Pete Matthew: The power of routine


I am hesitant to start off this column with a humble brag but I am going to anyway. Lots of people recently, and particularly those in the financial services world, have told me they do not know how I get so much done.

I suppose I understand it. I manage a 13-person practice, as well as running a financial education website and one the of the most popular personal finance podcasts in the UK, which is downloaded 5,500 times each week and drives lots of new client enquiries to my practice. I also have a young family, with two daughters who require constant ferrying around.

But I do not reckon I am that much busier than anyone else. Not really. One thing I know is that, if I am effective at all, it is thanks to having a solid routine.

I get up at 5am, grab a glass of water and sit down to write for MeaningfulMoney or things such as this column. I will write until 6:30, at which point I either go for a run or do 30 minutes on the cross-trainer. I then grab breakfast (three rashers of bacon and two eggs), before showering, walking the dog and heading to the office, usually for 8am. That is where the routine ends because, as you know, each day is different. However, I never work past 5:30 and am home for dinner at 6pm. Admittedly I only have a 15-minute commute, where the worst traffic I encounter is being stuck behind a tractor, but there has to be some compensation for the fact it takes me almost six hours to get to London (I leave five miles from Land’s End). I am in bed by just gone 10pm.

What do you care? Well, I propose having a routine is a good thing for a few reasons:

1) Routine removes some decision-making

We all make thousands of tiny decisions each day, which takes quite a toll on our energy levels. By removing as many decisions as possible, such as what to have for breakfast, what to wear and what order to do things, it relieves that toll, even if only a little.

2) Routine keeps your natural rhythms in balance

Our body and mind is a complex and delicate system. Keeping it running smoothly takes work and good choices about diet, exercise and sleep. We have a built-in clock which needs looking after and which takes time to reset after a too-late night or a time-zone change. Keeping to a routine relieves this pressure too.

3) Routine frees the mind

If your body and actions are on autopilot, it can free the mind to create and solve problems. I do my best thinking when I am walking the dog, generally following the same route and not having to think about anything else.

Far from being boring, having a routine means that, when we do break it, the excitement can be heightened. For the most part, though, a regular pattern of living is good for mind, body and soul.

Do you have a routine? Can you relate to the benefits? I see some people burning the candle at both ends and at times I do envy them. But then at 10pm I start yawning and my bed calls. And I know that in the morning I will be raring to go for another day.

Pete Matthew is managing director of Jacksons Wealth Management