Personal Notes :: My Tips on How to Set a Routine



Hello friends!  I am going to try to make this a quick read.  This post was inspired after a conversation with my oldest daughter about her difficulty in setting routines.  I am, however, a creature of habit and love routines.  Having said that, it may just be me, but even I am having difficulty these days instilling new habits in my already overloaded list of daily activities. And I no longer hold a full time job! If it is difficult for me, can only imagine how hard it is for anyone that is employed, has kids and/or is caring for someone elderly or ill, etc.  So, this post is as much for myself as it is for any of you that may need it.  

We all know that in order to manifest the benefits of a particular goal (or new lifestyle activity), one must be consistent, for a period of time, until it becomes second nature — which is why a routine is absolutely necessary.  Hopefully the following insights will spark some interest or motivation to help you to achieve success.  Just remember to be kind to yourself along the way.  Any attempt is a worthy one, just build from there.   So let’s get into it! 

p.s. this post is not about setting goals, however, in order to establish a successful routine, one must first identify and find the motivation behind a particular goal, or new lifestyle activity.  In doing so, this will be the foundation from which one will be kept motivated and consistent until the routine becomes habitual.  


Ask yourself why you want to achieve the new lifestyle activity and be specific. What’s the first response? Don’t stop there, dig deeper.  For example, if consistent exercise is your new lifestyle activity, your first response may be for better health, increased mobility or strength, etc. In digging deeper, you may actually find out that your real motive is to be more active on the weekends with your kids. Now that you know this, visualize all the activities you would undertake with your kids. Now imagine the benefits that will be gained, i.e., better relationship, bonding experiences, becoming a role model, creating memories, etc.  Come back to the why when you lack motivation.


Visualization has always been my number one tool, as I am pretty good at it. Close your eyes and visualize yourself actually performing your new lifestyle activity. Feel and own it.  Don’t stop there.  You also need to write it out (the activity and your motivating factor).  Personally, I am only now working to achieve my new lifestyle activities by putting pen to paper, hence why I purchased myself a productivity planner (as a side note, now I must now set a routine of actually writing in the journal)!  But it doesn’t have to be a journal, it can be as simple as writing out your new lifestyle activity and motivating factor on a post-it.  The point is to write it down and put it somewhere you see it. In addition to visualization, experts say that putting in writing your new lifestyle activity (and setting a specific date to achieve it*) will get your subconscious working towards it. The combination of visualization and writing will help you stick to the routine that will lead you to results.

*setting a date is not the focus right now.  The focus is to establish a routine. Setting target dates to measure your success along the journey can become secondary motivators, to the primary one that you identified when you initially answered the question why.

Now that you have identified what you are working towards, the why and expected benefits, set a routine by:


Some will say, just jump in and do it.  While that can work, I have found that in order to be consistent (basis of a routine), one must plan ahead in order to remove any possible obstacle.  Your preparation may be only one task, as in my case (the purchase of a planner), or it may be several, e.g., hiring a babysitter (and a back-up), ensuring you have a week’s worth of workout wear at hand (purchased or cleaned), pre-paying a parking pass, or getting bus tickets/pass, bribing (lol) your kids to give you ‘alone time’, making ahead dinners, etc.  However, beware of falling short.  Some are so good at getting themselves prepared (the process of), they don’t follow through on the actual task of the goal itself (guilty as charged) (read on).


Tell yourself you can do this! Yes, talk to yourself.  Think about anybody/everybody else that you’ve seen achieve the same change.  Feed off their success. Use them to get competitive with yourself.  Go as far as to tell yourself, ‘I can do anything you can do, but better’ (but DO NOT compare your progress against theirs.  Everyone is different).  Do not allow an internal dialogue of ‘Yes, but’ to surface, e.g., yes, but I have no willpower. Worse, never put off tomorrow what can be done today.  Be ready to counteract any negative dialogue and tell yourself this was your past, you are a different person now.  You ARE a runner, an entrepreneur, a reader, an artist, etc.  Start now with whatever you can.  Then congratulate yourself.  If you experience real blockage at this point, do some self-discovery exercises to find out what is truly stopping you, especially with all the preparation you’ve undertaken to remove any potential obstacle.


Be present.  Do not allow negative thoughts, worry, etc, to enter in your mind when you are performing the activity. Forget about perfecting your new activity. The point here is to establish a routine.  With time, you (it) will get better. You’ve worked hard to prepare to get to this point, so give it 100%, for however much time you can.  Then congratulate yourself and commit to show up again tomorrow.


Choose only one person to confide in and seek their support.  Enlist them to be your motivator/sounding board for this particular activity. Discuss beforehand with them how you want them to keep you on track.  Once the routine has set in and you start to see results, only then let others in the know.  Better still wait until they inquire, as your hard work will eventually come to light.  While there is merit in announcing your intentions before you start, in order to be held accountable, it is sweeter to acknowledge your achievement(s) after the fact. So, you haven’t set yourself up for a fall, as this tends to happen because you haven’t held back on anything to announce, it has already been announced!


If establishing a new routine is very difficult for you, try coupling it with one of your already established daily activity.  For instance, if your aim is to expand your knowledge, listen to a podcast while driving, busing or applying your makeup.  Alternately, if your aim is to eat healthy, switch out a bad habit (smoking or a sweet treat) during the day for a smoothie, a fruit or a herbal tea, then increase gradually until the bad repetitive habit has been replaced entirely with the healthier one. 


Reflect upon your journey.  Praise your achievements (always) and analyze your less than notable attempts (not failures).  There is always a lesson to be learned, so be honest and learn from it.  See the positive.  Know there is always tomorrow to try again or to improve. 


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