On Friday, I wrote about the importance of routine for success in life and business. I’ve been thinking a lot about the topic lately, which made me wonder how to go about overcoming bad habits and routines to make way for new ones.
Just because we don’t establish good routines doesn’t mean that habits don’t inevitably take over. They do. For most of us, I’ll bet, whether we care to admit it or not, we do the same things day after day, consciously or not. We wake up at certain times, follow certain rituals, and inch our way into the flow of the work day.
For me, when I allow bad habits to set in, it’s only a matter of time before I’m hit by the “ick factor.” I can always recognize it by the plethora of excuses that accompany it. “I have no time to work out and eat well…I can’t seem to get around to [fill in the important thing]… I would do [important thing], but before I know it, the day is just gone.”
All of a sudden, I feel disgusted with myself for taking back seat in my own life. There are things that I want to do each day, like exercise, eat right, keep a journal, spend time outside, etc. When I allow a period of time to go by without doing these things on a regular basis, I get increasingly frustrated and wonder why I don’t just do them. It occurred to me recently that it’s not because I don’t want them badly enough or that I’m too lazy to do them. It’s simply that my “bad routine” eats away at my days. I go from one activity to the next out of habit. To make room for the activities that are important to me, I must establish new habits, and the only way to do that is by disrupting (and replacing) the old ones until I eventually eliminate them.
For me, there are two critical points in my day where I could disrupt my old routine and begin replacing it with one that is more in line with the daily life I hope to inhabit, and both points have to do with the same object — my alarm.
When I set my alarm at night, it’s a good time to think, “How do I want tomorrow to go?” For a minute or two (before setting my alarm), I can think about how I hope for the day to unfold and, if it could be a perfect day, what it would look like. I almost always think of starting the day with a long walk, ideally one hour. That tells me I need to back up my wake-up time by at least an hour.
In the morning, when the alarm goes off, I need something to remind me that I’m supposed to start my “perfect day” with a long walk, instead of hitting the snooze button. My trick: Place a brightly-colored sticky note on the alarm clock that says, “New routine — start with a walk!” I know, it’s a little hokey and even elementary, but it makes me become more alert right when I’m waking up and reminds me to approach this day (just this day) with intention and purpose, to approach it deliberately.
My goal is to inch my way to a perfect day. Once I’ve established the habit of walking each morning, I will put a new brightly-colored sticky note on the table by my door where I lay my keys after returning from the walk that says, “New routine — now eat a good breakfast!” Eventually, one by one, I hope to replace all my bad habits with ones that enrich my life and make me feel like I’m living on purpose, like I mean it.
What tricks do you use to break out of old routines? How do you ensure that you live each day with purpose and intent, steadily moving toward a better version of yourself?
Image from Flickr by Mediatejack