What is a Regular Routine?
When thinking of a regular routine, some feel it’s boring, unimaginative and uninteresting. But I beg to differ. A regular routine can bring freedom and joy of productivity if you vary your regular routine and implement small changes. The boundaries and guidelines of a regular routine, along with flexibility has the power to change your output, your enjoyment of life and even relationships.
When routines are broken because of circumstances, whether health, disaster, relationship or other reason, it’s hard to get back on track. How many of you have missed even several days of working out then found it super-easy to go back to the gym? Most find this difficult. In the case of going through a pandemic, most were away from the gym at least a year. Maybe you don’t go to the gym…but I’ll bet there’s another routine that you have, whether walking, riding a bike or other sort of exercise.
The point to all this is that adding a regular habitual activity, even very small, has the power to change your life. Change your habits, change your life.
Habits Compound Over Time
James Clear in the first chapter of Atomic Habits describes the British Cycling story and how their implementation of small changes and habits improved their performance. In fact, they improved so much as to win the Tour de France in 2012 and other Olympic gold medals.
The cycle team started with just a one-percent gain and that gain compounded over time to go from a last-place team to first. Clear states that he sets a schedule for important things and never misses twice. This may sound harsh and too regulated to some but getting back on track is much harder than staying on track.
Principle of Compound Interest
Compound interest works the same way as compound habits. It accumulates. Interest is gained not only on the original amount, but with each passing month, interest is calculated on the new total. Here is a fun example: Start with $100. Contribute ten dollars a month for thirty years. To be safe, figure on a 5% interest rate that can go up or down 2%. (I realize that is currently even a high return!)
If you are at 5%, in thirty years you will have $5,951.00, even when accounting for variables and shifts in the market. This is a pretty amazing return from an initial $100 investment. It just costs giving up a couple lattés a month! In thirty years, the value of the dollar may be less and if you only get 3% the outcome will a little different, but it’s still a pretty significant return on a regular small investment with compound interest. You can put in your own numbers for more fun on the Compound Calculator.
Principle of Compound Habits
Compound habits multiply in the same way as compound interest. So many of us want overnight success and don’t realize that just like compound interest, success builds slowly, but solidly. You just can’t quit. For example, how many would love to lose five pounds in a week? Unless you are a hard-training athlete and also lose water weight, that’s not a realistic goal to lose weight, then keep it off.
What works is a change in your lifestyle eating. (See Examples in Free Goal Setting Worksheets) Eating smaller portions of the right type of foods at regular times of the day will end up paying off. Again, you just can’t quit. Unfortunately, those foods don’t include ice cream and chocolate. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have as much as we wanted? When people change their lifestyle eating, they see results. They happen gradually, but they happen.
I have seen photos of several friends that have applied lifestyle eating and lost hundreds of pounds between them. They spent the year during the shutdowns not sitting and eating but applying good habits. It paid off.
Make a New Habit Fun
Establishing a new habit and fitting it into a regular routine is the secret to achieving solid results and it doesn’t have to be boring or even super-hard. Give yourself incentives with small wins when you achieve success for a certain number of days. If you implement very small changes, you won’t be overwhelmed and give up. The secret is not to give up when you don’t experience overnight success.
When you plan your day, schedule a few activities that will be a part of your regular routine. Your work projects will change, but your regular routine will keep you focused, sane and at least a bit more balanced. Exercise, journaling, deep concentrated work are part of my routine and I encourage you to include them in yours. (Download Goals Gameboard here)
Exercise, Journaling, Deep Work
Exercise: Here are some ideas for new habits that will help you physically. Schedule a 20 minute walk one or two times a day outside. A brisk walk will burn 70 to 100 calories. If you ride your bike for 20 minutes, you will burn between 140 and 207 calories, depending on your weight. Either walking or riding a bike is achievable for most people.
Journaling: Spend ten minutes every day journaling. I do this in the morning, first thing, but many like to do this in the evening. Mornings are good for me because they help me focus for the day. My journaling occurs right after I have a brief devotional, reading a short passage and writing down my thoughts. This morning routine has kept me centered for many years, no matter how busy I am.
Deep Work: Turn off the notifications and make time for deep work. Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work is a worthy read on this. Life holds many distractions, from phone calls to family obligations, work deadlines and more. If you are a creative, especially a writer, you need time to think. It’s easier to let the interruptions get in the way and clean that messy drawer, check social media, etc…There are many tools to help you turn off the distractions. Find what will work for you.
End of Day Routine
To be honest, I have a hard time shutting it down at night. With a home office and now our kids out on their own, I have more freedom to work later. But I love it. When our kids were younger and when Greg and I schedule time in together, I do shut it down early. But there’s a routine that I follow.
Lay your tools out the night before was a principle my father taught me. As a fire captain, he also had side gigs like so many in that field do. Construction and running another business was his side gig, which he loved. He loaded his truck with his tools the night before to meet workers early the next morning. If the tools weren’t ready, the workers couldn’t work. That would be a loss of both time and money, which he guarded carefully.
Ten Minute Timer
I use the ten-minute timer rule. I set my timer for ten minutes at a time, especially for tasks that are not as enjoyable. This also works for projects where I may be stymied or stuck. I spend a limited amount of time, then put the project away and come back to it. With new technical tools, I make the rule to add one small thing at a time and this diminishes the frustration and overwhelm.
Steve Jobs had one main outfit, black t-shirt and jeans. It was one less thing he had to think of that day. A regular routine will do the same thing for you. Don’t overthink it. Just fit it in and focus on what’s most important. A regular routine then has the power to free you up and increase your productivity. Your mind will be clear with focused boundaries and you’ll get the work done as planned.
The secret is not to give up when you don’t experience overnight success.
Thought Leader, Keynote Speaker, Author
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