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Want to be Routinely Good? Have a Good Routine!

Want to be Routinely Good? Have a Good Routine!

By Angela Lane & Sergey Gorbatov

Do you ever feel like you work hard all day, but nothing gets finished? You wake, excited for what you’ll achieve but end the day overwhelmed and overdue!

Or maybe you’re on top of your day. But with no time left to build for tomorrow? Do you feel that you could develop more intentionally, or dedicate more time to building your career, but somehow you never get to it?

As career researchers, we consistently hear two things:

  • employees feel constantly challenged to deliver great work, day in and day out, and

  • they have little or no extra capacity to invest in preparing for the future, by intentionally developing new skills or building their network and reputation.

Sound familiar? If so, we've got a life hack for you!

Routines that Work for You

Let’s start by reminding ourselves that we all approach work differently. We have different personalities. Different bio-rhythms. Different demands on our time outside of work. To deliver a little more each day, or free time to reinvest in development or career, you’ll need to try a range of techniques, and find the ones that suit your unique self.

Next, let’s remind ourselves how we got here! We are already routinely over-scheduled. Our lives are busy and we constantly play catch up… Any system that adds stress, takes too much time, is hard to maintain, just won’t cut it.

The answer is a few, simple-to-maintain routines. We call these “high performance routines”, and define them as

any frequently performed behavior that enables us to deliver better results, for less incremental effort.

There are many, but don’t worry: you don’t need to do everything. Instead, think of it as a menu. Instead of ordering every single item, you’ll make healthy choices, but allow a little bit of space to splurge.

The goal of providing the routine tracker is twofold: firstly, we want you to introduce simple, repeatable high performance behaviors into your day. These help you do great work, which is the “table stakes” for any worthwhile career. Equally important, we want you to consciously capture the benefits of any productivity gains. These should be re-invested, into career building behaviors, like building your network, dedicating time to development, or investigating growth opportunities. We find this “save, to invest” philosophy helpful. The mere thought of becoming more efficient, to do more work, is tiring. The idea of freeing time to invest in my future, can be uplifting.

What are those routines? Here are some proven, by science and experience, routines that work:

  • SAVE time:

    • writing a to do list,

    • prioritizing your top 3 deliverables,

    • turning off distractions like phones,

    • setting a timer for a focused "burst",

    • always doing any task that takes less than two minutes,

    • using your calendar to plan your work, not just your meetings,

    • setting goals for the day,

    • reflecting at the end of the day, etc.

  • INVEST time:

    • reaching out to a colleague,

    • practicing a new skill,

    • asking for feedback,

    • making a new connection,

    • crafting your job to get from it more of what you want,

    • learning something new,

    • checking progress against your career plan, etc.

You might be practicing some of these already. Then, keep experimenting with new ones by adding them to your work day. Uncover those routines that work for you and get to the mix that makes you the most productive.

Besides increased productivity and focus, routines reduce stress because they introduce structure and predictability into your work. Psychologists tell us that ambiguity causes stress, while stability makes stress go away. When you have a routine, you can plan ahead and avoid last-minute stress. This can help you be more relaxed and focused. Finally, when you have a routine and you stick to it, you can build confidence in your ability to get things done. This can help you be more successful in all areas of your life.

How to Create a High Performance Routine

Creating a high performance routine is not difficult. Here are a few tips:

  1. Start small. Don't try to do too much at once. Start by adding one or two new behaviors to your routine each week.

  2. Be consistent. The key to success is consistency. Make sure you stick to your routine even when you don't feel like it.

  3. Keep track. Monitoring your progress over time will help you identify patterns that help or hinder successful adoption of new routines. A tracker, either a simple spreadsheet or an app, will also keep you more disciplined.

  4. Be flexible. Things don't always go according to plan. Be prepared to adjust your routines as needed.

  5. Enlist support. Likelihood of following through with a new routine are much higher when you are not alone. Find a friend or a colleague to keep each other accountable. You could also find a mentor or coach who can help you stay motivated.

  6. Reward yourself. When you stick to your routine, reward yourself with something you enjoy. This will help you stay motivated.


High performance routines can help you improve your productivity, focus, and confidence. If you are looking to achieve your goals and be more successful, creating a high performance routine is a great place to start.

Here are some additional tips that may help you create and stick to a high performance routine:

  • Join a community of people who are also committed to high performance.

  • Set realistic goals and track your progress.

  • Celebrate your successes, no matter how small.

With little effort, you can create a high performance routine that will help you achieve your career goals and live a more fulfilling life.

This post represents the authors' views and not those of associated organizations or institutions.

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