Build Your Own Routines to Enter a Productivity Mindset

What do the top athletes have in common?

NBA Free Throw Routines

From basketball to tennis…

Serving Rituals (Nadal, Federer, Thiem, Djokovic, Murray, ...)

Routines and rituals.

In this article, I’ll share the importance of routines and why you should build one yourself. I’ll tackle some misconceptions about it and, more importantly, how you can build your own routines.

The Importance of Routines

In business, the emphasis on routines has grown a lot over the last few years. You’ll find countless articles showing the routines of millionaires and billionaires.

  • Get up early at 5am
  • Meditate for 30 minutes
  • Exercise
  • Wear the same clothes everyday

Regardless of who is doing them and what are they doing, what matters more is the routine itself.

The point of having routines is to get you into a mindset that allows you to perform at your best. By doing a group of actions together, you get into a rhythm. If you were to list every little action on a checklist, you will already have completed several items on it. It gets you going. It motivates you.

It doesn’t matter when you do your routine activities. What counts is that you commit to doing them — even when you don’t feel like it.

—Kim Beom-su, Chairman, Kakao

This also means you don’t have to follow other people’s routines. What worked for them might not work for you. If it does, then great. But whatever it is, the more important part is you make it yours.

Misconceptions About Routines

Routines and rituals aren’t rigid. At its core, it’s a series of tasks that you do before or after doing something. It gets you in the right mindset. Ready for whatever you’re supposed to be doing.

via GIPHY

For the person not doing it, it may seem boring. Weird even. But to the person who’s doing the routine, it’s a personalized experience. It’s something sacred. A ritual.

Routines also don’t have to be elaborate nor take up a lot of time. It can be a series of action like what Nadal or Federer does when they serve. It can be that prayer Karl Malone mumbles each time he shoots a free throw.

This is what makes building your own routines and rituals important. It has to mean something to you.

Benefits of Creating Your Own Routines

There are a lot of benefits of establishing your own routines. Here are my top three:

1. You Enter a Productive Mindset

First, it helps you be more productive by helping you get started with your day or task with the right mindset.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

—Aristotle

You don’t spend your limited energies thinking about what to do next. You just follow your routine and the rest will follow.

Take, for example, how I wrote this post. I had my content calendar but I’m just not into writing the content that was supposed to be scheduled for that day. But, I followed my calendar. I stuck to my routine. And that is to write. I plugged my earphones, played binaural music, and just typed away.

Most people think about morning routines. The waking up at 5am in the morning or meditating for 30 minutes or exercise first thing in the morning.

Personally, my morning routine is drinking a cup of water as I decide on which coffee to drink. I typically have 2-3 bags of different whole bean coffee flavors to choose from. I add water to my kettle, weigh my beans, grind them, and wait for my water to boil. I prepare my brewing equipment. I usually use v60 but if I’m not feeling lazy, I bring out my Aeropress. By this time, my water would have boiled already. I wait a few minutes to get the temperature down.

I pre-heat my equipment and prepare the ground beans. Once the timer rings, I setup another timer for the brewing process. Then as I pour the water, I start the timer. After that, I enjoy my freshly brewed cup of coffee. That’s how I start my day.

I don’t have to wake up earlier than what I’m used to. I don’t have to do anything extraordinary. I just do what works for me and what’s meaningful for me.

2. Create Boundaries in Your Life

A routine helps create boundaries with parts of your day as well. My coffee routine kicks off my day. After I finish my coffee ritual, I head over to my work station and do whatever needs to get done.

For the past couple of months, the first thing on my calendar has always been writing. Unless there’s a client meeting at that time, I spend my mornings writing.

Then, at the end of the day, my routine is simple: I update my bullet journal and list down completed tasks and stuff I need to do the next day. This includes taking a look at my calendar to see if there are important events I need to prepare for like a client meeting or a personal errand.

After this, I pack and clean everything on my desk. I don’t leave my laptop and my notebook on the table. I stack them vertically like books in a library over to the side, including my external keyboard and mouse. The only thing that remains on my desk is my big keyboard/mouse pad.

This means my work day has ended.

3. Helps Avoid Decision Fatigue

The last benefit people often don’t understand that you get to avoid decision fatigue. Ever wonder why high-performing entrepreneurs use the same clothes every single day?

