The Power of Routines

You can easily build a life that others would literally kill to have. But will your Personal Training Business help you live the way you want? I've been sucking up oxygen on this planet for just over 40 years, the last 20 I've been in and around Personal Training Businesses or Education for almost 40 hours a week. That's roughly 40,000 hours. And, gulp, I only worked out the power of routines a few months ago! I reckon I could have achieved at least twice as much (fun and results) with my time if I'd have learned this sooner. But hey, I'm going to forgive myself and as therapy - tell you what I've discovered.

I'm such a slacker...

I’m busy (not) doing my daily morning routine.  It goes like this (5 days a week anyway):

6am (ish) Up with Alice (she’s just turned 2 and likes 6am)

Put her on the couch, with her milk, change her nappies (yes – I do this, life is real), feed her brain Dora the Explorer (or Mickey Mouse, or Little Einsteins – at the moment I have a play list which has been fantastic – just ask her)

6:10am Make lunches for kids (we have three, Kate 6, Dan 4, and the aforementioned Alice 2 - see the pic, they are gorgeous, and I'm told I am the father!)

6:15am Dan arrives, he has milk and sits with his wee sister – they are mondo close

6:20am Give kids toast (one with peanut butter and another with marmite)Kids

6:30am Have toast myself (wholegrain with avoacado and tomatoes, salt)

6:45am Head to the gym (upper body circuit and 30 mins cardio).  I’m finally getting my ass into gear and getting in shape again after a decade of desk jockey demise. Lesson: never spend all your time on one thing – even if it’s fun and easy to obsess over – it can cost you a lot elsewhere.

7:45am Get home and shower

8:15am Drop someone, somewhere, for something

8:30am Second breakfast ordered at Café of my choice (I’m a fan of premium juice, chai latte and bagel)

8:40am Start reading paper or book or magazine

8:45am Second breakfast arrives – so I eat it and mooch some more

9:00am Continue readinBreakfastg, check horoscope (lol!)

9:40am Check major goal for the day (set at the close of business the day before). Check any appointments for the day (I avoid these like the plague – more on that another time)

10am     Arrive at desk for 5-6 hours of play (some call it work but if you like it, it’s play)


Why build routines

It took me a long time to build this routine and I did ‘build it’.  Nothing is left to chance because this routine achieves my major life objectives:

  1. Grow close to my family
  2. Get in shape – be healthy, show the kids
  3. Relax and enjoy life – goof off with permission, indulge a little, seek pleasure, be with good people
  4. Be productive at my life mission – do what I want to be great at most, stick at it, enjoy the journey, keep moving the destination


So my morning routine achieves these things. I start work super-ready and in a great state because I’ve spent time with family, exercised, relaxed and treated myself the way I want to.  There is nothing pulling me off course and I know that at 4pm I’m able to tap back into the family and relaxation again.

Why resources don't matter but clarity of purpose does

At this point you might be saying ‘yeh Steve, but that’s not my life, I don’t have….’

You’re probably right.  You don’t have… but neither did I for most of my life and yet I still, at any stage, could have had a routine that was in-tune with my life objectives – it isn’t a resource thing, it’s a resourcefulness and clarity thing.  The more I built routines that worked the more resources I attracted – why? This is a secret so kill yourself after you’ve read it please: Your value to the world is amplified when you are doing what you are naturally most passionate for and in the best state to do.

Whoa – right. What the hell happened to "Steven, you’re going to be a policeman or manager or journalist" (bloody careers counsellors – pish posh).  Where was the dude (or dude-ess) saying; "Steven, forget all this education / advice / profession mumbo – what do you most want to do with a day in your life?" My reply would have been; run around, play sport, understand the body, be excited by working things out.  Then go do that!

Jump forward and I did run around, play sport, learn about the body and I am excited by working things out – I’m a project guy, an entrepreneur.

But notice I didn’t say be a CEO or own a business or write education materials or whatever.  The "what" isn’t important.  The interest and engagement is because that’s where the passion is.  You see we are encouraged to package up the emotional energy we have and put it into ‘what boxes’. You love helping people – be a nurse.  You like to help kids grow – be a teacher.  You like to make businesses work well – be a business analyst etc etc.  Take it back a step and you’ll find more clarity – to find your life mission write about what makes you the most excited, engaged, emotional, alive - what are you doing, when, where. Then find a way to do that – yes, it may be a job with a role title but trust me once you are on the right pathway you’ll forget about the title because you'll be having experiences you love.  Here’s some of mine from roles that allowed me to exercise my passion (no particular order here):

  • Gym instructor
  • Recreation officer
  • Transporter (hospital orderly in the USA)
  • Personal Trainer
  • PT Manager
  • Club owner
  • Entrepreneur
  • Lab assistant
  • Research technician
  • Business coach
  • Academic director (my 3rd form English teacher would laugh)
  • CEO
  • Product developer
  • Qualifications developer
  • Education consultant (3rd form English teacher now on the floor in tears)


Routines magnify results

So, back on track – routines.sun

Imagine you knew what your life mission (even if you don't just knowing what you buzz on the most is enough) was and you grew to understand what else made you happy as well.  For this analogy let’s call that the "power of the sun".  The emotional energy you get from doing the things that you are most in to and enjoy the most is "the sun".

