Importance of Routines and Systems…

In order for me (Phil Svitek) to run such a large scale entity as AfterBuzz TV, it’s important for me to have systems and routines in place both on a personal and company level. In this lesson, I’ll first define what I mean by routines and highlight how structure is the backbone of routines that then create a system, which is really a way of saying how you carry out the routines or processes. The better the system, the more effective your routines are. I’ll begin by talking about you as an individual and then expand it into a larger context. Now, I know some of you are adverse to routines because you have a negative association with the word and so I’ll kick things off with explaining how routines can liberate your life rather than restrict it. Comment below with any questions or opinions you have.

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First, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Phil Svitek, AfterBuzz TV’s Chief Operating Officer ever since its inception back in 2011. For those unfamiliar, AfterBuzz TV is a leader in TV discussion. In fact, it’s been dubbed “the ESPN of TV talk.”

In order for me to run such a large scale entity, it’s important for me to have systems and routines in place both on a personal and company level.

First, let’s truly define what I mean by routines. Routines equal what you will automatically do, no matter what. Mind you that right now, I imagine you to eat daily. However that doesn’t mean your eating is a routine unless there’s structure behind it. Structure is the backbone of routines. As website Examined Existence puts it, “Routine provides a sense of structure and familiarity. Structure is a way of organizing your life so that it makes sense to you. You wake up with a sense of ownership, order, and organization of your life.”

When it comes to systems, it’s a way of saying how you carry out the routines or processes. The actual steps and procedures that go into the specific routine. The better the system, the more effective your routines are.

Let’s begin by talking about the individual as that will help isolate the principles before expanding them out to a larger context.

Some of you are adverse to routines because you have a negative association with the word. Perhaps your parents told you hundreds of times to make your bed, clean your room, brush your teeth and so on. You’ve associated the word routine with the word chore or something to dread. Routines can be liberating if carried out properly. Here’s a few benefits of routines. They:

  • build good habits,
  • break bad habits,
  • increase efficiency and allow you to knock out tasks faster,
  • negate willpower and motivation,
  • help you become better at tasks,
  • can save time on the back end,
  • help prioritize,
  • reduce the amount of choices you have to make daily,
  • create momentum and self confidence,
  • reduce stress and
  • track your success.

Time to analyze these. In my first episode I discussed the importance of good habits. Feel free to check out my video called Why Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect… for more detail on this. The link is in the description. But right now, trust me when I say habits are extremely important for your success. It’s why your parents told you to clean your room and other seemingly annoying tasks. They were trying to instill good habits. They just never explained it as such. The reason your efficiency increases is because it’s a byproduct of increasing good habits and decreasing the bad ones.

Another reason for such increased productivity is because your mind will start to associate settings and times with tasks and therefore go automatically to work on them. For example, professional writers have a place they normally write at. The best ones, generally, have set times they write. When that writer sits in that seat at that time of day, the mind already knows what to do. It knows the writer wants to fill the page with meaningful words. The book War of Art talks about the importance of exactly this routine. When the writer first begins this routine, she may end up sitting on that chair for five hours and fill less than half a page. But as the writer continues doing this practice daily, eventually the muse, as the book describes it, will take note of the effort the writer is devoting to her craft and will gift her as such with words to type out, creating the masterpiece she sought after. The more the writer does this, the more gifts she is bestowed from the muse. I can vouch for this from personal experience. In fact, take this video series for example. At first it was hard, but now I’m finding it easier to draft up my lessons because of the routines I’ve set in place.

Routines will negate willpower and motivation. Take a trend in America like dieting. If you have routines in place, like making your own healthy breakfast each day, you won’t be tempted to resort to bad food not part of your diet. It won’t even cross your mind because the act of making that breakfast is so automatic. Now, I caution you, to make this work you have to also create a healthy shopping routine so you don’t buy crap at the grocery store. But by doing this, you eliminate the need for your mind to ever drift and wonder what it wants for breakfast. You make your shopping list and that’s it. In and out of the store just like that!

The reason routines can save you time on the back end is because it forces you to do smaller, incremental portions of the tasks. For example, if you keep your room clean and tidy, spending 5 minutes a day to ensure that, you won’t be left with a disaster to contend with at the end of the month and have to scrub and dust everything.

