How to Start A Routine

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1. Diagnose your typical day
2. What are your productive times of day?
3. What time slots are open? Create habits
4. Cue your habits
5. Measure your habits
6. Reflect on your habits
7. Make tweaks as you go

Diagnose your typical day
Go through your typical day and be as detailed as possible. Write down what you actually do on a daily basis. You wake up, you brush your teeth, you take a shower, eat breakfast, make coffee, you go to work, you come home, you watch tv, you make dinner, you go on facebook, you check your email.
How much time are you wasting? What can you cut out? What time blocks are open, what time blocks are not? Can you wake up 30 minutese earlier?
What are your productive times of day?
If you’re like me, there are certain times of day where I get more done. I am much more likely to get some work done in the morning right after I have my coffee or as right as I get home from work; after about an hour of being home I start to get tired and lethargic and can’t really drink more coffee or ill be up all night.
You may find you’re not a very productive person; you waste all your free time. I certainly found that out and we’re going to change that. I was wasting about 8 hours a day on entertainment that wasn’t even that entertaining; video games, television, browsing the itnernet, etc.
What time slots are open?
If you have a normal work schedule, there should be some time slots in your schedule that will always be open. Some good ones are, an hour before work or your usual wake up time, the last hour before you go to sleep and immediately after work for about an hour. Your schedule is probably different than mine, what time slots do you have open? 15 minutes, 20 mintues, 45 minutes, an hour? How much time is available.
Create habits for these open time slots. What routine are you trying to keep or in other words, what habit are you trying to create? Example, you’re trying to start a workout routine but something always comes up after work. Well, you have a 45 minute time block open at 6:00am and you have one open at 7:30pm. Which one are you more likely to keep and then just do it.
Cue your habits
Use cue’s to help you keep your habits. Things that are great for cue’s are alarm clocks, established habits (brushing teeth, making coffee, etc – go back to step 1). Adding reminders on your phone or electronic calendar.

Example – every day after brushing your teeth you workout. Every day at 3:00pm your phone alarm goes off and you study a new language for 20 minutes. Every day right after I eat dinner, I spend 20 minutes doing habit A. Every day at 5:30 am your alarm clock goes off, you workout. Every night at 10:00pm when you get ready for bed, you reflect on your life changes and habits you’re trying to make (step 6).

Measure your habits

Find some way to measure your habits so you have a starting point and you can see how well you’ve improved. It depends on the the habit for the way you would measure it.

Example – I want to start a habit for getting more exercise. I can measure that in a few ways. I can do baseline fitness testing where I measure how I perform in an activity (mile time, max push ups/pull ups, etc). I can measure my fat percentage to see if I’ve lost weight (indirect measure of getting more exercise). I can simply count exercise minutes per day. There are several ways you can measure your habits, some may be harder than others.

Reflect on your habits

Every night before bed, I reflect on my habits. Did I do what I was supposed to? Is there a reason I did not? How can I do it better? Does the time slot simply not work for me? Are you improving (compare to baseline measurements – step 5)? Why or why not?

When you’re reflecting on your habits, you need to reward yourself. If you’re trying to lose 30 pounds, reward yourself at 10 lbs, 20 lbs, and 30 lbs. But don’t make your rewards, sabotage rewards. In other words, you don’t get to eat a full large pizza and breadsticks with a Pepsi because you lost 10 lbs this month. Instead use positive rewards, maybe you get that new bike you’ve been wanting or new workout shoes.

Example – I can’t wake up every morning at 5:30am and workout. My body just can’t do it and I won’t be able to keep that routine. I can however, get up at 5:30 am and work on my website. Its not the getting up part that is the problem, its the physical exertion at 5:30am that I can’t stand.

Make tweaks as you go

Again, its a customized routine. Its your routine and only your routine. Does it work for you? Use your reflections to make simple changes to your routine.
My main advice is, if you have several habits you’re trying to create, use a minimal amount of time on them every day or you’ll get overwhelmed. Example, block out 30 minutes for working out, 15 minutes for langauge learning, 30 minutes for your website, etc. You’ll find some days you do the bare minimum and others you end up doing it for 2-3x as long as you planned. Make it manageable.

Want to do more with your routine? Read about how you can create a power routine to get to where you want to be in life, and more.

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