“Practice makes perfect.” You’ve heard it a million times. And like most other sayings that have been around for so long, this one’s lost its impact. But that doesn’t make it any less true. As individuals, some of us may pride ourselves on being flexible and spontaneous— but if we’re honest, we recognize that the things we’re best at are the things we’ve done again and again.
I learned from an early age in figure skating competitions that no matter how nervous I was, the repetition of practicing my routine over and over again is what prepared me for the “main event”. Muscle memory would kick-in and then this magical thing called “auto-pilot” would happen. Why? Because I knew my routine. I could always count on my routine to pull me through a stressful competition. We can do the same in our professional and personal lives too.
If we want to be good at our work, we embrace repetition – not only in a “micro” sense associated with specific tasks, but in the “macro” sense of our entire approach to the work we do. That means embracing a concept feared by free spirits everywhere: a routine.
If that sounds forbidding, it shouldn’t. We’re talking about your routine – the one that works best for you, that’s best matched to your individual work style, pace, and rhythms. Most elements of your routine probably already exist; your job at this point is to judge what works for you – what’s comfortable, logical, and effective for you.
Consciously identify the elements of your daily routine – both the ones you’ve purposely chosen and those you’ve unconsciously adopted;
- Evaluate their individual value in helping you achieve your objectives;
- Prioritize them accordingly;
- Ditch the ones that don’t work;
- Keep the ones that do.
As you go, pay close attention to what you already know about yourself as a professional and as a person. Are you most productive at a certain time of day? Do you require a certain setting in order to be effective?
Then: Write down your new, optimized sequence of what you’ll do and when you’ll do it – for today, tomorrow, next month, next year. Adjust the details as you go, if needed, but don’t abandon your plan: this is your “roadmap” for increasing your capabilities and effectiveness for each day – and, through repetition, for your entire life.
The great historian Will Durant summed up the idea behind “practice makes perfect” another way: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” While that might not be what our free-spirited side wants to hear, it’s true. Find your routine, and make excellence your habit. Visit True Depth for more inspiration and leadership concepts you can use – as part of your daily routine.