It’s a little bit funny and ironic, now looking back on it.
I remember what I was thinking when I quit my full-time job, in early 2014, the day after my 32nd birthday.
There was excitement. Wonder. And a small dose of fear.
But one of the first thoughts going through my mind was how I was looking forward to eliminating the routine.
In fact, being able to live my life without a routine to box me in was one of the facets of financial independence that I was looking forward to the most.
Being financially independent meant that I could essentially do whatever I want on a daily basis. And I surely wouldn’t want to do more or less the same thing every day if I didn’t have to.
I assumed that life without the usual routine would be fantastic.
No more getting up before the sun. No more commute. No more office politics. No more 11-hour workdays.
And for the first year or so, I mixed things up. The week became the weekend, and vice versa. I sort of put in effort to make sure that no two days were exactly the same. The days were unpredictable. And it was fun.
But I then started to settle back into a routine. And that process slowly but surely evolved toward a full-blown conclusion – to the point where I now have a very solid routine that is almost unwavering from day to day.
What’s funny and ironic about this is, I couldn’t be happier with this evolution in my life.
I absolutely love having a routine.
How did this happen? And why I am I glad this happened?
The Routine And Its Negative Connotation In Our Minds
First off, the reason why I was so looking forward to eliminating the routine is because of the negative connotation it had for me.
See, a routine is usually associated with negative aspects of our life:
- Waking up at a time that might not best suit us
- Long workdays
- A boss we don’t like
- Office politics
- Work that isn’t satisfying or purposeful
- Going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark
- Tasks that aren’t aligned with our passions
You get the point here.
Our brains are programmed to associate the word “routine” with negativity. That’s because our routines, as they typically exist for most of us, are often routines that aren’t to our choosing.
Most of us lack options, which forces us into a routine we wouldn’t otherwise ordinarily choose for ourselves. As a result, we feel stuck and boxed in. And that’s compounded by the fact that the routine – as routines go – is repetitive, which only serves to constantly reinforce the negative connotation.
Reprogramming My Mind
But what’s happened over the last few years, as I’ve evolved and grown as a person, is a reprogramming of my mind as it relates to the connotation for the routine.
My routine is now associated with positive aspects of my life.
The routine now has a positive connotation for me.
What was required for this to happen is, I put myself in a position to customize my routine. That customization of the routine is for me and by me.
But this is only possible because I put myself in a position to customize the routine in the first place. I’ve avoided exposure to a negative routine by living below my means, intelligently investing my excess capital into high-quality dividend growth stocks, and becoming financially independent in my early 30s.
I now have options. Options can and should allow you to live a more authentic and content life.
And one of the best options to execute toward that end is to build out a custom routine that you thoroughly enjoy every single day.
Once you do this, and once you set up a routine that completely fills you with joy every day, your mind reprograms itself to associate the routine with positivity, happiness, and enthusiasm. You look forward to the routine instead of dreading it. It’s a massive paradigm shift in your mind and life.
Enjoying My Routine
This may come as a surprise to some people, but I basically live one day over and over again. Each day in my life is almost indistinguishable to the next. Monday looks a lot like Wednesday. And Friday operates very similarly to Sunday.
It’s like the movie Groundhog Day. Except I’m not trying to (hilariously) escape it.
I wake up around the same time every day. I allocate the same window of time for checking emails before jumping in the shower and doing everything exactly the same. I wear one of three different workout shirts (coordinated to the corresponding workout). I tend to eat lunch at the same place – within a 10-minute window. I eat very similar – or even the same – meals every day. I show up to the same coffee shop, at the same time, and order the same thing, regardless of the day. I’m at the gym six days a week, and I usually arrive around the same time each day. My workouts are already preprogrammed based on the day.
What’s perhaps even more surprising is, I couldn’t be more excited to spring out of bed every morning and start this routine of mine.
But it’s only because this routine is basically my “perfect day”, lived over and again.
I imagined in my mind what my “perfect day” would look like.
What would I do if I could do anything? What would I do every day if I had unlimited money?
Well, I basically live that life.
Discussing my exact routine with detail will be saved for another time, but the point is this: my routine is highly enjoyable because it’s the routine I’ve specifically and precisely chosen for myself based on lifestyle elements that I’ve come to realize make me feel happiest, most content, and most purposeful.
A Routine Eliminates Meaningless and Time-Consuming Choices
I’ve read how millionaires and billionaires have these routines that lock them into predetermined choices, day after day.
They’ll get up at the same time. Eat the same kind of food for breakfast. Allot the same amount of time for certain tasks. Wear the same kind of clothes.
They’ll have a certain number of meetings, stick to certain daily tasks, and make certain phone calls at certain times of day.
So on and so forth.
I used to think this was strange. Even bordering on silly.
After all, if you could do anything with your day(s), why not make every day different?
Well, I’ve come to realize that setting up a routine you enjoy isn’t only about maximizing happiness, contentment, and purposefulness, but it’s also just as much about eliminating needless and meaningless choices from one’s life – choices that will only take away from the aforementioned enjoyment and happiness of one’s daily routine.