If you keep changing the way you do things, you’ll never get work done. It might feel exciting at first, but soon, you’ll feel overwhelmed with a lot of things happening.

That’s why during times of chaos, people often find themselves writing a list of things to do. It organizes things. You mind now know that if you do the things on this list, everything will return back to normal.

That’s what routines do for you. It brings a sense of calm and peace into your life so you can do what you need to do at your best.

How to Create Your Own Routine: Customized and Personalized for Yourself

There are many ways you can follow to build your own routines. I’m offering a practical approach.

Step 1: Decide on the Routine

Most people obsess about the morning routines. But if you’re like me, getting up at 5 am will hurt you in the long-run. I used to do this but can’t keep up. My circadian rhythm is just different.

Note that every new habit will be dreadful at the start. But after a few weeks, that usually goes away. For example, after years of not hitting the gym, your first two weeks will be painful. But after that, it gets easier despite the intensity of the workouts you do. The most painful will always be that first workout after years of not doing anything.

You can pick a time of day (morning, night) or an event like after finishing a task. This will depend largely on what you do, that’s why you have to make it your own.

In my case, I have my morning wakeup/coffee routine and an end-of-day routine. The ones I shared above.

Whenever I need to focus on one particular task like writing or analyzing data, I plug my earphones, binaural beats, turn off all notifications and get started.

Whatever you choose, pick one to get started.

Step 2: Answer Your Why

Why are you doing it? Ask yourself that a couple of times.

  • to increase productivity. Why?
  • to get work done faster. Why?
  • so I get to spend time with my family no later than 6 pm.

And so on. Dig deep. This helps you stay motivated.

Step 3: Analyze Your Current Routines

You might not think you have one, but you already have habits that you constantly do.

  • Watching Netflix after dinner until you fall asleep, that’s your routine.
  • Checking your Facebook and Instagram in bed until your eyes hurt, that’s your routine
  • Answering email first thing in the morning, that’s your routine
  • Checking every single notification that pops up on your phone and computer, that’s your routine (i.e. you’re routinely distracted)

Think about what you’re currently doing. Write it down or take note of it.

Step 4: Add or Change

If you’re happy with it and it’s helping you achieve your goals, stick to it. Then ask yourself if you want to add something to it. If it’s not and detrimental, you might want to change it.

In another post, I wrote that in order to keep up with my 30-day writing challenge, I had to change two things:

  1. Wake up 30 minutes earlier — I wake up around 7:00-7:30 am, so I adjusted that to 30 minutes earlier. That’s it. Not 5 am. I’m not going to function at that time.
  2. Spend less time watching Netflix — instead, I used the time at night to read books and other articles.

I need to wake up earlier so that everything is more quiet. I had a full plate at that time with client work. So, I had to cut back on personal leisure if I want to finish that challenge. In order for me to feel refreshed when I wake up, I need to sleep earlier. That means I cut back on Netflix at night.

The reading part came from knowing that my outputs are only as good as my inputs. If I don’t read or take in new information that is useful, my writing suffers. And it just makes it harder. That’s why I make it a point to spend at least an hour reading each day.

What are you currently doing that is helping you be more productive? What are those that prevent you from performing well?

Step 5: Make It Happen

All new things are hard. But as they say, that’s a sign of growth.

This is easy in the first few days. The hardest part is sticking to it even if you don’t feel like it.

Good habits are hard to form but easy to live with. Bad habits are easy to form but hard to live with.

—Brian Tracy

I don’t have any special advice, but really just do it. The more you follow your routine, the more it gets easier. The effect of it comes to you later—you might not notice it but every single time you do your routine, it unconsciously primes your mind and body for what you’re about to do.

It lowers your reliance on willpower and motivation because, as Tynan, the author of Superhuman by Habit, says, habits are “action(s) that you take on a repeated basis with little or no required effort or thought.”

Over to You

Have you ever thought about your own habits, routines, and rituals? Are they helping you achieve your goals or not?

Why not take the time to look at what you do, decide if that’s something you want to keep doing, and figure out how you can improve and perform better.

Ariel Lim

Ariel Lim

Management consultant / MBA / Inbound marketer who helps startups generate leads, create and execute strategies.

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