Establishing A Routine
Where do you feel like you need routine?
How many times have you tried to establish routine?
Where does it seem to go wrong?
The key steps to establishing routines are to:
- Focus on them. Keep your routine as your foremost goal for one month, focusing on nothing else. Having too many habits at once spreads your focus too thin and makes success less likely.
- Make them rewarding. You want your routine to feel good and helpful to you. Choosing a routine that will serve you purpose.
- Log your progress. The key is to keep track of it and see how well you’ve done over the course of a month. (Emily)
How to Establish a Positive Daily Routine
- Start Small
Many people who aren’t naturally routine-oriented start off by attempting to establish a ton of routines at once – and then they fail miserably. I know this from personal experience, as I tried many times to establish routines of my own and watched others fail at it as well. The trick is to start very small. Focus on establishing just one simple routine in your life and give yourself one month to master it.
From what you wrote down above, pick one area you want to focus on to establish a routine. What is that one area?
Some examples might be-Instead of establishing an elaborate daily study routine, instead just pick a very small block of time to devote each day to reading. Instead of building up a morning routine with lots of activities, focus on just one activity after you wake up, like brushing your teeth.
Spend some time thinking about the single, simple routine you want to establish. A good “starting” routine is one that is simple, one that involves something you would have to do anyway (like homework or hygiene), and one that you’ll repeat quite often – a daily routine is a good one. Later on, as you get used to establishing routines, you can move on to more complex routines. (Hamm)
- Make Effective Reminders
The most common problem that many people have with establishing new routines is simply remembering to do them at the appropriate time. If you normally wake up and start on your day, it can be hard to always remember to start off by, say, brushing your teeth. Why? Quite often, it’s because you already are entrenched in a set of routines – and breaking those routines is quite hard. You see, in other words, you are already in a routine, just not the one you want to be in!
In truth, the challenge with establishing new routines is that you usually have to break old ones to establish new ones. You might not think that your mornings have a routine in place, for example, but, quite often, there is a subtle but powerful routine already there, one that incorporates a small handful of variations that, together, make your mornings seem rather random and chaotic. Thus, even though your morning seems very un-routine and it seems as though you can’t add a new routine because things are so irregular, quite often the opposite is the truth – you have a routine and breaking that routine is difficult. (Hamm)
So, how can you break through that resistance? The best way to do it is to think about your change in routine consciously at the very moment you need that thought, and the best way to do that is through a reminder.
It’s often difficult to know exactly when or where you’ll need that reminder, though, so I suggest trying a bunch of reminders when you’re starting a new routine. Let’s say, for example, you want to get in the habit of brushing your teeth as soon as you wake up. You can start by putting your toothbrush in the place where you always go first thing in the morning, then putting notes in various places that you might otherwise go. Stick that brush on your bedside table, then put notes in your pants pockets or right in the middle of the mirror in your bedroom. You’ll soon find that one of those reminders is the one that always works, so you can quickly reduce the effort to focusing on that one key reminder.
- Repeat Until It’s Natural
Replacing one routine with another usually takes one to two months. Until then, you continually run a risk of falling back into your old routine without the new habit ingrained in it.
For me, I often found that the reminder I would set up carefully for myself would become part of my routine. I began to expect to find my toothbrush on the table when I woke up, for example, and that led naturally into brushing my teeth. I began to expect to carry only the materials I needed for studying in my backpack, so that when I went to the library between classes, all I would have on hand is the required study materials. When this type of expectation happens, it’s a very good sign. It means that, at least in part, you’ve adapted to the new routine.
The final threshold to ensure that your new routine is natural is that you can easily remove any inconvenient reminders and still succeed in accomplishing the routine. Take down your reminder notes, for example, and see if you still go through the routine as normal. (Hamm)
- Add One New Piece at a Time
Once you’ve managed to establish one new routine, add another one. Go through the same procedure – find one you actually want to add, set up a bevy of reminders so that you think about it when you need to, and keep those reminders in place until you just simply do whatever it is that you’re trying to establish.