Having routines in place helps you prioritize by the fact that you’re forced to lay out which things are important enough to have routines. What are the tasks that benefit you the most daily? Sticking to these routines thoroughly eliminates the random aimless ideas and temptations that you may have. Ideas are great, but they have a time and a place. Too often people chase them without much return, mainly because they start but never finish. Nowadays, the social media wormhole eats up people’s time. This is because they check it throughout the day instead of allocating a certain time to it and only doing it during those time. Routines make you focus on what is important to you and therefore the action steps will be accomplished as opposed to randomly going from meaningless task to another.

Routines eradicate a lot of useless decision making and instead allow you to focus on only the decisions that matter. Scientifically speaking, the human brain uses the same amount of compute power, if you will, to make decisions no matter how big or small they may be. And each day, we only have so much compute power to spend. Why waste it on useless drivel? Einstein was so vehement about this notion that he dressed the same each day in order to not have to spend time thinking about what to wear. Or trying out outfits or even shopping for that matter. Others, like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, have followed in his footsteps. Former US President Barack Obama says this on the matter: “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He also goes on to mention that research shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions.

Now, how do routines create momentum in your life and build your confidence? Easily, that’s how. If you get better at something that is important to you and you see that your willpower is stronger because of routines, the result of that will propel you to be even better and better. Seeing what you’re able to accomplish will boost your self esteem. You’ll feel proud that you were able to do it – do what only months ago may have seemed impossible, depending on the routine. Certainly people who never work out and then one day begin have these moments if they stick to it long enough.

Because you’re not having to spend as much time thinking about frivolous things, you’ll feel less stressed. Remember what Examined Existence taught us – “Routine provides a sense of structure and familiarity. Structure is a way of organizing your life so that it makes sense to you. You wake up with a sense of ownership, order, and organization of your life.” When you have ownership of your life on a daily basis, you don’t feel stressed.

Lastly, with such routines in place you’re able to each day gauge how well you’re doing. You’ll be able to measure your progress and see meaningful, viable results.

To set you up for success and create the best routines, we have to go back to the basics, which is a lesson I covered at length last week. I encourage you to check it out – the link as always is provided in the description so you can do just that. What I mean by the basics though is routines help to streamline the sometimes mundane and tedious or certainly repetitive daily tasks like sleeping, eating, exercise, etc. And these tasks are the foundation of a healthy life. Doing these fundamental aspects well will allow you to excel in your more loftier goals.

To start the process of creating routines go into your calendar and start blocking off time for these activities. Write in when you’ll sleep. Write in when you’ll wake up and get ready. Add in periods for eating and build in breaks. This way you’ll not only do them but you’ll do them at the same time each day.

One of the killers of routine are our smartphones. I touched upon it earlier with our incessant social media checking. But emails and texts can be just as bad. We all get lots of emails and texts throughout the day. Instead of always reacting to every single one feeling like you need to handle it in that moment, which takes you away from your current task, just take care of it during your blocked out time for email checking. If you want you can section off two times in the day.

By the way, there’s scientific studies that indicate it takes the mind 20 minutes to fully hone in on the task that you’re doing. So if you’re constantly distracted every time you get to work on something, you’ll either never get it done or the final product will suffer tremendously. This is why dedicating chunks of your day to specific tasks is effective.

Also, schedule out moments for your family, moments to just relax, learn and read, whatever. By doing this, you’re helping determine how your day reflects your principles and goals. It’s prioritizing at its inception.

Many people create to-do lists for the day. I think these can be great. One of the tricks I suggest to you is to create your to-do list the night before. That way you wake up motivated and ready to go instead of thinking about what you need to do that day.

Now, how you do all of these things – do you use a Google Calendar or a physical one, do you use Wunderlist for your to-do list or sticky notes – these are all examples of systems you use in helping you carry out these routines. Systems in large part deal with how you organize yourself so you can maintain your routines. Let’s say you do keep physical calendar instead of an electronic one. Will you make sure you always have it with you? What are the steps you do to ensure that? If you keep an electronic calendar and refer to it from your phone, how are you ensuring that your phone is always charged? Questions like this help form the necessary systems you need to put in place to carry out these routines.

Part of creating routines is setting up automated systems with tasks that can be automated so that way you only have to deal with them occasionally instead of weekly or worse, daily. For example, when it comes to saving and investing, experts will urge you to set up automatic transfers from your paycheck to go into both buckets. It prohibits you from not growing your savings because it eliminates your involvement. Where you should be involved is checking in on a quarterly basis to see your growth and with your investments re-balance them to be an ideal diversification – for more on that I recommend looking up Ray Dalio’s All-Weather-Portfolio.

