How Systems and Routines Make Life EasierJun 29, 2021
Using systems at home and work - are they freeing or limiting? What a great question!
Process, system, routine, procedure – call it what you will, chances are that you had a clear reaction. But what was your reaction? Generally speaking, you are falling strongly into one of these two camps. You either feel a sense of relief and freedom, or you feel restriction and limitation. Rarely is someone on the fence.
So are systems and routines freeing or confining? Whatever you call it, what we’re describing is this: a pre-determined method of accomplishing something. And I would argue that they hands down provide freedom.
Here are two main reasons why systems and routines are good for us, our families, and our businesses.
They lay out clear expectations
You will hear this described as an anchor that keeps us from veering off course, or a framework on which to build, or even a guardrail to prevent us from going over the edge. The bottom line is that systems and routines shift us from reacting to our circumstances and situation to being proactive in managing life within those circumstances and situations.
Well, when we do something new or something that is not highly repetitive, it takes more time and energy to do it because we have to engage our brains actively and think about what we’re doing. So the more we do something, the more automatic it becomes. The more automatic it becomes, the less time and mental energy we expend on it. The less energy we expend, the more efficient we become. And the more efficient we are, the greater capacity we have for other things. (Talk about a butterfly flapping it’s wings and causing a hurricane! Who knew the power a simple system or routine wielded!)
This leads to routines becoming a natural part of the day. You already do this with micro-routines like what you do when you get up in the morning, or what you do to get ready to go to bed at night. When something is missed, it feels off and you feel it. That’s because missing it or skipping a step feels unnatural.
Consistency keeps everyone on the same page. This keeps us regulated and minimizes surprises, which, depending on how you or your kids are wired, can be key to things going well. For example, when we eat lunch at the same time every day, our bodies are regulated. Or when the family knows that the yard gets mowed once a week, it’s not a surprise that it needs to happen – again!
They provide a firm foundation
Together, stability, automaticity, and consistency work together to provide a firm foundation. Having a firm foundation makes space for two things that will happen (whether we’re ready or not).
We have space to adapt to life’s surprises.
Good surprises like a last-minute opportunity to see someone who in unexpectedly in town or bad surprises like the inconvenient fender bender that happened on our way home from work. Since dinner is under control, we can flex our schedules. Since we have a handle on our finances, we can make good decisions on fixing or replacing the car. We find ourselves dealing with a bump in the road rather than a sinkhole.
It clues us in when life changes
Sometimes things that have always worked well just feel more clunky or cumbersome. Something just feels off and instead of feeling like the system or routine is working easily for us, we feel like we’re working hard for it.
That’s a red flag that something has changed. It doesn’t mean the overall system is no longer working, it just means that something needs to be tweaked. It might be something temporary like summer where a seasonal tweak takes care of it, or it might be something more permanent, like the addition of a new family member. Usually it’s not anything major – it can simply be flipping the order of something or changing the day it happens.
Not sure where to start? Here are a couple of resources:
Listen to Podcast Episode 15 on Rhythms and Routines
Download your copy of 5 Simple Things You Can Do Today to Eliminate Distractions (which makes life easier)
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