For me, I found that once I had added three or four routines to my life, it suddenly became very easy for me to establish further routines. I no longer had to really think about it after the first few days of a new routine. That’s not to say I lost all spontaneity or anything, but that when I needed to take care of things on a regular basis, it became much, much easier to get used to those routine tasks. (Babauta)
It’s simple – You are what you do with most of your time:
- If you lift weights every day – you’re a weight lifter
- If you write poems every day – you’re a poet
“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.” Mike Murdock
To demonstrate – let’s take a look at a sample before and after routine.
- 8:30am Wake up at the last possible minute feeling horrible
- 8:31am Curse the day
- 8:40am Consider quitting my job so I can go back to bed
- 8:45am Road rage on the drive to work
- 9:00am Annoyed by everyone at work
- 9:30am Decide to do no work today
- 12:00pm Eat a hamburger for lunch
- 1:00pm Drink coffee or soda to try to wake up
- 2:00pm Nod off at desk for 3 hours
- 5:00pm Leave work feeling exhausted
- 5:15pm Road rage on the drive home
- 6:00pm Sit on the couch and watch reality shows
- 7:00pm Microwave Hot Pockets for dinner
- 9:00pm Go out drinking
- 2:00am Decide to stay out too late
- 4:00am Eat gas station hamburgers
- 5:00am Finally go to sleep
- 8:30am Wake up at the last possible minute feeling horrible
- 6:00am Wake up and Thank the Universe for another day of Life
- 6:05am Use the bathroom, brush teeth and record my weight
- 6:15am Drink large glass of cold water and eat a healthy breakfast
- 6:17am Put the dishes from yesterday away
- 6:20am Make coffee
- 6:22am While coffee is brewing do morning stretches
- 6:30am Read a book for 15–20 minutes
- 6:45am Watch the Sun Rise
- 7:00am Begin 3 hours of work
- 10:00am Go to gym
- 11:30am half an hour of work
- 12:00pm Listen to a 15 min podcast or meditation
- 12:15pm Eat lunch
- 1:00pm Work or take 30-minute nap
- 2:00pm 3 hours of work and/or writing for blog
- 5:00pm Stop working, clear desk of clutter
- 5:15pm Prepare and eat my dinner
- 6:00pm free time
- 7:00pm Final meal of the daily, make sure my macros targets are met
- 10:00pm Bed time
- 6:00am Wake up and Thank the Universe for another day of Life
See the differences?
- Sleep: We all know for a fact that if we don’t get 6–8 hours of sleep our bodies can’t function at optimal level.
- Wake Up Thankful: The first thing I do is get out of bed, put my feet on the floor and say “Thank You”. I am thankful for another day of life. Sounds silly – but it’s life altering.
- Watch sun rise: Watch the sun rise in the morning. Why? Because it is real hard to be depressed when you’re watching the sky explode with light. If you can’t remember the last time you watched the sun rise – set an alarm and do it soon.
Every item in a daily routine can help keep someone out of depression’s darkness while helping them accomplish long term goals.
If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else. – Lawrence J. Peter
What You Can Do
If you want to give this a try, you just need to do two things:
- Document your current daily routine
- Edit it to make your life better
Then – take some time and think of a goal you’d like to accomplish, and we’ll adjust your routine to help you do it.
EXAMPLE GOAL: “I WANT TO LOSE 20 LBS THIS YEAR “
Steps to accomplish goal:
- Set calorie goal and track food with MyFitnessPal
- Exercise 3 days a week
- Get 8 hours sleep per night
You would then place one of those in your daily routine. Do it for one month then add in another and so on.
Now fit those things to your daily routine and start doing them repeatedly. The momentum you create will help reduce the depression you feel. It’s exciting to be heading in a new direction, to have a goal and work towards it every day.
The results: When you realize you’ve had a goal and are no longer doing the things to achieve that goal, your focus shifts.
