Stick to the plan, even when you’re out of track

Getting habits in and out, and how to have them back

Getting habits in can be hard, right? But you know what can be even harder? Getting them, lose them, and get them back again.

That’s exactly where I am at the moment.

Getting habits in and then out — How to have them back?

If there are two things I can say I learned about habits, those are:

  1. When they work, they really do. If you manage to find the right one, it will work marvellously and effortlessly.
  2. It can take time.

Let’s do the opposite then.

What about when you already found yours, it is working as part of your routine, but then, one day, suddenly you stop doing it.

This is the case for me and my Bullet Journal during the last three weeks. The Bullet Journal is a tool that I’ve been using almost religiously on a daily basis since March this year; it helps me to organise, document and note whatever I need and want, in a structured yet simple fashion.

I constantly use it, for both work and personal stuff and even side projects. Literally everything. In fact, that is its key attribute, centralised organisation of virtually everything in your life.

The Habit

I tend to start the planning for the following day the night before, making a list of what I’m going to be doing, as a way to map out my day and don’t get lost among impromptu prioritisation or the actual lack of structure. On it, I track my morning routine (MR), my Most Important Tasks (MITs), my to-do lists, events, notes, reminders and any relevant information I want to be able to find in the future. There’s even a way to collect specific info for a topic (Collections), but I’ll cover that on another occasion.

My Bullet Journal

The problem

A couple of weeks ago I was in Germany, and that’s when the “problem” started. As the motto for this trip was “take it easy” (and so I did) I eventually and unintentionally stopped writing my notes in the journal the night before (or at any point of the day). This is something that happened few times in the past, usually during weekends or business trips where I end up with a couple unregistered days that I later manage to update.

However, this time I haven’t logged for almost three weeks. My brain and daily productivity are asking for it.

After the trip, I’ve been intending to update it on a more general approach, just to cover the main aspects from the missing dates, as I’m still able to remember the highlights of those days. Most of them are general notes from the whole trip, basically avoiding to have a massive gap in the continuity of the journal, while been able to move on and get back on track.

What is more important to me, is the fact that I’ve been not willing to just jump forward and forget what have been missed, probably for two reasons. The first me being totally OCD about it, making me to an extent, unable to just leave it like that, because I will always know is there and it doesn’t feel right; second, knowing that “doing it later” will make it even more unlikely to happen.

I’m taking it as a good sign, an unconscious one, that the habit was deeply embedded, so my brain feels some sort of aversion to going against the rules.

How I’ve been coping so far?

Post-its! Post-its every day, everywhere! And it’s horrendous.

I love post-its, they have become a big part of what I do and how I organise towards personal and work activities, however, having too many of them to remind me about things (or everything), can get messy and make me feel disorganised, while leaving the working space looking like proper chaos.

Post-its everywhere!

There’s a positive side

As I’ve done in the past when unexpected circumstances happened to interrupt my routine, I took it as an opportunity to test and measure the impact and actual benefit of the activity in question. In this case, just as the cold showers months ago, it helped reaffirm the Bullet Journal’s impact and value to my daily life and productivity.

Not having the journal feels unstructured, like I’m not sticking to the plan (because there’s none) or that there’s something I might be forgetting.

On the other hand, it made me appreciate how easy is to bypass something even when done so consistently.

Discipline

It all ends up with one thing. Discipline.

Just like when it comes to training, we all had those days when we just don’t want to train, right? I firmly believe those are the days we need to train the most, get out and do what we have to, because no matter what, even when ending up with a not enjoyable session, it always feel good afterwards.

That’s exactly the approach I’m talking to get my habits back on track when I get lost, because that’s how it works with anything that requires discipline. Yes, I’ve been avoiding it, there always will be something else that I can do or that seems more important, but sometimes that’s only distraction or the avoidance of responsibility. I embarked on this journey almost nine months ago, am I going to let it go just because I had a couple of bad weeks? Am I going to let it go that easy? Hell no!

I’m looking forward to get it back and get that feeling again once the journal is again organised. That feeling of been organised, of been productive and that I’m empowering myself.

You work hard for your habits to kick in and stick around, so whenever the time comes (and it will), get them back and keep going, no matter how hard it feels or how long can take. If you know they work, worked for them and don’t let them go.