Good Habits #46:  Having a Routine

By | November 13, 2020

[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:

  1. It maintains consistency in expectations
  2. It’s healthier, both mentally and physically
  3. More efficient and effective use of time and resources available
  4. Helps displace bad habits
  5. Provides more control over your day
  6. 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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

23 thoughts on “Good Habits #46:  Having a Routine

    1. Walt Allen

      Spot on comment. I’m new here but really like the clean interface and great feedback is worth it!!!

  1. Greg Heyman

    Another top-notch article by Gen. Satterfield. I especially like this long-running series on good habits of a leader. These may seem overly simple or just “common sense” but they are more. These habits build upon any personality that can make for a much great and more satisfying life.

    1. apache2

      Yep, Greg. Spot on comment. Thanks. This is why I keep coming back to this leadership website. Thanks, Gen. Satterfield.

  2. Max Foster

    Good Habits are often overlooked for many reasons. I won’t go into them all here but I do want to point out that one of the main reason people don’t adopt good habits is because they don’t put their mind to it and simply lack the motivation. Usually it is a good thing that any leader has a mentor or coach that can point this out. Such a person can be a spouse or a good friend; someone who can tell the leader the truth without worry.

  3. The Kid 1945

    “2. It’s healthier, both mentally and physically”
    The most important of them all.

    1. Janna Faulkner

      I agree because being healthy means being around longer and present so that a leader can do their job.

    2. Xerxes I

      I also agree. If you are not well, you cannot do your job. Stay healthy, my friends.

  4. Willie Shrumburger

    Routines are not just schedules. I think Gen. Satterfield did not exactly make that clear. He did use the example of an SOP as a kind of routine but also note that routines can span not just a day or week but years and can also be situational-dependent. Keep that in mind (like the SOP example). Another wonderfully useful mini-series. Read them all.

    1. Purse 5

      Thanks Dennis for the reminder and the link. Excellent book and its FREE.
      I do recommend you give Gen. Satterfield credit whenever you quote him. We need to continue to get the word out on this website and its value, in particular, to up and coming leaders.
      Great website, Gen. Satterfield. Thank you!!!!

    2. Dead Pool Guy

      Gen. Satterfield also linked it in his footnote #2 at the end of his article. Thanks Dennis for pointing this out. Its a great list of “to do” habits that we all should pay close attention to.

  5. Tom Bushmaster

    A daily routine or, for senior leaders, a weekly or monthly routine, does wonders for both the leader and those around him or her. It is such a uncomplicated and basic idea that many still overlook it as an effective way to be a better leader.

    1. Wendy Holmes

      Good point, Tom. And, maybe younger people think it is beneath them to adopt an old (yet proven) tactic to be a better person. Too many of them think that unless it is complicated and “new” that it will not work on “modern” people. I get a good laugh every time I hear one of these snowflakes talk about it.

      1. Eric Coda

        Ha, snowflakes are everywhere and they are starting to infect older people with it…. just look at snowflake Joe Biden. Now, that is one group he can lead. He is tied up in his basement – I don’t know what he’s doing there – but at least he’s not sniffing women’s hair any more, at least that we know of.

      2. Jerome Smith

        Ha Ha,,,, great comments. Made me laugh, esp. about snowflake Biden. 😊


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