7 Psychological Reasons Entrepreneurs Should Create a Routine and Stick With It
Psychologically, routines keep entrepreneurs on the up-and-up.
About a month into starting my first company, I made a horrible realization:
Some of the most important elements to my business’ success were totally outside my control.
I couldn’t control the economy. I couldn’t control my customers. I couldn’t control my competitors. For a long time, I felt a sense of helplessness — it was like every time I got some momentum going, some unforeseeable disaster would suck up all my time and grind my rhythm to a halt.
The chaos made my work life miserable.
Several businesses later, life still throws wrenches into the works, but I never feel helpless. The reason? I’ve learned how to truly master the one thing I can control: myself. I’ve discovered the psychological power of creating and maintaining an efficient daily schedule.
A good schedule doesn’t give me super powers or guarantee success …
What it does is give me a sense of security and clear-mindedness — which matters when chaos is everywhere. Here are seven reasons why routines matter, especially when you’re dealing with the stress of starting a business:
1) To Protect Your Sanity.
Do you know what the opposite of a routine is?
If you don’t have a plan for your day, time-management gets significantly more complicated. Instead of settling into a comfortable, established workflow, focusing all your brain power on the task at hand, you have to reserve a part of your cognitive capacity for consciously deciding what to do next.
The more “micro-decisions” you can make in advance by having established routines and rituals, the more attention you can focus on the important stuff. Rather than dealing with emails and issues immediately as they arise, for example, it helps to set aside a specific time each day to batch your way through them.
If you improvise your entire schedule every day, your business is the one running you, rather than vice versa. As any entrepreneur can tell you, that gets stressful quickly, and stress can have serious negative side effects, both psychologically and physically.
2) To Stay Healthy and Fit.
As Jaimie Crooks, the licensed, Harvard-educated coach and founder of Definitely Definitely puts it, “When we get very stressed by anything, our fight or flight response is triggered and we get a build up of cortisol. Without the relevant physical release (running away or fighting), the cortisol remains in our system.”
Continues Crooks, “The more it builds up, the more stressed we become, which gradually leads to mental fog, unexplained weight gain around the middle, irritability, exhaustion, reduced immunity and other symptoms.”
In a nutshell, the stress produced by work chaos can actually make you sick. Routines have the power to make parts of your workflow automatic, reducing stress, and as a result, protecting your health.
3) To Enable Better Decisions.
If you have to make too many little decisions too often, the quality of those decisions is likely to be affected. It’s called “decision fatigue” and it’s a very real problem for people in leadership positions.
“One of the decision-making mistakes we commonly make is to give ourselves a lot of options,” writes Larina Case in the Graziado Business Review. “The problem is that we are likely to get overwhelmed and make no decision.”
Sound decision-making requires careful thought and deep focus.
Neither one of those is possible in a chaotic work environment. When you have a consistent routine, more of your brain power is freed up to make the really important decisions effectively.
4) To Stay Confident and Powerful.
When you have a routine in place, the quality of your work is less likely to be impacted by your mood. Let’s say one day, out of the blue, something happens that causes you to have a crisis of confidence, or sense of “imposter syndrome.” If it hasn’t happened to you already, it’s just a matter of time before it does. Everybody has bad days.
If you don’t have a routine, you run a greater risk of slowing down or avoiding work completely in the moments or days when self-doubt arises. The only voice you’ll have to listen to will be the one in your own head.
However, with a routine, you have pre-established commitments to yourself and likely others, which can help you maintain your momentum. Before you know it, your day is done, you’ve smashed your goals and the crisis of confidence is over.
There is security in routine.
5) To Avoid Burnout.
Humans are not machines. If we spend too long at work, without any kind of stimulating activity beyond what’s dictated by business, our creativity and energy dry up.
It’s called burnout.
Routines allow you to manage your time in such a way as to allow windows for stimulation. Without specific time allocated to leisure activities, personal relationships, exercise and healthy eating, your risk of burnout will be radically higher.
If you want to avoid burnout and its personal (as well as economic) costs, you need to have established routines that allow you to fulfill your fundamental human needs.
6) To Strengthen Your Business’ Will to Survive.
If your life as an entrepreneur is extremely stressful and chaotic, you are much more likely to quit. A study released by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that workplace stress is the single greatest cause of employee absenteeism and turnover.
Don’t do this to yourself.
Startups that succeed often do so as the result of the founder’s unyielding will to survive. Stress and chaos gradually chip away at that will to live, making founders more likely to throw in the towel rather than fight for solutions.
As we’ve already established, routines are an excellent way to handle workplace stress while still completing all your tasks. Routines can help keep your drive alive.
7) To Preserve Personal Relationships.
Being disorganized limits the amount of time you’re able to spend with the people you love. Being available at inconsistent times can force the important people in your life to bend their schedules around your inconsistent life, which can be very stressful for them and ultimately put a damper on the relationship.
Not having a routine can put a huge strain on personal relationships — especially those with your significant other. In some cases it gets so bad that entrepreneurs give up entirely and just stay single, blaming the fast pace of their work life.
However, having great relationships and spending quality time with loved ones is important in keeping you psychologically happy and healthy.
A strong routine allows you to work more efficiently while taking better care of yourself. If you ever find yourself feeling frazzled or helpless, as I used to, take the time to build a solid daily schedule — and then develop the discipline to stick with it.
You’ll be surprised how much of your business success is under your control after all.