I am a man of routine. Even though I try to stay pretty on top of things, I tend to fall off quite a bit. So, for the past few weeks, while I was going through dedicated, I had a couple of routines which I set so that I would get up on time and go to sleep on time. Doing the same thing every day may sound like a pain but it has some constancy and structure. It makes your life organized so that it doesn’t fall into disarray. It also keeps you committed to a lot of your goals. I’ve seen that a lot of my goals have been achieved when I stopped thinking about them. I was so fixated on making something happen.
One of my worst habits is to go on YouTube whenever something gets difficult. If I’m able to get to my workout in, I’m not gonna on my phone and look up YouTube videos. If I’m thinking about something and I’m not able to turn off my brain, then I can just initiate the nighttime routine, and by the time I get into bed, I’m not thinking of anything else but just falling asleep.
Make it simple
Ok, so now let’s talk about how you can do this for yourself. When it comes to routines simple is better. James Clear in Atomic Habits says routines that stick tend to be attractive, obvious, easy, and satisfying. This is why I plug in my phone where I am going to work out. I had a habit of reaching for my phone when I first woke up to check any messages or emails. Now, I’m more likely to go to the workout spot because I am naturally curious about who texted me.
By making it attractive and making it simple you’re halfway there. Another problem which I had was that I kept forgetting that I had to do it. I had to make it obvious. This is done by using the trackers—in order to track exercise, I have to exercise.
This obvious nature of tracking and the motivation that it creates is enough for me to start exercising. Finally, you want to make it satisfying. At the end of the workout, I not only give myself a break by meditating but I also get to read the news and the blogs that I follow. This allows me to have some time to myself before I go off to rotations.
I didn’t have a routine until very recently. What I learned was, while this routine is simple, you only need a small one that works. This is particularly important when you think about consistency. Your current habits didn’t start off like the bad habits you currently have but grew over time. It’s all about the consistency that you put into the good and bad habits that you have. The most important part about routines is that they are there for the long term. Knowing that, I would refer you to Jerry Seinfeld’s advice about routines, whose routine hasn’t changed over time. He said “Winners and losers have the same goals—all that matters is putting in the work every day.” If you have a goals-first mentality, with the outcome in mind, you’ll always be thinking about the result. If you are thinking about the process, then you’ll always love the process.
Survival is success in any field in life. With longevity and routines, you can become successful—all that matters is continuing to put in the work.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
When I don’t succeed in doing these routines, it’s way too easy to say that I give up and that I don’t want to do this anymore. I have cycles in which I don’t want to do anything, and those cycles often end up with me comparing myself to others and feeling inadequate. However, to combat this, I think the best thing that we can do is to refocus and to get back on top of the things that we want to do—which is getting back to doing the work. If I didn’t do a routine today there’s the next day to hit those goals. Once I hit that small win, then I can expand my horizons to the rest of the week. Then the rest of the month. If I continue to beat myself up over this one day, then it can stretch into years of turning wheels like a hamster, and constantly comparing myself to the people of the outside world.
I like to keep things on autopilot because if I think too much about them they turn into obsessions which I need to focus on every day. It doesn’t feel like discipline or something I have to do if it’s something I’ve always done. For me it makes it more fun if I’m doing it on autopilot because it makes me feel more accomplished that I have a certain skillset and it is slowly becoming my identity. If it is when I am just starting out, I’m more likely to describe exercise as an “activity that I do” rather than describing myself as an athlete who trains. However, this identity shift can stave off the depression that may come when you don’t achieve your routine for a week or a month. It helps to have this type of positive mindset.
There are multiple apps to track what you do, but I’m the biggest fan of passive tracking. My favorite types of trackers for this type are things you don’t need to wear but I also enjoy wearables. My favorite to track how much time I spend on the computer is RescueTime. It is available on Chrome, Mac, and Windows, and it is a wonderful extension which shows which websites you’ve been visiting. I think that it is a great addition to anybody who is trying to cure their social media addiction and it has a mobile version for the iPhone, iPad, and Android.
By tracking everything in the routine, I’ve found that I spend too much time interacting with my phone before bed time and before the workout, so I placed it in its current location which is very far from where I sleep. Using the Apple Watch is very easy and I think it is a phenomenal tracker, and Oura is very good for the sleep time that it provides. Both of these are great exercise and sleep trackers, and I use them for all of the workouts that I do. I’ve found that if I up my calorie goal during workout, I tend to work a little harder to achieve it so I try to set it so that it matches the effort that I want expended for the workout. By tracking everything, you’re able to see how you respond to different changes in your routine, and run experiments to help you find a better routine. The key is to be observant and flexible when you do want to change something.