Since I’ve moved home from college, I have been struggling to find structure to my daily life. No longer bound by the boundaries that school set, I was spending every day doing tasks as I felt like, only getting my day started at 11 am or 12 pm. Finally, I decided that I needed to sit down and set up routines for myself, and I did! It’s only been a few days, but having a dedicated morning and evening routine has been game changing.
Today, I’ll be sharing 5 ways to make establishing a routine easier. You can make all the best intentions in the world, but setting your routines up for success will not only make them more attainable, but also less mentally taxing to upkeep, which makes it easier for the routines and habits to stick.
Earlier this year, I read Atomic Habits by James Clear, which is a book that many have recommended as a guide to implement habits that are attainable and sustainable. It gave me a lot of tools and techniques, and I learned a lot from it! The tips I’ll be sharing are from my own experience in building habits, but have techniques adapted from Atomic Habits as well.
- Have an environment that makes it easier for you to cue yourself. This may mean preparing to do your morning routine the night before, laying out your workout equipment clothes before going to work, or thinking of meal ideas so that when you get groceries, you already know what you’re going to cook. Make your routine as easy to start as possible, to increase the likelihood of you starting it. As Atomic Habits says, Habits are easier to build when they fit into the flow of your life.
- Create a way to track your habits. By seeing the buildup of the habits, it makes it seem more of an accomplishment when you do complete the routine. Checking off a task on a to-do list gives my brain the dopamine it craves, so being able to see a list of checkmarks pile up makes it less likely that I fail a routine. I have completed routines many times because I wanted to check it off, not because I wanted to do the habit itself. My app of choice is Routinery, but I also use a habit tracker in my bullet journal: both serve me well!
- Relate your routines and habits to your long term goals. When you start eating healthy, are you “trying to eat healthier,” or are you “someone who eats healthy”? If you can identify yourself with your long term goals and the habits you need to reach that goal, it will make you more likely to do that goal!
For example, one of my goals is to wake up earlier. Instead of saying “I’m going to be trying to wake up earlier,” I think of it as “I’m a morning person, and I’m someone that follows a morning routine.” When I’m building this habit, I’m becoming the kind of person that does follow a morning routine, and if I tell myself that that’s the kind of person I am, then I’ll be more likely to continue doing it.
- Make your routines not require willpower. Oftentimes, when we think about building habits we think about how difficult it is, and how much work it will be, replying on our willpower to actually complete it. If you make the routine not dependent on spur of the moment decisions, you’ll be so much more likely to get started!
For instance, you want to start going to the gym after work instead of chilling on the TV. What if you packed your gym supplies in the car with you? That ways, all you have to do to go to the gym is get in the car, rather than having to look for your gym clothes, get your food and water ready, get ready to leave, and go. Getting in the car is much less effort than doing all of the preparation, and it makes it less likely for you to default to just switching on the TV. You can even take it one step further and take the batteries out of the remote, so that turning on the TV is actually more difficult than getting in the car!
Each habit has its own “willpower” state. If you can set up your routine such that it is just as easy to begin as the more appealing “default” option, you can rely on your willpower so much less, and you’ll succeed at it more!
- Never miss twice. The biggest killer of a routine is missing it one day, and then simply never starting it again. I am guilty of an all-or-nothing mindset: “I missed X yesterday, so why wouldn’t I skip today either?” However, when a routine is missed twice in a row, MISSING the routine becomes the habit, rather than the routine itself! I try to never miss doing a routine two days in a row: even if I fail, the next day is there to pick it back up!
The routines that I have established have been absolutely life changing, and I am so glad I am back in a routine! I hope these tips helped inspire you to follow routines, and stick to them.