How many blanket statements have you read about routines in the past few months? “Spend thirty days doing x, y, and z, and you’ll have the perfect morning routine!” “Just use this method and you’ll have a routine that increases your productivity tenfold!” “This specific routine helped me make x dollars in x amount of time…”
As a lifestyle writer, one of my foundational missions in life is to help people become happier. Most of the people who give you blanket advice feel the same way, too, and they often have the best intentions…even when they may also be seeking to capitalize on their advice and get you to buy something.
I’ll tell you a secret. None of us can help you.
Not what you expected, right? Please, don’t take this the wrong way. Our insights are not empty by default.
The problem is that we are human (ostensibly), and we tend to assume that all of our readers are just like us. Reality has other ideas. There are billions of ways to be human, and while we like to think that providing advice and information can help anyone and everyone who reads what we’ve shared, the truth is that it won’t. It will only help the people that it can help.
We are all wired differently. It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it? Some of us are so brilliantly creative, we can see a million possibilities in every moment. Others of us are powerfully intellectual, strategic thinkers who can forge a path no matter the challenges facing us. Our strengths are incredible.
They are also precisely why those of us who write advice for a living cannot help everyone – but many readers don’t consciously take this fact into account when they read our often powerful advice and confident suggestions.
Sometimes the advice simply will not work for you, my dear readers, because you are a beautiful, unique person who is wired in wonderful ways; ways that require personalization when it comes to how, why, and what you do in life.
Today I would like to introduce you to my experiences with routine personalization – and, hopefully, send you off with a new mindset and confidence as you blaze your own trail.
Introducing The Routine Types
Now, for the purposes of clarity I will be dividing us all into a few general categories when it comes to the development of personalized routines. These are based on a few basic qualities noted in such well-researched assessments as the CliftonStrengths method, the Myers-Briggs typecasts, and many others.
My types are admittedly amateurish compared to these longstanding assessments, but I think they will be helpful in the context of this post.
The Personal Routine types are:
- The Hummingbird
- The Stag
- The Ox
- & The Cobra
This routine type is the person who “flits” between tasks. These people thrive when they can break their routines down into basic jobs, then break those down into smaller and smaller steps. They work well by doing a little here and a little there, accomplishing routines piecemeal throughout the day. Hummingbirds think quickly and rarely thrive in strictly structured environments requiring long bouts of focus – but this has plenty of advantages, despite what your fourth-grade teachers might have said!
The Stag type is a quintessential “browser.” While they don’t bounce between tasks as much as the Hummingbird type, they generally don’t enjoy doing the same thing all day long. Generally they thrive when they have two or three large projects or routines going at the same time, with some level of interchangeability in when they perform them. They need some structure to their day, but it should be a fairly adaptable one that is organized into “slots” of time that can be filled in as the Stag’s needs and energy levels shift.
These types are the steady and focused routine type, with their strengths growing in areas where resilience, endurance, and longterm habits are concerned. While it may take them longer to develop a new habit or routine, they are more likely to stick to them once the pattern is set. Considering how rare sustained adult behavioral change is, this is a great asset to have, and it can be conducive to great success and effective goal meeting…so long as the Ox doesn’t compare their progress to others too much. They should think more in terms of “deep-dives” into one goal at a time rather than the more divided routines and schedules of the former types.
Finally, this type is your true strategist. This routine type does very well when they begin their routine goals with careful planning and consideration, building up strength, focus, and aim before “striking” at the heart of the goal or project. Taking this time is very important, as it allows the Cobra to clarify and choose the quickest, most efficient way to hit their mark. They tend to be fairly focused once they are confident in where they’re going, but they require more time and forethought before beginning something. Successful Cobras embrace this fact and use it to their advantage.
As with all personality metrics, a complex human being cannot be simplified into these categories carte-blanche. You may be a Stag in one area of routine development, such as work routines, and a Hummingbird in others, such as hygiene and socializing (this is my personal combination, just so you know).
