A coach of mine said,
“If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got. “
– Henry Ford
It’s true. When actions and habits are routinely practiced (consciously or not) the results should be consistent. In these repetitive behaviours lies the key to unlocking our potential.
Rugby like all sports is full of routine. What links the two is the aspiration for consistent outcomes. Success in sports unlike other professions is determined by your ability to perform consistently under extreme duress. When attacking a goal (ours being a super rugby title) it is important to break it down into manageable, attainable targets. Our weeks become uniform blocks geared towards a successful outcome (a match win). Think of the week like a wave building. The initial surge of the wave is the beginning of the week where you are recovering, training and studying in preparation for the game ahead. Intensity builds as the week progresses until we reach the crest. The crest of the wave is the game. Where all the repetition, study and practice comes to fruition. There is a methodological nature to the week and for good reason. Finding this consistency is the difference between success and failure. I find this consistency through routine.
What is a Routine?
We all have routines. The key is developing a positive one that encourages a healthy, productive and focused lifestyle. For me a successful routine is a compilation of good habits piled on top of one another to provide a structured start or end point to my day. Some call it “Habit Stacking” (S. J. Scott, 2014) and it has a host of benefits such as:
- A preparation tool, priming us for the day ahead and the goals we want to achieve.
- Reinforcing a state of mind.
- Improving time management. Having structured routines increases efficiency, freeing up important time to achieve our goals.
- Stress reduction. A by-product of limited inconsistency created through routine.
- Increasing focus. The less decisions you have to make in the morning, the more you can focus on important work.
- Routines are uniform in nature, allowing us to save our creative juices for creativity not on trivial decisions (like deciding on what to have for breakfast).
Routines are multiple activities stacked on top of one another. These activities can be categorised into important and unimportant. It is necessary to understand that this differs from good and bad. For example you wake up and your first activity may be to exercise. This may be physically beneficial but if you are chasing creativity it can be unimportant. Research tells us that the most productive and creative time of our day is the first few hours after we wake. If we are seeking creativity yet workout from the hours of 6-8am, we are wasting our time and energy on an activity that is not aligned with our goals. That is not to say don’t work out, just find a more suitable time aligned with your goals.
There is no right or wrong formula when it comes to routine. Everyone’s processes are different. I have two, a morning and night routine. Both prime me for the day ahead and the later to wind down and facilitate sleep. Personally, I get more out of my morning routine but believe in the power of both. These look like:
I wake up an hour and a half before I need to leave the house. This is around 6:30-7.00am depending on my first appointment for the day. I try to keep this consistent. Upon waking the first thing I do is drink a large glass of water. Not only does this fire up your metabolism but also hydrate your body as you haven’t drank anything for the 8hrs you have just slept.
Next I make my bed. A lot of people talk about the benefits of making your bed, whether it is a sense of accomplishment (starting the day off with the completion of a task) or instilling a note of discipline. Whatever the reason, nothing compares to coming home from a hard days training to a neat and tidy bed.
Run a cold shower. Similar in theory to an ice bath, cold water immersion resets the nervous system and leaves you feeling energised and refreshed. This is a new addition to my routine and can be challenging at times. When lacking motivation I start with warm and finish on a cold.
Following a shower I tag on a guided meditation. This goes for 10-20 minutes using the Headspace App. I meditate for a few reasons. Firstly, meditation helps me focus and clears my mind. Secondly, acknowledging my thoughts without judgement helps me better understand my emotions, their sources and thus separate them from my decision-making.
Breakfast. This varies depending on the time of training. I like to eat 1.5hr before a session. Timing is everything. If I leave it too late I feel heavy and bloated running around. Contrastingly, if I eat too early I lack energy and am unable to focus towards the end of training.
Learn. This may involve reading the news, a book or listening to a podcast and usually occurs whilst I am eating breakfast. It is a simple and easy way to discover something new especially when our brains are fresh.
Journaling. My journaling is threefold. It involves a gratitude diary, focus points and a To Do list. After dinner sometime I will sit down and write for 15 minutes. I start with noting three or more things I am grateful for that day. This puts my day into perspective and ensures I maintain a positive mindset (see blog post 4). Following this I write some focus points, providing direction and outcomes to measure the day ahead. Lastly, if I have any tasks or jobs that need to be done I write them down in a to do list. The importance of a To Do list lies in the transferal of thoughts onto paper. This gives me a clear mind, which allows me to relax and wind down.
Prepare. Next I pack my bag for tomorrow. This reduces the decision making around my morning. It is also comforting knowing that I am prepared for the day in advance.
Read for 30+ Minutes. I enjoy reading. It is a great habit that gets me into bed prior to sleeping and provides an alternative to scrolling through feeds on my phone.
Habit Stacking creates a routine that primes me for my day. If you are interested in developing a routine be patient, it takes time. Creating habits is hard, what makes them stick is a positive outcome. Be conscious of your daily routines and your desired results. If you aren’t getting a desired result then tweak your habit/routine. The whole concept of routine is to reproduce the same outcome. These outcomes vary depending on your goals. Your ability to deliver consistent performances will play a powerful role in determining your success.
S. J. Scott, 2014, Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less