It’s Not About Routine, but About Practice

You don’t need to wake up at 5 a.m. every day, but you do need some building blocks for your life

Ryan Holiday
Published in
4 min readAug 17, 2020


Photo: dusanpetkovic/Getty Images

In a world where everything is uncertain, where things are changing quickly, where chaos reigns, what we need is simple.

We need practices.

I’m not talking about routines. Although daily routines are important and many of us rely on them, the truth is that routines are fragile. Hasn’t this pandemic shown that? You’re no longer taking your kids to school, commuting to the office, or going to your favorite gym at your favorite time. All the parts of your routine that were triggered by those actions have shifted, like tectonic plates after an earthquake.

Practices are different. Practices are things you do regularly — perhaps daily, perhaps not — but in no particular order. They are things you return to, time and time again, to center yourself. To reset. To reconnect. To focus.

Waking up every day at 6 a.m. and watching the news while you have your coffee? That’s part of a routine. Prayer or meditation? A practice. Going to the 9 a.m. CrossFit class is a routine. Exercising regularly is a practice.

The difference is in the flexibility: One can be ruined by something as simple as hitting the snooze button one too many times or getting called into work unexpectedly. The other can adapt accordingly. One is about daily rhythm, while the other is a lifelong pursuit. One is something you made up, the other is something you do.

On studying the routines of creative people, Austin Kleon writes, “It’s a wild collage of human behavior. Reading about the habits of writers alone is like visiting a human zoo.” Some artists like the quiet before everyone else wakes up, while others like the quiet after everyone has gone to sleep. Some treat their work as a 9-to-5, while others put in hours like shift workers. Some break up their days with a nap, others with a run. No two routines are the same.

And yet the key practices are nearly universal:

  • journaling
  • quiet moments of reflection
  • exercise
  • reading



Ryan Holiday
Writer for

Bestselling author of ‘Conspiracy,’ ‘Ego is the Enemy’ & ‘The Obstacle Is The Way’