Well-personalized routines are all about doing the work to know yourself and observe your own thought processes and behaviors as much as you can. Asking close friends and family to assess you can also be helpful, but the way you appear on the outside and the way you approach your own thoughts can be quite different – so keep that in mind.
Now, let’s go into the best routine personalization techniques for each type.
How Hummingbirds Find Their Strongest Personal Routines
Being a Hummingbird routine type is simultaneously a great asset and a big challenge in today’s world. Things are fast paced and constantly moving, which suits our mental style as Hummingbirds, but it can also pose challenges when our strengths get in the way of certain expectations.
Hummingbirds may find it difficult to work in extremely structured environments, and habit-building is very challenging for them.
They need quick work that allows them to move from one topic or task to another frequently, perhaps with the aim of completing one or two larger projects by the end of the day or week.
All of that flitting can add up to create amazing results, if the Hummingbird is allowed to follow their natural inclinations and has a social net to catch them when they go too far off course.
If you are a Hummingbird, you may have been chided for being distractible and dreamy as a child. Perhaps you have an ADHD diagnosis, like me, or tend to lose track of what people are saying when there is a long conversation happening.
You can be labeled as “forgetful, but usually it isn’t that simple. You do remember things…just not at the same time every day, and not necessarily in the same sustained order.
The Hummingbird should try their best to develop a routine that allows them to do things “in between” other tasks. For example, I like to write for a while, then find a five minute cleaning task to quickly do, then perhaps save some links for my clients to look at, then get up for some water before returning to my writing…
Plenty of people thrive in an environment full of personal motion! Think of it as being a bubbling stream rather than winding river. Both will see their waters reach the sea, but they do it in their own way, meeting up and going their own way when it makes natural sense to do so.
Hummingbirds, embrace your creative, dancing way of living life! If you fight these tendencies, you’ll only end up wasting energy that could be used to get a lot done.
You’ll probably find that combining routines is also helpful, for example brushing your teeth and washing your face while in the shower, or getting in a five minute workout while your lunch is heating up. Find creative ways to fill those “in between” spaces and use them – you might surprise people with how innovative you can be!
My words of caution: beware relying on memory alone to remember the parameters of your routines. Write things down as much as you can – even if it’s on your arm or hand – and ask for people to repeat things when you aren’t sure if you heard all of their directions.
How Stags Find Their Ideal Personal Routines
As a Stag, you may find yourself “browsing” your routines. You like to turn bigger areas of life, like work, socializing, hygiene, or cleaning, into series of “mini-routines” you can easily group together.
If you are hosting a party, for example, you may find it helpful to first list all of the task “categories” you need to complete before people arrive. Then you’ll want to break down each category into “sets” of 3-5 tasks that make sense to do together, such as purchasing food and decorations in one trip, then doing three things in the “cleaning” category before moving on.
While you don’t flit the way that Hummingbirds do, you do need a bit of change in your day-to-day life. A few hours here, one there – you enjoy getting to milestones and then switching to another path before aiming for the next. This keeps your mind free and comfortable without overwhelming it.
Stags can gain great benefit from the “grouping” strategies I’ve touched on already, and shouldn’t try to force themselves to finish a project all in one sitting. Planning techniques like Batching tasks, bullet journaling, or goal-setting in descending “focus areas” will likely be very effective for the Stag.
Taking breaks between routines is important for Stags, or they can get rolling in a way that burns them out by the time the day is done. Setting strict times for beginning and ending work or other routines is also important.
My warnings: look out for a tendency to burn out or get “blocked.” Provide yourself with different areas to work in, depending on your task category, or you might make the classic blunder of mixing home and work together in a way that annoys loved ones and takes a toll on your mental health. Don’t try to be a workhorse, but don’t feel like you have to run between tasks at top speed, either.
How Oxen Can Maximize Their Personal Routines
Ox types are a wonderful group of people, and I have always envied their ability to keep everybody focused and on-task in work and home life. They can focus on a task for long periods of time and naturally balance the different aspects of a project in a cohesive, sensible way that leads to strong foundations and lasting success.
