If you’ve missed parts 1 and 2 of the series on consistency, check them out here:
Part 1: time and effort
Part 2: mental fatigue, willpower, and motivation
So speaking of routines….I sort of, kind of got out of the routine of writing. Oops. Honestly, I’ve been traveling nearly every weekend and just haven’t had the capacity to put something together so there’s that. Onwards and upwards.
Let’s talk about routines, shall we? I LOVE ROUTINE. I am 100% a creature of habit who loves structure, color coding, and specific instruction. If I could plan out nearly every second of every day, I probably would. That’s not the healthiest habit ever, by the way. I realize that I’m likely in the minority here - especially when it comes to nutrition and exercise. Most of my clients and others I’ve talked to have busy lives filled with work, family, relationships, social obligations, etc. that make it difficult to stick to a strict nutrition or exercise regimen. Consequently, when life inevitably happens, people will feel “bad” about falling out of their routine and fall into the shame spiral of feel bad, wallow in the bad feeling, say fuck it, do something else that makes them feel bad, and so on and so on. Not only is this not productive, it’s not a particularly kind thing to do to yourself. If you’re thinking, “well, if I can’t plan out a routine to stick to 100% of the time, why even bother?”, I hear you and I totally get that. As we’ve discussed before, do not let perfection be the enemy of good. With that said, let’s explore why routines are helpful:
Routines help us save mental energy: How many times have you found yourself driving and then suddenly arriving at a destination and saying “uh, how did I even get here?!” That’s your brain on autopilot. You’ve driven those streets so many times that it has become automatic. Routines can help us do the same thing. They help us save mental energy for important, pressing tasks by allowing us to somewhat automate our food and exercise.
Routines provide us with a safety net: Creating a routine can help you have a “blueprint” for what to do when things get a little disrupted. Routines can bolster you and help give you a little nudge when you need it.
There is no “right” way to build a routine: Routines work because they work FOR YOU. What works for one person will not work for another person so think of creating a routine as an endeavour in personal exploration and a bit of a trial and error process.
You’re probably like, “I get it. Routines are good and stuff. Now, how do I actually DO this?” and I hear you. Investing in creating a routine and recognizing what you need your routine to do for you is a huge part of building something that works. So let’s get straight to the point with some tips on how to build that useful thing:
Start small: Add in ONE or two things every two weeks until you are satisfied. For example, if you’re looking to start prepping your meals, start by prepping one or two items.Maybe start by prepping two or three items that you know you’ll throughout the week 0 like rice, chopping veggies, etc.
Be flexible to find structure: Rather than locking yourself into only option, have a few options on deck. For example, my schedule isn’t always predictable so I block off two different blocks of time where I can get to the gym. Do I always use both? Nope. But just having a back up plan helps me tremendously. I know that if I can’t make my first option, I’ve got another option or I can split up my training into two sessions if needed. If you have the ability to have options, use them!
Keep yourself accountable: Use a system to keep yourself accountable to the routines and behaviors you want to create. Schedule gym time like an appointment if you’ve only got one block of time that works. Use tracking system for food. Use stickers or some other marker in your planner. Have a buddy keep you on track. Hire a coach! Do any and all of those things to give yourself some tangible item to attach with your behaviors and goals.
Most importantly, remember that there is no “on” and “off” switch. If you fall “off” your routine, it’s okay. Pick a small thing that you can do to help get you back to what works for you and do that thing. Think of it like a dimmer switch - you can turn it up or turn it down based on what is going on in your life and what you have the mental and physical capacity for. Building up routines and habits gradually is much easier and creates more sustainability (for most people, not all) than trying to create and execute a “perfect” strict plan.