When she said it, I felt like I’d been slapped in the face.  She said it to me more than thirty years ago, but I can still remembering hearing it.

“You’re a box person aren’t you?” 

A box person? 

I had never really thought about it. She had met me only a few minutes earlier, but had observed and quickly labeled me.

Through the years I’ve had plenty of time to think about it.  I am a person of established routines, but I’m definitely not a box person.  Box person, to me, means no creativity, no coloring outside the lines, no excitement, doing the same thing in the same way and not thinking of better ways to do it.

Some have come to view established routines as being a box person, in a rut and moving toward a place where creativity and innovation are sent to die. The opposite is actually true and the right routines enhance our ability to operate at a higher level and accomplish more than we ever would have without routines

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

I have come to the conclusion that any person who has accomplished anything worthwhile in life has established routines that help them get there. Routines should be life giving and timesaving, not life-draining and time wasting. Routines set us up so that great things can be accomplished for the glory of God. Without established routines of work, rest and play, the pull of less important things will drag us in nonproductive directions.

Some of the most accomplished athletes and musicians are people of incredible routines.  

Throughout his career, swimmer Michael Phelps followed the same routine. He didn’t run through his routine occasionally–he did it every day. Phelps explained that it’s his self-imposed routine that he’s gone through his whole life.  Phelps is one example of the many Olympic athletes who arguably practice with specific routines in mind that they seldom change. It’s much more than just a training regimen. It speaks to the value and the genius of the right routines, which free their minds and bodies to focus on the most important things at a very high level of excellence.

Some time ago my wife, Susan, was watching a Charlie Rose interview with Jake Gyllenhaal in which Jake said: “Freedom is on the other side of discipline.” True freedom, the freedom to be everything God has in mind for you, is discovered as a result of specific routines and disciplines that you establish for yourself. Establishing the right routines free you up from making the same decisions over and over which allows you to channel your precious energy toward other essential activities. 

Writer Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says: “Most creative individuals find out early what their best rhythms are for sleeping, eating and working and abide by them even when it is tempting to do otherwise.”

Here are some areas of life where specific routines can be of immense help as you seek to be the best for the Savior:

  1. Sleep routines. How you prepare for sleep, choose to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time.
  2. Eating routines. Sticking with certain things you will regularly eat and things you will not eat.
  3. Reading, studying and writing routines so that you continue to be a life-long learner.
  4. Exercise routines so you stay in good condition and are a wise steward of the body God has given you.
  5. Work routines that enable you to get quickly to work and stay on mission by consistently focusing on what’s important now, rather than what’s urgent now. Set routines on how and when you respond to emails, texts and phone calls.

I am going to venture a guess that most of the people you and I admire, as people of great accomplishments, are people who practice certain set routines in their lives and have done so for many years. There is immense power in habits, routines and set rhythms.

How are you doing in this regard?