As an Ox, you won’t enjoy a loud, chaotic environment and will find such places very stressful. Noise cancelling headphones and creature comforts are your friend whether in work or play.
You probably find it annoying when people bring you a laundry list of things to do, because you know that realistically you’ll only be doing one thing at a time. You’d rather they give you a shortlist instead – you’ll update it when you’re done with the first items.
Oxen types in all contexts can clearly see when and where things need to be consolidated. Why would someone schedule a meeting in the very middle of the workday, rather than at the beginning or end where it won’t interrupt everybody’s flow?
You find interruptions supremely irritating, which is often a good thing as it keeps the people around you conscientious and helps you to stay clear of things like social media overuse or compulsive email-checking. Your steadfast methods and well-established habits form a powerful, reliable foundation that makes everything you do shine with quality.
Change is harder for this type than it is for the others, but this isn’t a weakness – in a world that often changes too quickly for people to keep up with, the Ox has the advantage of being able to ignore the static and keep themselves on track.
My warnings for Oxen: be religious about scheduling breaks and recreation into your day. Overwork is a serious concern for the steady Ox and can have long-term health impacts. Also bear in mind that you’ll want to invest more in a comfortable, inviting work and home space, because you tend to spend a lot of your time in the same places.
How Cobras Strike Their Perfect Personal Routine
Cobras are the people who you’ll often see running things behind the scenes, as they are categorical direction-makers and path-plotters. This type of routine personality is strongest when they have plenty of time to work through the specifics of a schedule before they begin to implement it.
The far-seeing Cobra is the person who spots problem areas long before they become a problem. This is an extremely valuable talent and skill that can help Cobras thrive, and it saves other people a good bit of trouble, too!
Before they begin the day, Cobras should have a dedicated time to simply sit and plan. They should make this time sacred to both themselves and anyone else sharing space with them – it is vital to their success, and should not be questioned or interrupted. Often this planning time will be in the morning or evening, at times where schedules are “divided.”
If you are a Cobra, you are skilled at laying out action plans and then following through on them with little trouble. When snags occur, you tend to want to take a breath, step back, and re-strategize before dealing with the problem.
Cobras are and should be protective of their brainstorming and thinking time. They can benefit from taking long walks, meditating, writing things out, or tracking tasks and metrics.
If you are a Cobra, you don’t enjoy the feeling of being rushed into things – you know that efficiency is often a product of prior planning, and urgency can hurt your routines and goals in the long run.
Don’t fight your strategic way of viewing the world – embrace it! You will need to set firm boundaries around your time and priorities. This will help you achieve greater peace and productivity as you navigate life.
Cobras are highly efficient once they get going on a task, simply because they take the time to find the best way to achieve things. Things like trip planning, making to-do lists, and filling out schedules are enjoyable for this type. Cobras are excellent people to have on any team!
Warnings for Cobras: it’s easy to feel like you are wound tight when you’re given deadlines that don’t leave enough room for a thorough planning process. Make sure you negotiate these kinds of projects as much as possible to leave you room for thought and preparation. Look out for a tendency to over-plan, and to spend too much time chasing perfection.
Conclusion – No Advice Works For Everyone, But Your Routines Can Work For You!
When it comes to productivity, habit-forming, and building routines, there is more information out there than most people know what to do with. Navigating it all can be overwhelming, to say the least.
Consider this post a friendly green light to pause, consider your own unique strengths, and be more discerning about how you engage in these areas of life. You don’t need to force techniques that not only don’t work for you, but also make you feel guilty or “wrong” when they don’t come naturally!
Instead of taking the advice of well-meaning writers like me as gospel, consider our suggestions to be more of an opportunity than a set of “rules.” When you read pieces like this or buy your next book on success psychology, look at it all as a chance to question things and get to know yourself a little better.
Do what works, discard what doesn’t and you’ll soon be on your way to a happier, more successful life!