The most important thing to remember is that a routine is intimately personal and infinitely customisation. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to create a routine that isn’t for you. As much as I want to be a night owl, I crash around 9 pm. every night. I try to force myself into a creative state at 10 pm. it will only lead to feelings of frustration and failure. Keep this in mind when going through these steps.
1. Identify your current routine.
This is crucial. You probably have a dozen daily habits that you don’t even realise you’re doing. Start your routine check by carrying a small notebook with you at all times. Write down every action you remember. Do you always wake up two minutes before the alarm? Write it. Do you always add an extra packet of sugar to your coffee on Monday morning? Write it. As harmless as these actions seem, they are linked to unconscious behaviours that shape who we are. Knowing them is the first step in determining which one to keep or replace.
2. Create boards that work for you.
If you want to develop a habit, give yourself a hint. This is why daily reminders of popular diet and exercise apps are so effective. They force us out of the automatic routines of our time and remind us of the action we are trying to incorporate into our new routines. Try to make the signal as natural as possible. For example, if you are trying to eat fresh fruits and vegetables as a snack instead of chips or cookies, place bowls of fresh fruits and vegetables on different tables in your home. Snack-sized pre-cut vegetable bags so you can easily grab them when you’re in a hurry.
3. Make it yours.
Try not to make a lifestyle change that doesn’t suit your life. I have trouble eating breakfast and getting my daily servings of fruits and vegetables. So for me, a hearty, filling shake is easy and natural for me. Part of my nighttime routine is to set the blender on the counter (a sign of habit) and freeze all of the smoothie components in single-serving containers. If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t take the time to cut the product or take the blender off the shelf at 7 a.m.
4. Ignore the magic number, it’s a lifestyle.
Deliberate routines are lifestyle changes. Note the word “life” in that sentence. This is not a 30-day fix for your best and most productive self. Developing a habit can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days. That number is not large for nothing. It is not only a different number for each person, but also for each habit. Drinking eight glasses of water a day is probably easier than, say, sitting down to write 1000 words of a book every day.
Implementing my daily shakes is quite easy, and it took me about 30 days for that to become part of my routine. But I am more resistant to physical habits, such as daily exercise. That requires a few more signals and a lot to convince myself; I still have a long way to go in that habit.
5. Reduce your decisions.
Routines are hard to develop because habits are hard to develop. Part of the nighttime routine I try to build is to cut down on TV time for reading an hour before bed. My theory: If I read something thought-provoking before I go to bed, my brain will work with meaningful thoughts that will improve my life. And as much as I love a good episode of Bloodline, it’s not exactly the kind of fuel I want to give my brain.
I reduce my decision (watching TV or reading?) by “hiding” the remote in a drawer and placing my e-reader or current reading material in an obvious place like the coffee table. This serves as both a habit signal and a decision-maker.
6. Reduce the temptations that lead to old habits.
This may seem obvious, but it’s a powerful tip to remember. Habits are formed by signals. If you’re in the habit of reaching for a can of soda around 3 p.m., replace those cans with water bottles or even cans of sparkling water.
7. Set a closing time for technology.
A growing body of research shows that technology can negatively affect us overnight. Blue lights on the screen occupy our minds and can affect a good night’s sleep. Dopamine hits on social media have a downward effect, which can negatively affect our mood and even our physical condition. Not to mention, most of what we see on TV isn’t exactly purposeful. That doesn’t mean you have to sell your TV and disconnect from the network, but it does mean you can regain some control by setting a fixed shutdown time each night. This allows you to naturally relax and spend your evening hours on beneficial things, such as connection time in your relationship or gratitude lists in your journal.
8. Do an activity to relax.
Sometimes my brain has trouble turning off at night. I’ve found that a few simple stretches or a quick restorative yoga session help me feel firm and slide naturally into a pre-sleep state. For some, a quick chapter from their favourite novel is enough to get the hang of it. Remember that the activity shouldn’t be strenuous because that can bring your body and brain to life, and that’s not what we’re looking for right now.