I have a routine in the morning. For the past year to two years, I have started my mornings by waking up early. I get up between 5:30am-6:00am, while the house is still quiet. The getting up part didn’t start as a routine. My routine started with me waking up and being annoyed with myself for starting this routine in the first place. I was forcing myself to get up an hour earlier than I was accustomed to. I don’t start work until 8:00am and I have no commute. So, why would I make myself get up that early? Even my cats were questioning my motives.
Why Did I Start a Routine?
It all started when I decided I was going to finally get around to writing a novel, which has been on my to do list since childhood. As a kid I would write short stories on paper, always starting with Chapter 1 written in large font in the header. I could go into all the reasons why that fell apart, but fast forward to adulthood and the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was time.
Not having the time was an easy excuse for not getting started or for not finishing what I started. I was busy with work, with my kids and other commitments. When was I going to find the time to write? And besides, there were plenty of things I needed to be doing on the internet. I managed to convince myself that I didn’t have time to do what I wanted to do for a very long time.
This is when I decided to make a change. I had to ask myself a few questions.
Was I willing to give up some time on the internet to write my novel? Yes.
Was I willing to change my habits in order to find more time? Yes.
Was I willing to commit until I finished my novel? Yes.
And so, I started getting up at 5:30am. I had 1.5 hours until the family would be getting up meaning I had 1.5 hours of no home distractions. What I did have was internet distractions and it took plenty of willpower not to check that new Facebook notification. My cats didn’t know what to think of my odd behaviour. I can remember sitting on the couch while one of the cats swatted at my hair and the other held me down while laying on me… or something like that. But I kept at it and after a couple of months, I had roughly 120,000 words written, which I then edited down to 95,000 words.
I can now say I have written a novel.
I am now continuing to apply my routine to the next novel by still getting up at 5:30am. I don’t need an alarm clock anymore. My cats wake me up at 5:30am. They know my routine (although sometimes they try to convince me to be up at 4:00am). They sit beside me on the couch and sleep while I write and sip coffee. My day feels off if something keeps me from this time of creativity. I need to get my characters stories out before my day gets filled with distractions. I find this early time is now when I am the most productive.
Just remember that sometimes you need to pull away from something temporarily while you focus on one thing and change your behaviour. I took a break from making YouTube videos for a stretch while I made writing a priority. When I was ready to reintroduce YouTube videos into my schedule, I asked myself similar questions to those above, made a schedule and carved out the time. I now have a video schedule planned for the next 6 months.
Routines work if you stick to them. But you have to start one for it to work.
So, how can you start a routine? Below I share with you some key points that I think are important to setting a routine.
Start By Setting A Goal
Figure out why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you do something without purpose you won’t know what you’re aiming for. Everything you do should be pointing toward an overall goal. Don’t say to yourself you are going to exercise 4x/week without having a reason for it. You don’t want to be a couple weeks in only to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Keep that long term goal in mind.
Do An Inventory
Have a good look at what you have going on in your life. Is there anything in your life that is a time waster? What needs prioritization? In my case, it was family and my work. There were some commitments that I needed to follow through with but I had more free time than I was willing to first admit. Once you know what you’re doing and when you’re doing it, you’ll start to see windows of opportunity that you can capitalize on. Take it!
Pick A Time
Getting up at 5:30am might not work for you, but identify the optimal time for you where when you do the activity you want to do, you’re at your best and will have few distractions. We like excuses for why we don’t do something. Our biggest excuse is not having the time, saying we were being pulled in multiple directions. Pick a time when you usually aren’t pulled in multiple directions. My best time is before work starts and before family is awake. Perhaps a good time for you in over lunch or after dinner. Maybe even winding down before bed. Just pick a time and own it.
Being consistent is hard, especially when your routine is new. You are in the habit of doing it yet. Be intentional about achieving your goal. Whenever you start to whine to yourself about doing something, remind yourself of the goal you set. Remember “Why am I doing this?” You know why. It is why you started doing this in the first place. You already set aside the time for yourself. Use your time productively.
So What Can Be A Routine?
A routine can be anything you want it to be. It is getting yourself into a consistent pattern that continually moves you forward toward your goal.
For a YouTube Channel, your routine could be your schedule.
- When are you planning your content schedule?
- What days are you going to set aside to film your video?
- When is the best time to focus on video editing?
- How often and what days are you going to release videos?
For writing, the routine could be:
- Getting up at 5:30am to write every day.
- Spending the first week researching a topic.
- Re-reading your writing in the evening.
- Going to the coffee shop to write.
- Spend 15 mins of every writing session getting the day dreaming out of your system.
A routine is only as effective as you want it to be. If a routine isn’t working for you, start a new one. We all have things that come up, but the following day is the day to get back into your routine. Don’t let a day of distraction derail you. Always keep moving toward your goal.
Keep to your routine and you’ll get there.