Is Routine the Key to Success?

April 12, 2012

The reply from the entrepreneurs who read this will undoubtedly be no. But when it comes to paying off debt and trying to live a healthy lifestyle, I’m starting to think the answer is yes and yes again.

Now, I should point out that I think a routine is very different from a habit. A habit is a specific tendency, like biting your nails or cracking your knuckles, whereas a routine is more like a fixed program. While both words have a negative connotation attached to them, I think a lot can be accomplished with a good routine.

Last month, I created a great new routine for myself. I shared with you all how I was working out 4-5 days per week, and also eating better, but I didn’t give you all of the steps I was taking to make those things happen. It took a few weeks to make it a routine, but here’s what a typical week in March looked like:

  • On Sunday morning, I went through the grocery flyers and planned my meals and snacks for the week. Then I visualized the grocery store and re-wrote my list in order of what aisle each item was in. (Sounds crazy, right?)
  • On my way back from my Sunday morning #pfworkout, I went to the farmer’s market for produce and the grocery store for the rest. Using my list, I only walked down the aisles I needed to, avoiding everything else (mostly the junk food aisles).
  • On Sunday afternoon, I made up at least a few days worth of lunches and snacks, so there was no question about what I was going to eat.
  • On Tuesday morning, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and went to the gym.
  • On Wednesday evening, I made up a couple more days worth of lunches and snacks.
  • On Thursday morning, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and went to the gym.
  • On Friday evening, I went to the grocery store and got a “treat” for dinner. Friday night was my splurge night and it was full of all kinds of deliciousness!
  • On Saturday morning, I woke up at 6:45 a.m. and went to the gym. And you know how the next week started, after that…

Now, I can see why some people might find this annoying. And I used to be one of those people! But having a routine (a.k.a. a cash budget) is what has kept me on-track with my debt repayment, much like this timetable is helping me live a healthier lifestyle.

I don’t think I realized how much I relied on that routine, until I moved to the house I’m staying at this month. Early morning workouts during the week are physically impossible here and I’m beginning to see the repercussions of only working out on weekends. I’m feeling lazier, hungrier, and I’m scared to death of stepping on the scale. And old habits, like giving in to mid-afternoon sweet tooth cravings, are creeping back with a vengeance.

So, it seems I am a routine girl; when working towards a particular goal, anyway. And how can I feel like a routine is bad, when it’s helped me pay off more than $15,000 of debt and started my weight loss journey?

How do you feel about routines? Do you think having a monthly/weekly/daily plan is boring? Or is it what you need to get certain things done?

  • Jordann @ My Alternate Life April 12, 2012 at 4:49 am

    Totally read that image as “Wake up and smell the poutine”…yumm…

    I’m like you, a creature of habit. Every night before bed I try to pack my bag for the day (workout gear, files from work, snacks), and get my lunch and breakfast plans in order. Every day after work I head out for a run. Every Monday night is weight lifting night, every Sunday is long run day. And so it goes.

    I find it very helpful to keep myself on track with routines, because after awhile, a routine becomes so ingrained that it becomes normal and NOT doing it feels weird. For example, I have one rest day a week where I don’t run or work out, it’s starting to feel weird to just come straight home to supper after work, with no extra demands on my time.

    If I were you I would be VERY vigilant about slipping out of your habits – they were so healthy and good for you, it would be a shame to let something like house sitting set you back.

    • Cait April 13, 2012 at 3:51 pm

      Mmm, poutine…

  • Rachel April 12, 2012 at 4:58 am

    Thanks for sharing! I feel like I need some kind of routine becuase time often slips away, which means picking up takeout for dinner to make up for time and quick (expensive) trips to the grocery store to make up for planning. This has planted a routine seed for sure!

    • Cait April 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm

      I definitely need to buy a few more things that I *want* at the grocery store, so I stop myself from eating out so much… the last week or so has been brutal!

  • Frugal(er) April 12, 2012 at 5:23 am

    I find routine comforting rather than tedious. I think that routines become ruts when you’re really forcing yourself to do something without seeing the value in it. Maybe while you’re in this new place, you’ll need to alter your routine slightly, but it sounds like you already miss it so it should be easy to get back into it.

    • Cait April 13, 2012 at 3:54 pm

      Good insight. I’ve heard/read so many stories where people complain about their daily routines but they probably aren’t getting anything out of it.

  • Michelle (@SenseofCents) April 12, 2012 at 5:33 am

    I think a routine would be good for me. Right now I don’t have one.

  • bogofdebt April 12, 2012 at 6:19 am

    I love routine (and yes, it is so different from habit but some people don’t see it as such)! And I love poutine but no one here in KS knows what that is. I am going to take a tip from you and start rewriting my grocery list according to the aisle. It will save a lot of fuss of going down every single aisle trying to find what I want.

    • Cait April 13, 2012 at 3:55 pm

      Have you ever seen cheese curds at any grocery store or specialty market? If so, buy them + some fries and gravy, and you’re golden! (Oh wait, I probably shouldn’t be recommending any unhealthy meals… right?)

      • bogofdebt April 14, 2012 at 6:14 am

        I don’t think these people even know what a cheese curd is–I’ve had to explain it and then they get that “eeww” face

  • SP April 12, 2012 at 6:39 am

    Agree – I’m all out of my good routines lately and it’s been horrible. :/

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  • MommaStar April 12, 2012 at 9:06 am

    I love routines, there’s no guessing what or when to do things. Some might find it boring and tedious, I find it comforting.

  • TacklingOurDebt (@TacklingOurDebt) April 12, 2012 at 10:46 am

    For me, I think having a routing makes more productive. I do have days where I wake up and think “oh this again”, and I do get bored easily, but at the end of the week I feel better about all the stuff that got done.