Now imagine the routines you build are a magnifying glass.  The magnifying glass can take all of the suns energy and put it in one place consistently. Ooohhh ahhhh.


Magnifying glass to sun spot

Now imagine if the magnifying glass was focused on something you wanted to achieve.  It’s not just left to chance, the spot that you concentrate all of the energy you have is in the one place you want the result.

Get it?

Without routine you just get heat all over the place.  You get noise.  Even if you have the passion of "the sun" and you know exactly what result you want, without the routine to concentrate the energy – you get nothing but hot under the collar about your lack of progress!

Being consistent (by using routines) around a clear purpose creates the desired results.


Tips to building Routines

I better give you tips on building routines then eh!  Here’s some basic principles to start with:

Start from scratch

Get a piece of paper and write down some objectives. Then write down a routine that would achieve those.  I like to break my day up into sections to help. The objectives won’t usually change – just one might be a focus at a certain time of day.  My morning routine is an example. The objectives I’ve told you about – the routine supports those.  It’s totally different than what I was doing six months ago and it is 100x better – more enjoyable, I achieve more, I feel better doing it.  You can do the same.

Start from the start

I like to start at the front end of the day first as for me I’ve worked out this part of the day has the biggest influence on every other part of the day.  I’d suggest you start there too.

The end of one routine should make the next almost impossible to avoid

When I first started building these routines I found it very difficult.  I hadn’t worked out that one routine is quite dependent on the previous.  As an example I used to work until 11pm or mid-night most of the time.  Now I have a curfew of 10pm and I’m asleep during the week by 10:30pm. Why? Because my perfect morning routine proved impossible without that change to my evening routine and what I was doing between 10pm and mid-night didn’t contribute very well to my life objectives. So, I scrapped that stuff and as a result – well, I have to say, bingo!

Analyse with honesty

Stop lying to yourself.  Never ever bullshit yourself into thinking you will do ‘whatever it takes’ when the time comes.  An example is when you go out and it gets late and you have a big day planned the next day and you say something like ‘I’ll just get hard and smash it with coffee and some concrete pills’. You then go on a 2am bender and come out the other-side with all the bravado gone and you crash your routines.  Or, you do ‘coffee and concrete’ through the routine and maybe the next one but that night you crash your routines and presto things fall over.  Be super-honest with yourself and if you are going to depart from a productive routine choose to do so and let go / sacrifice it for a day or so.  This is what I call ‘goofing off with permission’. It is way more enjoyable than ‘goofing off with guilt’.  Warning though: too much goofing off can produce no results and have you doubting your overall resolve and purpose in life.  Goof off with permission in moderation.

Stick at it

Stick at a routine until you’ve learnt what works and what isn’t.  My first attempts took me a day to work out that they didn’t work. Why?  Because if you don’t do part 1 of the routine (in my case get up with the kids – I went back to bed) then part 2-6 is very rarely going to happen.  This is my “Don’t do things hard, do things easy” approach.  If something you did was hard (or didn’t happen at all) and doesn’t get easier, analyse the routine around it and see what you can do to improve the ease with which you accomplish the outcome.  Be honest – how hard something is to do relates to how long you will keep it up – so honesty in this sense leads to easy.  How hard do you think I find it to keep to my morning routine?  Not hard at all – because I designed and refined it.

Where it hurts is rarely the cause

If an established routine starts to hurt (ie is getting harder or isn’t producing the result) take a look at the routine and the routine leading into it.  Ask yourself ‘what has changed that now makes this routine tougher?’  You will find it quite easily and once you do make a choice.  Either get rid of whatever changed to make the routine difficult or accept the new thing and change your routine to suit – after-all the new thing might help you toward your life objectives so don’t just cull anything new for the sake of it.

Own itprofessional shooting

It’s your life, you were gifted it, your duty is to rule it like a conqueror.  I don’t know when I realised this again – as a teenager I fought for it – but somewhere between 20 odd and 30 odd I’d let my life be taken over by society (yes, that matrix-like construct of what should and shouldn’t be done, by whom and how). F’ that. This is my life, I’ll reap what I sow thanks.  It wasn’t easy but I took the blue pill and I gotta tell you owning my own life again is pretty bloody cool!

Sacrifice the least in the laziest way possible

Huh. Yip. That’s what I said. Choose the easiest, laziest, lowest barrier, smallest cost of resource way to do everything to support your routine.  I call this leverage and because I love you like a brother (or sister) from another mother – I’ll blog about leverage sometime too.  But just take this for now; you will need to make some sacrifices to get your routines to work well so work out what is the least you can give up to get your routines to work and that way you can be the laziest with your discipline and still get the routine done.  You’ll also get the bonus of making everything look easy which tends to infuriate people stuck in the matrix of society – which is fun too.


That’s it guys and gals. I turned 40 last month. It took me 40 years to get this straight in my head. Progress in my mission is where it takes my community (personal trainers) less time to find something out than me (yes, I’m encouraging laziness again).  Please build some routines for yourself, the pay-offs are astounding and the sooner you work out your routines the better you’ll get a living your life.

Feel free to comment if you have questions or thoughts about how this works for you. Go the All Blacks!!!

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