What do Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Arianna Huffington, and Jeff Bezos have in common? Each is an unstoppable juggernaut of achievement who is recognized as a paradigm of success.
Behind that success, however, is a second, more important similarity: All of these luminaries created routines that allowed them to accomplish and achieve beyond what most individuals believe to be possible. Routines prove that success isn't something that happens, it is something that you do.
Why are routines important?
As noted in the introduction, routines are important because they are the keys to success. Whether you are an artist or an entrepreneur, creating patterns of functionality that promote efficiency and push away time-wasting, procrastinatory behaviors is what allows you to excel.
However, there is far more to life than success. Routines are critical to helping you live your best, most vibrant and fulfilling life.
Mightier than willpower
Would you believe that permanent change is not achieved through willpower? Willpower involves a constant struggle. If you need to actively engage in or must continually force yourself to refrain from a behavior, statistics say that failure is more likely to occur.
Habits and routines, on the other hand, are nearly impossible to thwart. If you have picked up any bad ones over the years, then you know firsthand that this is true. Routines hold such sway over your life because you do them without conscious thought or effort — it can be very hard to stop doing something that you don't even realize you are doing.
Why are routines important?
Have you ever noticed when something unexpected comes along — a wrench is thrown into the gears of your day — it creates stress. The greater the chaos, the less control you feel you have and the more desperate a situation seems to become. Consequently, once that mindset takes hold, you begin to lose confidence in yourself. Routines can drastically reduce stress and promote healthy lifestyles that are devoid of crutches. In other words, routines empower us to live victoriously.
Besides reducing anxiety and building confidence, routines can help you break bad habits, increase efficiency, and eliminate procrastination. When you think about doing a task, it's easy to drag your feet. However, if you just do something without conscious thought, you don't give yourself a chance to put it off. Establishing solid routines will decrease the number of items on your daily to-do list. With fewer items on that list, you will have more time to explore your passions and live a more rewarding life.
Morning routines successful people swear by
Waking up right sets the tone for your entire day. Finding the right morning routines will help you achieve a consistently positive outlook on life so you can face each and every day with exuberance. Following are some of the morning routines that other highly successful individuals employ.
Establish a consistent wake-up time
One of the most important things you can do is learn your sleep cycles so you wake up naturally. When you interrupt a sleep cycle — because you are waking up at different times every morning — the result impacts not only your mood, but also your overall health. Not finishing a sleep cycle will slow down your reaction times throughout the day and diminish your ability to make sound decisions. Additionally, your capacity to learn and remember will be affected. Broken sleep cycles can even lead to a build-up of proteins that have been linked to Alzheimer's disease. Therefore, it is essential to establish a consistent wake-up time so your sleep cycles are not interrupted and you give yourself the best chance for a good day.
Self-care comes first
Waking up is hard for nearly everyone. It is the rare individual who can spring from the bed ready and raring to go. Whatever it is that you need to do for you, that should take priority. Some individuals set aside 10 minutes of meditation before even getting out of bed. Others begin the day with a yoga session. There are even people who enjoy an intense a.m. cardio workout. Whatever it is that you need, the morning is the time to seize it. Starting off your day feeling satisfied, balanced, and fulfilled will allow you to better focus on and accomplish tasks throughout the day.
Oatmeal or a smoothie? Believe it or not, making decisions is exhausting. Unlike nearly everything else in life, practice does not make perfect when it comes to making decisions. On the contrary, studies have concluded that the more decisions you make within a limited amount of time, the worse you will be at making them. The condition is called "decision fatigue."
Unfortunately, making decisions is something that we all must do every day, all day long. The best way to ensure that you are sharp and fresh when it comes time to tackle the ones that matter most is to eliminate as many non-essential decisions from your day as possible. For instance, you don't want to diminish your decision-making abilities on trivialities such as "Which power tie should I wear today?" Instead, conserve your energy for making decisions that have the greatest impact on your success.
Bedtime routines successful people swear by
As vital as it is to start your day off in the right manner, it is even more important to end it well. Not establishing healthy nighttime routines will allow the lingering stress and pressures of the day to interfere with that all-important downtime. If this happens, no matter how perfect those established morning routines are, they won't be effective. Here are some bedtime routines that highly productive individuals follow so they can thrive the following day.
Establish a consistent bedtime
That consistent wake-up time that we proposed in the previous section will only be effective if you also have a consistent bedtime. Shortening (or lengthening) your sleep time will have the same unwanted effect: You won't be able to function at peak efficiency. Adhere to a strict bedtime so there will be no surprises the following morning.
It seems that there is always time to answer one more email or do one more quick task. The problem is, that one email or task often turns into several emails or the task may have repercussions that resonate long after the end of the workday. If pursued, it is not uncommon for that final Slack message to be sent just before bedtime. Not only have studies proven that increasing work hours actually produce a sharp decline in productivity, but having work on your mind before going to bed will disrupt your sleep. The best routine you can establish for yourself is a hard line on when the end of the workday is. No exceptions.
Strive for device-free evenings
The medical community's current stance on LED devices is that the blue light that they all emit interferes with the body's production of melatonin, the hormone which allows you to fall asleep. It is estimated that the effects of using a smartphone or a tablet can delay the start of the sleep process by as much as 120 minutes. That's right, in order to have your best, most restful sleep, you need to put away your phone a full two hours before bedtime. If you truly want to make tomorrow the best day ever, it starts with tonight... and a strict phone curfew.
The true purpose of routines
The definition of success is different for every individual. Consequently, the routines that contribute to that success are just as varied. There is no doubt that routines work, but you must adapt them to be appropriate to your specific needs and your definition of success. Ultimately, only you know what is best for you. If you wake up at 5 a.m., for instance, you can't begin the day by answering emails because the emails haven't started coming in yet.
Establishing routines helps you to streamline your life to get rid of unnecessary distractions. Additionally, it allows you to set the limits and boundaries needed to create the parameters that make it possible for you to clearly define and measure your accomplishments. The goal of establishing healthy, productive routines isn't so you work harder and longer, it is so you can create time in your schedule to allow for those moments that give life meaning.
Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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