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If you search for inspiring quotes on the power of personal routine, you will find an interesting thing; people are generally in one of two camps.

Here’s a sample of what I mean:

Routine in an intelligent man is a sign of ambition.” W.H. Auden, or

“The less routine, the more life.” Amos Bronson Alcott. explains why we see these two perspectives in two of the definitions they give for Routine: “A customary or regular course of action,” and “Regular, unvarying, habitual, unimaginative or rote procedure.”

So, which is it?   Are routines the foundation of ambition and success, or are they ruts to get unstuck from? A little of both it turns out.  Routines can be either “good” or “bad”, the difference is the results that they create.

Northwestern University Health Systems points out that people without routines have higher levels of stress, poorer sleep habits, worse diets, inferior physical conditioning, and less effective time use than those with routines.

Clearly routines can have many positive effects, but they can also hold us back.  Author and speaker John Maxwell points out that “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.  The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” And the dark-side of routines are summed up well by Warren Buffet: “Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”

Still think productive routines are boring or confining?  Think again.  Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Square and Co-founder of Twitter, worked two full time C-level jobs simultaneously, one at Twitter, and one at Square.  The secret to his amazing feat?  A “disciplined and practiced” weekly routine.  Each day of the week had a specific and singular focus that repeated every week.

Routines have been employed by the greatest performers through-out history.  Benjamin Franklin had routines that helped to make him great.  In fact, he may have been the first to apply the 12 Week Year!  He had a 13-week plan to practice important disciplines each day, and he had a daily routine that set aside time every day for work, meals, and personal growth and pursuits.

What would you be capable of if you had strategic routines in place to focus on your highest value opportunities from day to day and week to week?