For example, someone who loves to write music realized they were no longer writing music. This was something very important to them that had slipped through the cracks. They wanted to change that, so they scheduled the first hour of their day for writing and recording sessions.
The key difference is that instead of just saying “I’m going to start writing more music!” they actually added into their daily schedule at a specific time and did it every day without fail.
“Goals are dreams with deadlines.” – Diana Scharf Hunt
There is nothing wrong with living on a routine – the key is that it’s a routine created by you– mapping out what you want to do every day and then doing it.
Let’s Get Started
So, it’s time to get started. I’ve outlined your assignment below.
- Document Your Current Routine
- Choose a Goal
- Create a new routine to accomplish your goal
- Do it every day
On the Science Side What Happens When We Create A Routine?
When you can expect that exercise will be at 6am, breakfast will be at 7am and work will finish at 5pm, you can repeat that daily routine so that you create habits. Habits allow your hormones and neurotransmitters to behave in a certain way. For example, your nerve cells expect to receive a certain amount of dopamine, serotonin and endorphins every day as a result of exercise. This makes you feel good. When your nerve cells don’t get that, they have to undergo a series of physical changes to adapt; and this takes time and energy. The body wants to conserve energy for any physical challenge you might want or require it to do.
Why Humans Crave Routine
Routines makes you feel safe.
The world can be a dangerous place and there is quite a bit of uncertainty. To allow you to feel safe, your mind likes to know what to expect. When you know what to expect, you can relax around familiar situations.
Routines give you predictability.
Learning the likely outcome of various events, allows you to have some predictability about your world. When you know how things ‘usually’ or ‘should’ work, you can relax. When things occur out of the ‘normal’, you become much more attuned to responding, especially if that involves a fight or flight response.
Routines make you feel comfortable.
Not being able to predict a person’s behavior or knowing if food will be on the table tonight, causes stress. Chronic stress is no good for anyone. Being able to feel safe in your environment and predict the outcome of the plethora of events that occur each day, gives comfort.
Routines simplify life.
When life is simple, you can achieve more. Planning out your day, week or year, reduces stress by giving you an idea of what to expect. This in turn makes you feel comfortable. When you don’t have to worry about as many things, your brain has a better capacity to operate and become more creative.
Routines allow you to learn new things.
When your brain doesn’t have to constantly predict how you should behave, or always be on the lookout for situations that could cause you harm – physical or psychological, it opens up. When your mind is open, your brain is free to create new pathways to old problems and new connections to new challenges. This is the basis of innovation.
Routines allow you to do more.
Creating routines allows you to be more productive. One way to be more productive is to create schedules of routines. A weekly schedule for example, allows you to know what to expect, when, and for how long. This develops the power of focus by giving you a timeframe to work on a particular task. When you create a daily and weekly routine, you can get more done by improving your focus and eliminating distractions.
Routines, and breaks from routines, operate in a ying and yang fashion. The interplay between the two creates the spice of life. Routines allow you to feel safe and comfortable, which in turn, allows you to live more simply and get more done. Routines essentially allow you to get more done in less time. They also form the basis of habits at a cellular level.
Establishing a routine can be challenging, NOT becaue you aren’t capable of doing it, BUT because you have to break acurrent routine in order to establish the new one. Choose one thing in your current routine to replace. Making sure to replace it with something that is rewarding to your goal. Once you have successfully set reminders, and establishing this one thing for a month, then add in a second thing to replace of the current routine. In no time, you’ll be on your way to living a routine that supports your goals and your best self.
Babauta, Leo. “Tips To Establishing Morning and Evening Routines” https://www.thesimpledollar.com/establishing-positive-habits-and-routines/
Emily. “Establish Routines For A Simple Home.” https://theartofsimple.net/establish-routines-for-a-simple-home/
Hamm, Trent. “Establishing Postive Routines” https://www.thesimpledollar.com/establishing-positive-habits-and-routines/