Consistent top achievers at virtually anything have a routine that prepares them for success. This is not simply any routine, but a detailed plan that creates rhythm in its execution.
Pay attention to those who have achieved high levels of success and you’ll hear them describe the times when they are at their absolute best as being in a "zone." The zone doesn't happen by accident; it comes from carefully orchestrating preparative steps to later put them to use.
Picture your favorite professional basketball or baseball player. Visualize them at the free throw line or in the batter's box. Do they have a routine? Absolutely. They bounce the ball the same number of times before each shot or adjust their batting gloves the same way before digging in to face the next pitch. Why? They realize the value of routine. By creating a repeatable pattern, the athlete eliminates the need to process the small details of each moment, keeping them free from unnecessary distractions.
This method is applicable in all walks of life. The best sales people I've ever been around excel at creating routines. They predetermine whom they’re going to call and – when the time arrives – focus on the task at hand by going down the list one by one.
A winning routine is one of the first prerequisites to success. Here are five ways to make it happen:
1. List your priorities.
What are your biggest priorities? Your most important routines are obviously tied to your top priorities in life. Which of these is critical to you right now? Once you've identified what’s most important, start there. This is where developing the right routines or habits will make the greatest impact.
2. Create a routine to progress on your biggest priorities.
Many people have never accomplished steady achievement in the areas they most desire because they either don't have a routine or it's constantly fluctuating. By definition this is not a routine. If you don't have a pattern of preparation to follow, you must start from scratch. If you do have a routine, even an admittedly unpolished one, go through the exercise of defining it on paper. This step will allow you to later diagnose opportunities for improvement and to determine which parts are keepers.
3. Evaluate your routines.
Chances are, whatever your current routine is, there's room for improvement. Where are you falling short? A long-followed protocol may need a refresh. Or, perhaps yours could use more structure. Make sure to revisit your routines periodically so no holes open up in your game.
Sometimes, the simplest way to improve is to remove non-beneficial components from your routine. Eliminate bad or non-productive habits.In other words, add to your routine by subtracting from it.
4. Supplement your routine as needed.
Small additions to a routine can help tremendously. For instance, if you're barely making the Monday morning sales meeting on time, choose your work clothes and breakfast menu the night before. Shaving off a few minutes in your morning routine not only keeps you on time, it eliminates the fear of being late. In turn, this keeps you more focused when the meeting starts.
5. Study the routines of successful people.
You can benefit by emulating the routines of highly successful people. As mentioned earlier, the most successful people in any situation generally have established routines. Odds are, you may not need to reinvent the wheel as you develop your own personal protocol, so consult with a couple respected colleagues to share best practices. If you're happy with your routine, you might help someone else or unexpectedly learn something new.
Routines are critical, not only because they put you in a healthy rhythm to achieve, they also help take the emotions out of stressful or important activities. They allow you to focus on the process, not the results – and sometimes, this is the key to winning.