to soon re-establish better writing and blogging ones. When I do - you will see a lot more writing from me!

How about you? 
What can you do differently to set up some good routines?


  1. I lived by routine my entire life, it was the easiest way to get things done, especially with four kids. Then I retired. I stuck with routine for a while, now most of that has flown out the window and the only routines I keep are getting to bed at roughly the same time each nigh and getting the paper at the same time each Saturday morning. Everything else just flows by like treacle.

    1. After raising 4 kids, life probably does now seem like it has slowed down a little! I love your expression "flows by like treacle" ... the saying I learned was "slow as molasses in January"!

  2. I'm so good with my life routines, but my blogging/writing routines need work! I keep trying though!

    1. I'd be happy if I could just get back to the amount of productive blogging I had with my old blogging routines! When I'm not staying up late to write, it seems like the rest of the hours in the day just get filled with other stuff. Working on that though!

  3. My husband is a wreck if he gets thrown off his routine in any way. I used to be that way when I worked and now I've gotten better at it. It's something I've actually really been focusing on the last week. Trying to get everything organized on my computer so that I can start a routine from start to finish and time it, but I always forget to do that!

    1. Me too, Rena .... but you are a master at accomplishing a lot!

  4. Definitely a routines person. Couldn't function without them!

    1. Your blogging/ writing productivity astounds me, Diane - it is clear that routines work well for you!


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