Updated: May 1, 2020
Your Routine – Revisited
Author: Katey Collins, LCSW
Is there something you look forward to and are excited about each day? We all have certain behaviors, patterns and habits we regularly implement. Such routines are unique, just as we are. Enjoying the sunrise as you walk your dog every morning, biking to your favorite coffee shop for a ceremonious start to your day, reading daily motivations next to the fireplace, swimming in the pool with your friends three days a week. These are examples of routines.
If you would like to feel more grounded, centered, calm and effective, consider adding a new routine to your schedule. Chances are, with all the social distancing you have been doing lately, you have been forced to create some new routines. Now may be the perfect moment to re-evaluate how you spend your time and make some changes.
Often people set big goals with honorable intentions. However, without a clear plan on how to effectively implement a long-standing routine, you may not be successful. Below are 10 tips that increase your chances of carrying out a long-term routine, which may enhance your wellness in surprising ways.
1. Determine why it would benefit you to establish such a routine
Those who regularly incorporate routine understand why it is so important. I interviewed Marcus, a Physicist who is an open water swimmer, when describing his morning swim, he said each day he felt like he could not fail because he already started with success in the pool/open water. Another swimmer, Emily, gave the analogy that her morning workout is like “brushing her teeth.” The benefits of routine are plentiful: it gives one a sense of control and consistency, the schedule helps us be more productive, our stress levels decrease, and a sense of accomplishment is gained.
2. Find something you are interested in
There is no need to convince yourself to adopt something that you do not enjoy. Perhaps a coworker suggested you start guitar lessons and assured you it will “make you feel better.” If it is not something you truly enjoy or have interest in, your chances of follow through will be low. A helpful way to explore this is to look at your social media feeds. If you notice that 80% of those you follow are tied to creative writing or art, incorporating a routine related to one of those topics would be a great start. Another option is to give yourself permission to rediscover passions long forgotten. For example, your cello has been sitting in your closet for five years and you have been dreaming of joining the choir again. A new routine could be dedicating 20 minutes every morning to practicing your cello.
3. Designate a time for your routine every day
Morning is generally our best time to nurture our soul and take care of our mind and bodies.
If you are like me, when 7:00 p.m. comes, you are not exactly productive. There have been days I hit snooze in lieu of my morning workout and told myself I would do it after work. Most of those days the workout did not happen. Some people are more productive in the evening. Pay attention to what time of day you are most effective and schedule your routine for that time frame.
4. Write down your routine
By writing your routine down you are reinforcing it and providing visual representation that it is important to you. Writing on post it notes, colorful index cards, creating a printable document with visuals, declaring it on a dry erase board… are all great ways to remind yourself how important it is to follow through with your plan.
5. Set a reminder
Schedule your routine as an appointment in your calendar. When the alert goes off 15 minutes before, you are much less likely to be distracted or forget to complete your routine. You may want to enter a keyword reminder in various devices, such as your phone and computer. Many of us are great about following through with appointments for family, the doctor or work meetings. If we assign the same level of importance to our routine we have a better chance of completion.
6. Find an accountability partner
Engaging in a routine with someone you care about makes it much more fun and motivating! For example, you and a friend decide you are going to do yoga every day to enhance your flexibility and decrease your stress. You could check in with each other at night to verify the other completed the yoga for the day and share any reflections. To boost follow through, consider establishing a fun incentive. For example, 5 missed days of yoga means you buy your partner coffee. One months of 95% completion equals going out to dinner together.
7. Track your follow through and progress
Part of the excitement with routine is seeing improvements made. To determine progress, some type of tracking is necessary. For example, a weightlifter enters the number of repetitions and weights lifted on a certain date and continues to track for six months. By doing so the athlete measures increased or decreased ability to lift weight, as well as the number of times said athlete followed through with the training plan.
8. Review and revise periodically
It is critical to reflect and ask yourself questions about your routine. After three months of daily walking in the morning, are you noticing any changes? Have your co-workers commented how much happier you are when you get to work? Do you feel like you have a clear mind when your walk is complete? If you missed a day of walking, were you disappointed? Are you noticing that when you climb the flight of stairs at work you no longer need to stop halfway through to catch your breath? These are examples of reflective questions you could ask yourself to determine if your added routine is beneficial. Perhaps a different routine is worth trying if you are not obtaining the results you desire.
9. Remind yourself why you are doing this
Keeping your primary goal in the forefront is important, as it is easy to get sidetracked or push aside routines. If you have a sports injury and need to complete rehabilitation, you may need to frequently remind yourself of the purpose of the treatment. Tell yourself that running in the water helps your leg heal and become stronger, which will lead to a return to trail or road running.
10. Additional steps
After successful implementation of six months consider adding an additional component to your routine. Notice what your body is telling you. You may have had significant stress lately that has increased your need for self-care. Are you feeling more tired, irritable or anxious lately? Include an element of routine that would address your concern. For someone feeling irritable, they may add in responding to five journal prompts after their walk to help process stressful emotions. If you mind is racing at night and it is hard to sleep, consider adding in a lavender Epsom salt bath with candles. I personally enjoy Jason Stephenson’s guided meditation, which is sure to help me let go of stressful thoughts and emotions as I am trying to sleep.
This blog is just enough to get you started. I wish you well as you begin this exciting process of adding in a new routine. Below is a You Tube video from Passion Planner that gives details and examples of establishing routine.
How to Build a Routine
A podcast that reinforces this blog and gives some helpful examples of routine is The Morning Routine Formula.