Let me caution you again. Routines are great but don’t be rigid with them. If something isn’t working, adjust. It may be minor adjustments to your systems or processes rather than whole sweeping changes. For example, part of my routine is to check twice a week to refill my dog feeders. The dog feeder is a system I use to feed my dogs so I don’t have to worry them not getting fed if I end up in a late meeting. Automation at its finest. But initially the feeders weren’t working properly because the dog food I was using was too big to be dispensed. So I adjusted and bought smaller dog food that worked.

Alright, time to discuss how systems and routines benefit businesses, whether small or otherwise. My biggest recommendation when it comes to managers is to begin by assigning roles to your direct reports rather than tasks. Doing this allows the direct reports to understand their place within the context of the company and know what part of the greater whole they serve. Work with them to identify the daily tasks required of their role and then they can begin to identify how they’d like to best structure it for themselves. If from experience something they suggest won’t work, or won’t be as effective as something else, explain to them why.

In a company setting, the emphasis becomes the systems set in place. Without the right systems, a company is setup for failure. Bar Rescue’s Jon Taffer knows this all to well. On his Paramount show, he goes into a new bar each episode with the goal of revitalizing it and turns it into a successful one. The problem in almost every episode begins with the owners not being strong leaders. I almost guarantee they don’t have routines in their lives. And that translates to the business by them not setting up proper systems. One of Jon Taffer’s phrases on the show is, “Management failed the staff today.” This is so true. In an ideal business, the business should be able to operate no matter what. There should be no bottlenecks. There should be clear instructions for every role and every task. Deadlines should be created. And so on.

Putting together a successful bar system is something Jon can do in his sleep at this point. But a system is useless if people don’t use it. More importantly, if management doesn’t enforce it. That’s where the real crux of Jon’s work really lies. He doesn’t rescue bars. He rescues people. He gets them back to positive routines and habits. That is precisely the reason why I began with that portion of the lesson. Everything in a successful business operation begins with the individual. Everything begins with you and extends outward. Once Jon is able to help the owners and staff, the system is easily fixed.

As a business owner or manager, the stronger the systems you have in place, the higher the standard you’ll be able to keep, no matter who steps into the role.

Also, I highly recommend checking out Jon Taffer’s show Bar Rescue, regardless if you’re a bar owner or not. There’s lots of takeaways. Secondly, check out the Bar Rescue After Show on AfterBuzz TV for even more insights.

So there you have it. There’s the importance of routines and systems and how to approach them. As I always like to do, here’s some more quotes to help reinforce today’s lesson.

“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.” – Mike Murdock

“Scheduling downtime as part of your routine is hard but worth it, personally, even professionally.” – Daniel Goleman

“Novelists do not write as birds sing, by the push of nature. It is part of the job that there should be much routine and some daily stuff on the level of carpentry.” – William Golding

“Fixing bars is easy. Fixing people is tough.” – Jon Taffer

“In order for any business to succeed, it must first become a system so that the business functions exactly the same way every time down to the last detail.” – Rick Harshaw

“An organization’s purpose and goals set the direction. Measures focus the energy on the outcomes. Processes create habits, and habits drive the culture. You can teach skills and concepts. You can even create momentum (and a few smiles) through inspiration. But investing in skills and inspiration is a waste of money if there are not processes to reinforce your purpose and principles. The creation and continuous refinement of work processes is a mandatory practice in the Results Rule! organization, regardless of the industry.” – Randy Pentington

Before you head off and put this lesson into action, here’s a few more things. While you’re here, leave a comment with any thoughts, opinions or questions you may have so Phil or I can respond. In fact, let us know what your daily routines are that you think work well. Also, if you enjoyed this video, please be sure to hit that like button and tell people about it. If you’d like to be notified when future episodes release, be sure to subscribe on either Apple Podcast or YouTube. Lastly, if you’re a new host in the LA area and would like to join AfterBuzz, visit the AfterBuzz TV’s contact page. A direct link is provided. Or you can Tweet @PhilSvitek or Instagram me @BonjourJuliet. Thanks for watching. I’m Juliet Vibert, a producer on the show and we’ll see you next Monday with another one of Phil’s life lessons.

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