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The Power of Routine

by Ouida on June 27, 2010


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One of the questions I ponder often is what makes one person different from another in terms of what they achieve.  The biblical parable of the sower talks about good seed that falls on rocky soil, seed that is stolen by birds and seed that takes root yet has different yields.  All of it is good seed yet some yields 10, 50 or 100 fold.  In other words the same good seed in good soil has different yields.  Why?  Perhaps his is a question best answered by the wisest sage.  So despite the fact that I constantly ponder this question, I’ll take it down a notch and apply the question to gardening, personal finance and task completion.

Why do some people complete their tasks online while others are late?  Why do some gardeners lose their plants to common pests like aphids and wind burn while others do not?  Why are some people plagued by late fees while others are not?

The answer lies in what you value and in the concept of routine. If you value the timely completion of tasks what do you do to make sure that happens? If you hate late fees, what do you do to make sure you never get one? If you love gardening, what do you do to make sure that your garden thrives and that you are not spending hundreds of dollars every year replacing dead plants?

The answer is routine. You develop a routine to make sure that your garden thrives, that your bills are paid on time, that your work is completed on time.  I have a great garden.  I love it and it has taken years to create.  In the fall, I winterize it.  In the spring I trim the previous year’s dead matter from the perennials.  I placed a drip irrigation system as the garden was going in so that I could water systematically with the turn of a knob rather than drag hoses all over the yard each time I watered.  I have tried very hard to systematize everything to make maintenance convenient.  Every morning in season when I have my coffee, I patrol the garden looking for pests and sign of sun and wind damage.  I perform the same task in the evening.  Walking through my garden during the growing season twice a day has become part of my daily routine.  Over the years certain tasks have become much less fun than others therefore I have learned to farm those tasks out, because having a thriving garden has remained a value to me.

Some might argue that I take the matter of routine a bit too far.  A friend of ours owns a nursery and greenhouse.  Like a phoenix from the ashes this garden paradise arose from an asphalt parking lot and a foreclosed upon Mexican restaurant.  I have a routine whenever I go there.  I go first to the grapevine and then to the honeysuckle. I have 3 shrub varieties and 3 vine varieties that I was introduced to at this green house.  I inspect.  What did I find today?  Aphids galore on the golden flame honeysuckle.  I told the owner who was grateful, but already knew determined to let the ladybugs do their job, eventually.  We both laughed agreeing that there was probably a program for me.  Then I remembered the orchid that I brought home only to find aphids on it picked up from the greenhouse where I bought it.  I’ll take my routine and philosophy any day rather than surrender my efforts to the devouring pests of aphids, late charges, over drafts and the like.

I took a sales class a few years ago.  The instructor had us do a painful exercise all on our honor of course.  Each night that we failed to make sales calls, we were to take a dollar from our wallets and burn it.  Just the thought of the exercise gave me palpitations.  Late fees provoke the same feeling in me.  Paying a late fee is literally a waste and does not enhance the value of the product purchased.  Paying a late fee on your mortgage doesn’t increase the value of your home and paying a late fee on your rent does not mean your landlord is going to reward you by putting in a new pool or laundry services.  Late fees are literally money up in smoke or money down the toilet.  They represent a waste and poor money management skills.  Anyone with a telephone, ATM card or access to a personal computer can pay their bills on time.  So if it is of value to avoid the fees it is easy to establish a routine around paying the bills on time.  Simply logging in, calling in or going to the ATM machine can be done on any schedule to make sure late fees never occur.

The same is true with task completion. If the desire is to write, then write a page on something every day.  If your boss has a project for you figure out how long it will take to complete and establish a routine around task completion until it is done.

I have become convinced that the reason some individuals are more productive than others is that the more productive ones have established routines geared toward what they value and ultimately toward higher production.

We have a choice, to maintain our homes through routine or risk coming home to a flooded house because we forgot to swap out the old hoses to the washing machine for new ones.  We can paint siding each year or have the sun blister and warp it until it needs to be replaced.  We can develop the routine of saving when we are 20 or 30 or go into panic mode at age 52.  There are so many things that we can do to unleash the power of routine in our lives.

Please comment. What are the things that have made a difference for you?

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