The past few weeks, we’ve been talking about setting goals to create positive morning and night routines. It’s valuable to talk about routines and what we are doing, but even more valuable is talking about how we are able to do those things.
Creating a new habit isn’t easy; if it was, there wouldn’t be hundreds of books dedicated to it. Creating a new routine can be really challenging but also really empowering. Although we may fight our brains on a lot of things, we have to give it credit for its neuroplasticity.
Now, I’ve read and watched a lot of content on the topic of habit-building, and I’ve had a fair amount of trial and error with these tactics. I’ve distilled it down to a five-step system for me to establish a repeatable routine:
1. Identify what you want to change
Perhaps the routine you want to establish is a morning routine. Try going deeper. Why do you want to establish the routine? What do you want to change about your lifestyle that will be accomplished by that morning routine? What do you want to gain from the change?
My Example: I want to create a better morning routine. I want to take time to journal, do yoga, and learn for myself in the mornings. I don’t want to check my phone until 7:00 in order to focus on myself. I want to gain a sense of personal connectedness with my thoughts and creativity in the morning before I deal with all the demands of life.
2. Identify why you want to change
The why is just as important as the what. So you’ve identified something you want to change and gain from this transition, but why? What’s fueling this change? What do you want, or not want to happen?
My Example: I want to create this morning routine in order to regain my sense of groundedness. I don’t want to wake up in the mornings and start my day off by rushing. I notice that when I do this routine, I’m generally more positive and productive during the day.
3. Identify specific things you can do to change
Start these changes off small. If it’s waking up earlier, start with ten more minutes and give yourself one thing to do in those ten minutes. Or, if you’re normally rushing out the door, give yourself ten more minutes and fill it with nothing in particular. Find specific items to do in the morning in order to change the what and accomplish the why.
My Example: In order to do this, I will spend 10 minutes journaling in the morning and 15 minutes doing yoga. I will not check my phone until 7:00.
4. Start implementing the change
Like I said, little changes are key here. If you try to change everything all at once it won’t work. Add or subtract things one at a time. Figure out what blocks you from accomplishing it. For morning routines, it’s probably going to bed too late so you can’t get up at your target time. For night routines, it’s likely procrastinating so you can’t get to bed on time, you’re exhausted, and eventually you pass out without doing anything you wanted to. The best thing I’ve found to implement changes is to visualize it. I will often visualize myself going through the routine and the joy that it will bring me. For morning routines, this can be right before sleeping, or right when the alarm goes off and the impulse to hit snooze is powerful. For night routines, this can be right after school when I’m tempted to procrastinate homework, or in the middle of work as a sweet motivation to keep going.
My Example: Here’s my progression from waking up at 6:30 to waking up at 5:30:
Wake up at 6:30 –> 6:15 –> 6:00 –> 5:50 + do yoga –> 5:45 + do yoga –> 5:35 + snooze –> 5:35 + journal and yoga –> 5:30 current routine. You can read about what exactly I do with that time here.
5. Continually re-evaluate
You won’t always stick to your routine. That’s okay. You just want to continue working towards making it more consistent than not. Make it a habit and not following it being an exception to the rule. You may lose sight of the what or the why, and those are the two fundamentals to making this work. If you lose sight of those things, you need to start back from square one and ask yourself what you want to change again. You may go through this several times and come up with the same results. Switch up your routine to do things that make you excited. You can read more about learning whether your routines are wasting your energy or not here.
My Example: I recently added reading to my night routine because I found a great book I’ve been excited to read but haven’t had much time to. This gives me an incentive to start getting ready for bed so I’ll be able to read my book.
As you can see, in many ways the what and the why are what fuels the change, rather than just doing the actions themselves. You should want to make these changes, and make them for you. Not just because some blogger or guru told you it’s the right thing to do. I’m just giving you my routine and tactics in case some resonate with you. They may not – and that’s okay. This is more about the process than the content, and that’s why this deserves its own separate post.
Good luck on your routines! Share with me your what or your why in the comments below! Or tag me on Instagram @alicia_life_tips with the hashtag #myroutine and I may feature you!