It’s a bright and shiny New Year. If you’re like most of the world’s population, you’ve made resolutions or at least thought a bit about what you would like to see happen in the coming year. Maybe it looks like training for a marathon or learning a new language or strengthening your friendships.
If you are members of Spire or something like it, you have a forum for posting your intentions for 2014 and a crowd of supporters to cheer you on. But sometimes the distance between ambitious goal and successful execution creates a chasm too wide to leap across. When you get to a place where despite your best of intentions you can’t seem to regularly move forward on your goals, it’s time to build a bridge on the pillars of routines.
Routines Make Success Automatic
Depending on who you are, routines may delight you, bore you, or make you want to run screaming in the opposite direction. I understand. As a time coach and the author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment, I’ve seen it all. But most importantly, I’ve seen that for EVERYONE routines play an incredibly important role in increasing your capacity to accomplish your goals.
Here’s why: At our very best, we may have the willpower to make good choices like getting up to run instead of hitting snooze for the seventh time. But most of the time, we’re not at our very best and on a moment-by-moment basis we will follow the path of least resistance, regardless of whether it aligns our actions with our priorities.
That’s why one of the three secrets in my book is to Strengthen Simple Routines. Routines help us to do what we want to do even when we don’t necessarily feel like doing the right thing at the time. My book has a chapter on the concepts behind this secret, and another chapter that includes a comprehensive step-by-step guide for creating your own custom routines. But to get you started, I’ll reveal an abbreviated version of my Create Your Own Routines Template to give you an idea of how to turn your resolutions into reality.
Routine Example: Regular Runs
Here’s an example of how routines can apply to improving the consistency of your training in 2013.
Step 1: Prepare for Action
- I will take this action: Run for one hour
- I need these equipment and supplies: Running shoes, warm clothes I can layer, hat, and gloves.
- My ideal environment is: My neighborhood
- What do I need to know to do this task with confidence?: How to warm up properly and how not to get injured by overtraining
Step 2: Anticipate Everything
- I need this much time: 2 hours to account for getting ready, stretching, running, and showering afterward
- How often will I do this activity?: Four times a week
- My start time or trigger is: I will head out the door within 30 minutes of getting out of bed.
- How I will avoid preventable barriers: I will also set up a treadmill in my house so I can run even when it is snowy and icy outside.
- How I will respond to unpreventable barriers: I will be gentle with myself and lower my expectations when I’m sick or injured.
Step 3: Practice the Routine
- I will start practicing the routine on this day and time: Next Monday around 7 a.m.
Step 4: Review, Reward & Recalibrate
- I will track my progress by: Posting my successes on Spire
- I will congratulate myself for incremental improvement by: Redeeming my Spire points.
- I will reward myself for reaching a larger goal by: Buying some new running gear.
- Could I make part of the routine easier by adjusting the time or my methods?: I’m late to work if I leave the house after 7 a.m. so I really need to be sure I’m up by 6:30 a.m. and have a friend to run with me to keep my motivated.
- Even if I can’t complete the entire routine, how can I ensure I still accomplish my underlying goal?: The most important point is that I’m running on a consistent basis. So it’s better for me to do a shorter run on days when I’m in a time-crunch than to not run at all.
You can apply this type of approach to creating routines for everything from calling your mom more often to keeping the bathroom clean to blogging on a regular basis. For a comprehensive, in-depth look at how to create-your-own custom routines, over 40 done-for-you routines, plus strategies on how to overcome your Inner Routine Rebel, check out The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment.
About Real Life E®
Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the founder and CEO of Real Life E® a time coaching and training company that empowers individuals who feel guilty, overwhelmed and frustrated to feel peaceful, confident and accomplished through an exclusive Schedule Makeover™ process. She is an expert on achieving more success with less stress. Real Life E® also increases employee productivity, satisfaction and work/life balance through custom training programs.
McGraw Hill published her first book The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success with Less Stress. Elizabeth contributes to blogs like Lifehacker, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and the 99U blog on productivity for creative professionals. She was selected as one of the Top 25 Amazing Women of the Year by Stiletto Woman.