    • Cait April 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm

      Same! I love looking back on a busy week and realizing how good it really was.

  • Cassie April 12, 2012 at 10:49 am

    I used to have a routine. It revolved around doing all of my cooking and cleaning on Sundays. Since meeting The Boy (and spending my weekends at his place), and changing to a job that requires shift work, I haven’t been able to get back into a routine. I do miss it though, it definitely helped a lot.

    • Cait April 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm

      Oh, shift work… I definitely don’t miss that. :(

  • eemusings April 12, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Routine is so key to keeping my life on track, particularly with cleaning, cooking, sleep and finances.

    • Cait April 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm

      Happy I’m not alone!

  • easypeasy April 12, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    I feel like everything (especially weekdays) is so routine why deprive myself of the little variety afforded by spontaneous meal choices and the few free hours after work? I find that when I plan down to the last waking second of my day I often don’t want to do what my schedule says I should- which just makes me sour when I force myself to do it or I feel guilty because I strayed from the schedule I was so committed to. Do what makes you happiest- for me it’s having choices once I escape the routine of the workweek! :) Oh and never, ever waking up at 6:45 on a Saturday morning!

    • Cait April 13, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      Haha, I’m a morning person, so 6:45am never hurts. Unless I’ve had a few too many glasses of wine…

  • fromshoppingtosaving April 12, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    I love routines. The funny thing is that when I am on a roll with my routine, I tend to get bored easily. I start dreaming of vacations and being unemployed, and having nothing to do. Yet when I am on vacation, I start missing my regular routine of working out and eating healthy, going to bed early and waking up early. It’s a catch 22 haha. But for the most part, yes I do love routines. I grew up in routines and I am so appreciative of that since it now helps me. I need to get back to meal planning though… I haven’t had enough time. Lean Cuisines have been a life saver.

    • Cait April 13, 2012 at 4:00 pm

      It’s hard for me to find decent frozen meals, because I don’t eat meat and most vegetarian ones use chicken fat in them. I guess I shouldn’t complain about that… but it would help on days where I’m feeling too lazy to cook!

  • SheBloggs April 13, 2012 at 5:37 am

    I love having a routine and find myself gravitting towards my daily routine even when I don’t want to. It’s comfortable, it works and it’s efficient. I have friends who think routine is boring, but my routine keeps me on track with work, finances and rest.

    I also visualize the grocery store and make my list according to that path. For me, it’s mostly because I want to get out of there quick before I get tempted to buy things that aren’t good for me or my bank account.

    • Cait April 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm

      I’ve never met anyone else who does the grocery store visualization thing, haha. Happy we can be crazy together! :P

  • My Piece of the World April 13, 2012 at 6:57 am

    I really enjoyed your blog post. I am a huge believer in routine but lately have been finding it personally hard to get back into my routine. Whenever my circumstances change and my routine need some tweaking, sometimes I am so good about adjusting and other times I fail completly. Your post has reminded me how much I can accomplish when I stick to my routine. Thanks! Have a great weekend and enjoy your meal planning:)

    • Cait April 13, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      Everyone’s comments helped me squeeze in an extra workout this week, so thanks! Hope you have a great weekend too :)

  • merzybean April 13, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    I always read about your early morning workouts and am so inspired. Ideally, I would love to get in an early morning workout so it’s done and out of the way (and not to mention, I always feel so great after a workout). So, today I had my first early morning workout and it was great :)

    • Cait April 15, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      That’s amazing! Good for you, keep it up :)

  • afistfulodollars April 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    I love routine, but since Mr. Dollars and I aren’t living together quite yet I find it’s hard to establish one (whose place are we staying at tonight, who has plans for the night, sometimes he works overtime, etc). I really like your Sunday routine, because I really want to get back into meal planning (I did it for one month in January 2010 and it was awesome, but clearly unsustainable at that time for me!).

    You’re not the only one who visualizes the grocery store and itemizes the list accordingly. If I don’t do that, then I’m the most inefficient shopper ever and it takes me forEVER to actually make it to the checkout with everything I need!

    • Cait April 15, 2012 at 12:50 pm

      You’re right! Writing our lists that way is definitely a time saver. And you might be inspired to know I did my usual Sunday routine today and already have a week’s worth of lunches and snacks prepared!

      • afistfulodollars April 18, 2012 at 8:21 pm

        Someday I will reach your level of organized routine! You’re a master, lady!

  • femmefrugality April 14, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    I love routines! I don’t think you need to set your whole day by them, but getting up and getting ready, then working out, then doing…whatever you need to do for the day, is a good thing. I view it kind of like homework. You don’t want to do it, but once you do the test will be easier. Working out and getting other nasty little pain in the butt things done are so much easier to do if you have a routine. And completing your routine helps you reach your goals (fitness, debt-free…whatever.)

    • Cait April 15, 2012 at 12:50 pm

      Couldn’t have said this all better myself! I love that most of my “routines” are done before noon, so the rest of the day is all mine… :)

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  • Brittney Castro April 15, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    I love the idea of your routine to help get life back on track! Please check out my website for more tips on how to save and work towards a financial goal:

  • Lisa April 19, 2012 at 7:27 am

    I couldn’t survive without a routine.

  • Katie C. September 6, 2012 at 10:32 am

    I definitely *NEED* to have a routine. Now, I don’t take it to the extreme like I did in school. During my university days, I sometimes would schedule every minute of the day with class, studying, eating, etc.

    But when it comes to exercise I think having a routine is the only way to go. When I exercise around the same time every day, it’s easy for me to get it done. When I fall out of routine, I cannot make myself get back on the wagon.

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