Part III: The Power of Routines: “Everyone has their routines, right?” said Ken Tucker. Yes, he is absolutely right. We all have routines; the real issue is indentifying which routines enable or inhibit us reaching our goals. Why are routines about high school football so insightful? Although seemingly innocuous, routines determine momentum and life habits, which ultimately lead you toward or away from your goals.
Ken tells this story about the power of routines. “One year, we had a group of players come to me after practice to have an impromptu meeting. They said, ‘We are tired of what we are doing in practice. We think it is time to change things up. Things are too blasé and boring.’ So I tried explaining that the purpose of practice is to improve upon things we need to do. Routines are critical to be successful because they let people know what to expect. The players walked out of my office, and I’m not sure if anything I said got to them. The funny thing is that our starting QB at the time witnessed the other players leaving my office and came to speak with me afterward. ‘Coach, it seems something is not quite right. What was that meeting all about?’ I told him that some kids want to change up our routines at practice. He looked at me for a moment then replied, ‘Why do they want to do that? We’re undefeated.’ ”
“On the other hand, it is worthwhile to occasionally and purposely alter a routine, if it has a purpose or in other words, if is part of a purposeful routine. When you have a routine established, you can deliberately break it to heighten focus. In football practice, we would occasionally break our routine to work on something specific such as a goal-line stand on defense or the two minute drill for offense. This usually has a positive effect because the players have a high intensity and focus on a key aspect of the game.”
In Geoff Colvin’s book, Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World Class performers from Everyone Else, he asserts that the distinguishing trait that separates greatness from everyone else is deliberate practice. Extremely simplified, deliberate practice is focused and specified to improve performance; immediately verifiable and measured; and repeatable. In short, excellence is achieved by routines, abet very specialize routines. Ken’s suggestion of purposefully breaking a routine for a specific purpose of improving a key area is also an example of deliberate practice. Routines done over and over become habits. Your goals, outcomes and identify are defined by your daily habits. If you eat three dozen donuts a day, will you gain weight? If you doubt the power of habits, think about your weekly schedule. Are there routines that you do at last twice a week? Here are some ideas: Brushing your teeth, going to the gym, drinking coffee, taking a mid-morning break, eating at certain restaurants, sneaking some time on Facebook in the afternoon or having a late night snack. If you do any of these activities often enough, these routines are likely habits. The reality is that we are unaware of many of our habits. In other words, we respond in a similar way without thinking about it. If your habits are focused, immediately measured and specified, then you are partaking in deliberate practice.
So, how does the habit of routines lead to outstanding results for organizations? Read Part IV: Creating a Culture of Success.