Harnessing the Power of Routine

The word “routine” seems to have a negative connotation surrounding it and I’m not really sure why.  I guess many people associate it with set of actions that they perform without thinking, actions that they don’t necessarily take pleasure in. A routine is boring. It lacks pizazz.  I argue that a routine, when used properly, can be a powerful tool to help you achieve your goals and lead a happy and healthy life.

Let what is irksome become habitual, no more will it trouble you

– Ovid

Full disclosure: I am a creature of habit. I always have been and I always will be.  Routines are easy for me to establish, whether good or bad. There’s a certain comfort in knowing how I’m going to go about my day. It takes the guesswork out of things.  Unfortunately there’s a downside to that and that’s the fact that I can be resistant to change and lack a certain spontaneity in my life.

In other words, I’m boring.

But that’s an issue for another article.  Instead I’m going to focus on areas of my life in which setting up a routine has had a positive effect and show you just how powerful a good routine can be.

Let’s start with an influential one in my life: the workout routine.

I’ve been overweight and out of shape at several different points in my life so I can relate to people who struggle with this one.  Heck, I’ve struggled with it many times myself.  When you’re starting a routine and you’re sore, tired, out of breath, and generally not enjoying yourself why in the world would you want to do it again?

If you have already committed to the next workout this becomes easier though.  Set a schedule, whatever it may be and try to stick to it.  If you have trouble, maybe set up a reward system for hitting goals. It can be simple like committing to 15 workouts in a month and buying yourself something nice if you make the goal.

Early on I used to use my cheat meal as a reward. Do all the planned workouts that week then the cheat meal is on as planned. If not, no cheat meal.  I no longer find that particular reward motivating, but you get the point.

Use rewards to establish a difficult routine, but once that routine is established is when you can really start to reap the rewards.  For one, it can save on decision making, particularly if it’s something that takes a lot of willpower.  You are lacing up your running shoes or heading to the gym without really thinking about it.  There’s no hemming and hawing, wondering if you should work out, or what you should do for a workout.

You just do it.

You’ve simplified things. Made it easier on yourself.

Plan ahead and just do it. Over time, this new routine can become enjoyable and something that you look forward to on a daily basis.

Now I can’t say that this approach isn’t without its pitfalls when it comes to working out. At times in the past I’ve become such a slave to the schedule that it’s lead to injury. I’ve ignored pain and pushed through, not wanting to miss a workout.  There’s a difference between making excuses and skipping a workout and your body telling you to take a rest day. It’s a fine art knowing when to tell yourself to suck it up and just get to work, and when to say, “okay, a rest day is probably what we need.”

Because of this you still need to maintain some level of flexibility to make good, smart decisions. The “do it at all cost” mentality doesn’t always have its place and can just get you into trouble. On the flip side, identifying when you are erring on the side of caution versus just being lazy is an invaluable tool as well. This goes for things other than injury too, like relationships. Maybe you only have a half an hour in the day with which you can spend time with your family and instead you use it to go to the gym. While I’m all about leading a healthy lifestyle, there are potentially negative ramifications for setting up and following through with such a routine.

Routines can be especially powerful in other areas of your life as well. One in particular that I derive immense benefit from is diet.  I eat many of the same meals over and over again, although many people find this difficult.  Breakfast is tea or coffee, lunch is a giant salad, snack is a piece of fruit or a protein bar, and dinner I like to mix it up…..between about a half a dozen different meals.

I realize this seems rather monotonous, but within that salad and those dinners I like to mix up the vegetable components and the protein sources, so technically there is a little more variety than there appears to be on the surface. I recently started a new habit where I’ve been picking up a new vegetable to try every week at the health food store (this week it was red kale).

The one big benefit of cycling just a few meals is that I know exactly what to shop for when I go to the grocery store. I’m not meandering down the aisles and being tempted by all the junk and picking up a bunch of stuff I either don’t need or will regret after I eat it.  As an added bonus to that I’m in and out of the store in 10 minutes, leaving me extra time to do the things I enjoy, like working out and writing blog posts.