Allocating resources toward choices that have no measurable impact on your life or the world around you is ultimately a waste of resources. As successful people tend to be wonderful and skilled at allocating resources properly, eliminating these choices from one’s life is a natural byproduct of logic.
It’s about setting up daily habits that put you in the best position possible to succeed in the parts of your life that matter most.
What these daily habits look like for each person will look differently.
But the key part of it is eliminating choices that make very little difference to the end result of the sum of your life’s accomplishments.
The Difference Between High-Value Choices And Low-Value Choices
That’s because there’s a massive difference between high-value and low-value choices.
While having almost unlimited options in life is a really wonderful life position to be in, we have to weigh that against the fact that we all have 24 hours in a day.
Moreover, our brains can only process so many thoughts at one time.
Paralyzing yourself with analysis paralysis over, say, which kind of sandwich you’re going to order for lunch takes away time and energy that could be allocated toward high-value choices. It might not sound like much in one instance, but it compounds very quickly across one’s life in aggregate.
And so we must allocate our limited and valuable resources toward high-value choices that actually matter.
A great example of this is Warren Buffett’s daily visits to McDonald’s every morning.
He stops in and orders one of three breakfasts – depending on what the stock market is doing. The choice of which breakfast to order is already determined by factors outside of his control, essentially making his choice for him.
He doesn’t waste time thinking about where to go for breakfast, what to order, and whether or not that would be a good choice. That’s because he knows the resources spent on this would add no value to his life, all while simultaneously taking away immense value. If you net-net it out, it’s a huge subtraction from one’s life.
The McDonald’s he goes to is on his way to the office – the same five-minute drive he’s been making for over 50 years.
His entire day, in terms of mundane and repetitive tasks, is already set up ahead of time. And this frees him up to make far more meaningful choices that can literally impact millions of lives.
Someone else can do the math on what one wasted minute would cost Buffett (especially at his advanced age), but it’s a process that can be scaled down to anyone’s life and effectively replicated.
And that’s exactly what I’ve done.
I’ve, for example, eliminated a resource-wasting choice like which coffee shop to go to, or what coffee to drink, while I read and write for three hours per day. I found a place that’s a close walk away. The coffee is great. The service is on point. And the seating is comfortable. It’s my happy place.
Where to go and what to order is no longer a choice. It’s a non-choice.
Converting meaningless choices into non-choices via an enjoyable routine is a very effective way to free up resources for meaningful choices.
I have daily habits. But they’re great habits to have for the aforementioned reasons.
Society tends to have a negative connotation when it comes to habits, too. But that’s because too many people have bad habits. If/when you develop great habits, your whole perspective on having habits will also change for the better.
A routine can be a fantastic thing. It can highly complement everything else in your life, cohesively and holistically fitting all of the moving parts together in a way that makes the individual pieces of your life more than they otherwise would be in isolation.
However, a routine can only exist like this when it’s a routine that you thoroughly enjoy because it’s a routine that you’ve chosen for yourself.
It should be a routine that’s customized for you and by you.
When this occurs, you end up reprogramming your brain to think of a routine with a positive connotation.
Once you set up the daily habits and routines that maximize exactly who you are, all while eliminating useless choices that serve to drag on your resources, you’ll likely find that you magnify your happiness, contentment, and purposefulness, which should greatly improve your quality of life and potential as a human being.
This is particularly great for someone like myself, as I have a brain that is constantly working to analyze and question everything around me.
My brain never turns off. It’s a gift and a curse, but I’ve tried to maximize the former while minimizing the latter by eliminating as many low-value choices from my life as possible. I’d probably drive myself crazy if I spent a ton of time on every single possible choice on a daily basis.
I’ve never been more happy to spring out of bed and start my routine than I am right now. I’ve never been more pleased about today or more excited about tomorrow. I know exactly what to expect, with no surprises.
Some might think that’s dull. But it’s actually not dull at all when your expectation is to be delighted with your day. It’s a “perfect day” you live over and over again.
Lastly, I want to quickly note that having a daily routine like this doesn’t mean there’s no room for spontaneity.
Quite the contrary, once you eliminate low-value choices from your life, you have so much more time to set aside for serendipity and value-added pursuits that are both planned and unplanned. You have time because you can make time. You can make time because you don’t waste any of it.
I hope to soon share my exact routine here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. While it’s not necessarily going to be a routine you would enjoy, it’s one that I have come to thoroughly love.
There should be some value to be had in seeing what a routine looks like for someone who’s financially independent in their 30s and taking advantage of geographic arbitrage by living in a foreign country as a dividend expat.
What do you think? Do you enjoy your routine? Do you find value in having a routine? What would your “perfect day” look like?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
P.S. If you’re excited about the idea of building a custom routine for yourself, check out this list of amazing resources that helped me achieve financial and location independence in my early 30s. This lifestyle has allowed me the options necessary to live my “perfect day” over and over again!