One of the key principles of Lean Manufacture is routine.
Routines make things repeatable, they make sure that successful outcomes are reached again and again and again. They are incredibly powerful, they help us achieve consistent, quick, high quality results; time after time.
They are also central to our ability to Make Time.
The Power Of Routine
Routine’s get a bad reputation, people talk about being “stuck in a routine”, and indeed if they’re not reviewed and managed, then they can become negative forces, and we will come to discuss that, however, for the most part they are highly beneficial.
- Speed: Routines allow us to complete sequences of tasks significantly faster than we would otherwise be able to achieve. Think about it, the first time you do a piece of work made up of a sequence of tasks it can take a long time, but each time to you do that piece of work you will get steadily faster at it, you all become more efficient. We can apply this principle to almost anything in our day to day lives.
- Accuracy: Routines also reduce mistakes, there’s a reason they are used in manufacturing, if you are performing the same set of tasks in the same sequence then not only will you get faster, but you will make fewer mistakes than you would if you were performing the tasks in a different sequence each time.
We can improve both speed and accuracy further if we use Pre-Set Up, which will be the subject of the next article.
- Clear Head: Routines help us clear our minds and get into a flow, they give us the space to think about other things, or to not think at all (something which is highly underrated), they help us avoid the pitfalls of Decision Fatigue by removing the need to constantly decide what needs to happen next and instead just flow from one task to the next.
Taking The Time To Get It Right
Setting up a routine is easy, you can do it right now, I’m willing to bet you can think of a sequence of tasks that you perform each day that can be turned into a routine. Your morning bathroom routine, breakfast, pre-bed routine, what you do when you arrive at work; all of these things can be turned into standardised routines that are the same every time.But how do you make sure you’ve set up your routine in the most efficient way? Well, you don’t.It’s worth taking the time to think about the order in which you want to do things, and how best to optimise that sequence so that it’s runs as smoothly as possible. It’s also worth thinking up front about setting up certain elements ahead to help make them repeatable think a form at work, or a rule in your email. Taking this time up front can help bed the routine in initially, but it’s important to recognise that none of this will be set in stone. Good routines grow and change with time.
I’ll cover some of my routines at a high level here, I won’t go into any real detail as they will be the subject of a number of future posts. However, suffice to say I have a number of routines that are central to my days, these include:
- Pre-Bed shutdown: This isn’t just about closing out the house, but preparing for the next morning and getting myself into a space that is ready to go to sleep. Pre-bed routines have been shown to be crucial to getting a good night’s sleep.
- Morning: In the morning I tend to do the same things in the same order, this is partly because there’s a lot that I want to get through, but also because I don’t really want to have to think in the mornings, I just want to get up and get my day started with the least friction possible.
- End of Workday: I have a sequence of things that I do to close out my work day and get ready for the next day. I also have a slightly different more involved sequence of activities that I run through to close out the week.
- Training: My weekly gym training routine and the daily workout routines that operate within it ensure that I can meet my health and fitness goals without spending hours and hours at the gym.
I have Routines, How Can I Improve Them?
If you already have routines in place then there’s a couple of things you can do here.
You can automate elements of the routine, as I mentioned in the last post, services like ITTT can help you automate some elements of your day, especially if they are linked to your smart home devices. Similarly, digital assistants like Siri or Alexa can now help you to complete sequences of complex tasks, just by talking to your connected device.
The most important path to improvement though it iteration, no routine should be written in stone, you should look to constantly improve and update your routines as your lifestyle changes, or as new technologies come on line to help you delegate repetitive tasks out.
You must also not be afraid to remove steps that simply aren’t working, if something is awkward or jarring or ruined the flow of your routine then the chances are it shouldn’t be there, it should either be moved to another place or removed completely.
No routine is perfect, there will always be room to improve and optimise, remember to adjust to your situation and requirements. Repetition will make your life easier, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of flexibility.