This is not likely to come as a surprise to anyone who’s known me for more than let’s say 48 hours, but I am very much a creature of habit. I’m not talking about having a routine that I sometimes follow. I passed “routine” when I was about 14 years old. No, I’m talking about full blown habits – a propensity to do certain things at virtually the same time every day. Take, for example, the year I spent at the University of Notre Dame. Early on in my time there, I discovered that the library had “listening cubicles” that allowed students to “check out” a headset and any album of their choice from an incredible inventory of music. The librarian attendant would then direct you to a booth and cue up the record for the student’s listening pleasure. Few people know this, but, once I discovered that, I made it a point to arrive at the library when it opened every day I was in South Bend, so that I could spend the first 30 to 45 minutes of my day listening to music – something I very much enjoyed – before heading off to the cafeteria for breakfast and then to classes. Trust me, there’s nothing like starting your day with Simon & Garfunkel.
Over the years, some have suggested that the way I live is too “mechanical” and “predictable” for them – and I get that. In an ideal world, I likely would have been better off finding more of a balance and allowing myself to enjoy a little more spontaneity. Some even make fun of me for my habit-driven way of living and, candidly, I’m a rather easy target. But, there is a method to my madness. In fact, not unlike the benefits that modern-day sports psychologists ascribe to having a “pre-shot routine,” incorporating certain habits into your daily life, particularly at the start of the day, has many tangible benefits. Among other things, it requires and, therefore, builds a strong sense of self-discipline. It also requires a level of commitment that is certain to spill over into other aspects of your life. In addition, it eliminates the need for you to have to do a lot of thinking about the “basic” activities of daily living, which breeds consistency and confidence. Moreover, it creates a sort of “mental to do list” that eliminates the frustration that comes from getting to the end of a day and feeling like you didn’t get the most out of it.
Perhaps most importantly, over time, it also makes you much more efficient. Knowing that you are going to get up at a specific time, what you’re going to wear, when you will leave for work, what you’re going to have for breakfast and when, what you need and want to accomplish before lunch, etc. takes a lot of the guess work out of the mundane aspects of everyday life that otherwise would generate indecision that, in turn, would consume surprisingly large quantities of your time. The net result is that you will find yourself getting a lot more things done a lot more quickly that your non-habit peers, which should leave you with more “free time” to do the things you enjoy (e.g., reading, writing, spending time with friends, coaching, teaching, etc.). I’m not suggesting for a minute that my way of doing things is for everyone – clearly it’s not. In fact, I’ll be the first to admit that the “sameness” of daily habits is not always a lot of “fun.” But I can promise you that it has its rewards and they will become immediately apparent to you if you choose to give establishing your own daily “pre-shot” routine a try!