The power of routine

Succeed or fail; rinse and do better

My daily pull up log

Left to our own devices, all of us follow the path of least resistance.

That typically means eating badly, drinking too much, not exercising, spending too much money online, watching too much tv, and other things that are sub-optimal to our long-term health and well-being.

That’s why building positive routine into our lives is so important when it comes to making changes, hitting our goals, and all that other good stuff we know we should be doing but never get around to.

Routine sounds dull and boring, of course, but routine is merely code for habitualized actions; things we want and hence plan to do regularly and in a structured manner.

Do, note and repeat

Over the past years, I’ve built up some good habits.

For example, thanks to a big sheet of paper which maps out the year in days, every day I do a set of pull (or chin) ups that increases over time. Once completed, I cross the day off the sheet.

I go for a 6 km run every week (sort of). Technically, every Sunday night, I note down whether I do or don’t accomplish my weekly run on my weekly to-do sheet, which also tracks some other high and low goals: taking the kids to playgroup once a month, making bread or cake, having 3 days a week off from alcohol.

I’ll be honest. In none of these cases do I always hit my targets, especially in the case of the latter. But because I record my failures as well as my successes, just as every success is the opportunity to build a streak, so every noted failure is a challenge to do better next day, week or month.

And underlying this active enthusiasm, over time you find you build a passive commitment to your tasks.

Again, some of my goals have proved to be abject failures — I only managed two weekly yoga sessions in 10 weeks before junking the goal. But even that’s okay. Just cross it off this year’s list and see if we can do better next year. Or the year after that.

Because as every truism of self development states, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step etc etc.

Building regular habits isn’t easy but layering up this sort of routine can be incredibly powerful. You just focus on one thing at a time, and once you’re happy with that task, add another.

Over time, routine means they become things you do without really thinking about them; a structured and positive path of least resistance.