[November 13, 2020] A successful Army 2-star general once told me never to let anyone control my schedule. Instead, he advised that I develop my own routine and stick by it. Having a routine and following it has many advantages, which I address below. I discovered that senior leaders must plan adequately, husband their time resources, and develop useful routines.
“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” – John C. Maxwell
A word of caution. No leader should be so bound by their routines (often defined in their schedules) that it becomes a straightjacket. Over-reliance on routines can reduce flexibility, stifle creativity, and make the leader too predictable and miserable. With experience, a leader can avoid these traps and use routines to improve both their leadership efficiency and effectiveness on the job and at home.
Routines are commonly associated with written schedules. But this is not typically the case with more senior leaders. Routines for them can also be in the form of standard operating procedures (SOPs) that layout a proven path to problem-solving. Who needs to reinvent the wheel when others have already been down that path and created a way to succeed?
The advantages of having a routine are:
- It maintains consistency in expectations
- It’s healthier, both mentally and physically
- More efficient and effective use of time and resources available
- Helps displace bad habits
- Provides more control over your day
- Motivates (less procrastination)
Having a routine is one of the best leader habits. Every military leader I ever met has had many routines, and those routines do occasionally change. I was most impressed with two of my fellow Flag officers who could get any complex mission accomplished within the allotted time. Their secret was simple; get a routine for yourself and others and stick with it.1
I would also recommend that any daily routine show a balance to include family time, reading, thinking, and other mental activities that allow the individual to break from their workday.2
- Calendars are a classic routine. SOPs are another form of routine. Regardless of what form, leaders must control their routines and not let those same routines control them. We are never taught how to plan, create, and maintain a routine, yet these skills are overwhelmingly crucial for our success in life.
- To find other “good habits” articles on my leadership webpage (there are 46 other ones), either search ‘habits’ in the search box or go to my Electronic Books page and download the 2018 version titled “Good Habits for Leaders (2018 Edition).” I’ll shortly update this book and post it.