If I know exactly what to get at the store because I know what I’m going to be eating that week, I rarely run out of food and have to resort to something stupid like pull through a drive through.  In the morning I pack my lunch and snack, brew my tea/coffee, and I’m prepared to make it through a day of work without hitting up the vending machines or shelling out money for the caterers that come in.

I’m so entrenched in that routine that those aren’t even decisions that I have to struggle with.  In fact I don’t even consider it making a decision. To me, there isn’t an option or choice to be made. There’s no debate when a good plan is in place. If you feel a little bit of doubt or wavering, consider the fact that you are the one who came up with the plan and you probably had a pretty darn good reason for doing so. Defer to that logic when trying to quell the objections of your present confused self.

I set up routines to help schedule my other activities for the week, too. By allotting certain times for certain activities I can be sure that I’m accomplishing everything I want to that week. Here’s a quick rundown of how I set up my week.

To me the week starts on Sunday.  After I “sleep in” until 7am and enjoy my hour of “me time” (I’ll expand on this later) it’s time to study for a two hour block. This two hours is non-negotiable. If I finish early I read nonfiction until time is up.  After that its a workout and then lunch. Then things get a little less regimented, but as of right now I have four major tasks to accomplish before the night is over with, in no particular order.

1.) Review the prior week’s goal and accomplishments. Adjust and plan the next week based on those results. Add additional tasks to the remainder of Sunday if applicable

2.) Write my weekly newsletter

3.) Publish my RKC training log

4.) Go for a walk

Monday is typically a day to review study material and take my weekly PN certification exam. Tuesday and Wednesday are reserved for article writing and Friday Funisher filming. I try to publish an article on Wednesday, but this is the second week in a row that’s gotten delayed (a guy’s got to sleep!). Friday is publishing the Funisher. Saturday is for updating the Reading Corner, and more recently setting aside 1-2 hours to review to review the non-fiction I’ve read that week and creating an action plan of ideas to implement. It’s one thing to read a bunch, but I’ve found I need some time to make sure I’ve adequately processed what I’ve read and cull some actionable lessons from the material.

All throughout the week I’m studying for my other certification and doing social media promotion. That’s all a little less structured and fit in around the other stuff.  I find that if I don’t have this level of structure that a lot of this stuff would never get done.  If you have goals or something important you want to accomplish, just schedule it!

Just like with my workout routine, I no longer have to decide to do this stuff. It’s evolved to the point where I know it’s time to just do it. It’s important and it needs to get done. No negotiation!

The last thing I want to touch on is the morning routine. This is a recent addition to my arsenal of routines and I highly recommend it to everyone, even if you don’t consider yourself a morning person.  Although I go to work at 6am I purposefully wake up early enough so I get an hour of activities in that help mold my day into a positive experience. This means springing out of bed at 4:30am

It hasn’t always been an hour. At first it started as a few minutes of walking on the treadmill and reading to get a little extra calorie burn to start my day.  Then I read Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod and realized it could be much more. So the past week or so I’ve started incorporating journaling, meditating, visualization, and affirmations into the morning routine as well.

I’ll admit, a few years ago I would have passed all of this off as too woo woo for me and not given it a chance, but I can already feel it working. Belief is a powerful tool and framing up your day in a positive mental mindset is crucial to success. So even if I feel a bit like Stuart Smalley reciting my morning affirmations I am going to continue, tweaking and evolving when necessary.

I am sure there are people out who take a look at all of the examples I’ve provided could make a good case for me entering the military given how regimented I lead my life.  It hasn’t always been like this.  I meandered around through life without any clear cut goals, and no need for some of these routines. My free time was a reflection of that aimlessness, with a lot of comic book reading and TV watching. Now that I’ve set some big goals in my life, I need a powerful tool to help achieve them, and that tool is the routine.

So, if you are looking to improve and area of your life, whether it be health, family, fitness, business, or some other area, take a nice long look at how a good, solid routine can help you toward your goals and then harness that power it can provide.

The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine

– Mike Murdock

Cleans and Sitouts: A Friday "Fun"isher
RKC Training Log: Week 2

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