Systematically developing habits, routines and rituals is a critical step in learning to ROCK the 9-to-5. Likewise, critically evaluating existing habits and routines provides important building blocks for rockers-to-be. This three-part series (1) explains the core concepts, (2) ensures you understand their importance, and (3) provides you with the two elements you need to build and improve your own habits, routines and rituals!

Tame the Chaos with Minimal Brainpower

Our minds do their best to bring order to the chaotic world around us. That’s why we easily develop habits – things we do without conscious thought – and repeat them over and over again. You get up in the morning and use the restroom. When you walk into the kitchen, you immediately brew a cup of coffee. These small habits develop over time and eventually don’t require any willpower or effort to do them.

Often, a series of those habits can naturally develop. You get out of bed, put on your slippers and robe, use the restroom, go to the kitchen a make a cup of coffee, go back to the bathroom and shave, shower, brush your teeth, floss… you get the picture. Chances are you’ll end up doing the same series of habits in the exact same order until you can do the entire series without thinking. This is called a routine; and routines go even further in creating a stable foundation from which to operate. If there are things that we must accomplish each day, then it makes sense to do them in such a way that requires the least amount of thought and no willpower. We don’t want to wear ourselves out on simple things!

Break a Routine and Chaos Returns!

We generally think of habits as developing on their own because our minds tend to create them for us subconsciously. Brain chemistry supports this process because we get a little shot of dopamine by completing even a simple task. Thus our brains learn to guide us to complete certain things without much thought. Once the little feeling of accomplishment no longer occurs upon completing the task, doing it has become a habit. Once it’s a habit, we feel a little discombobulated if we don’t complete it. If you’ve ever started doing a routine, completed a task differently for some reason, and then found yourself getting a bit confused – or skipping a certain task/habit completely – then you know what I’m talking about.

For example, when I’m getting ready to leave the house, I go into my office and do the exact same thing every time. I grab my phone from the charger and stick it in my back pocket. I step over to the cabinet and grab my wallet with my left hand and put it in my left pocket; my right hand puts my keys in my right pocket. My earbuds go in my breast pocket, my bracelet goes on my right wrist and my watch goes on my left wrist. It’s the same sequence every time and I don’t even think about it. Most of the time, I don’t even remember doing it.

If there are things that we must accomplish each day, then it makes sense to do them in such a way that requires the least amount of thought and no willpower…

One day, my son and I were heading out and, as we were driving away from the house, I noticed I wasn’t wearing my watch. How did that happen?! Thinking back, I realized that I had broken my routine. Instead of putting on the bracelet that I had been wearing, I picked out a different one before starting my routine. That caused me to walk past my phone on the charger. As I was grabbing my wallet, I thought about the phone and went back to the charger. By that point, my routine was shot. I had to think through every step while I was scrambling to grab stuff because we had to get on the road and my mind was already focusing on where we were going and what we’d be doing… and I forgot to grab my watch. I broke my routine and missed an important step!

Intention & Focus Turn Routines into Rituals

Routines can be very powerful but they can also be detrimental. It all depends upon how they evolved. Unintentionally string a bunch of bad habits together and the resulting routine is even worse. But bring intention and focus to a routine and you create something designed to be positive and good for you. We create rituals by adding focus and intention to the power of routines to achieve a certain outcome.

When we introduce positive rituals into our lives – rituals designed to move us towards our goals – we create a stable foundation for everything else we set out to do. Rituals help us complete many critical tasks without needing discipline or willpower. They allow us to harness the power of habits and routines using focus and intention. Rituals give us the boost we need to gain momentum. Rituals also let us spend our time and mental energy on complex matters that require more thought and creativity.

So What?

Life is often chaotic. Conquering the chaos uses up so much brain power and will power that stress and overwhelm are common.  Our brains cope with all of this by naturally developing habits and routines. Bringing intention and focus to this natural process allows us to create rituals. Habits, routines and rituals form the stable foundation needed to skyrocket productivity, achieve goals, and ROCK the 9-to-5!

Now What?

Journal Prompts: What is your morning routine? What is another routine you have? What could you do to improve one of those routines?

Next Action: Focus on an evening routine. If you don’t have one, create it. If you already have one, improve it.

Further Reading: Pick up the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg