The Power of Habits and Routines

The last couple of posts have been about setting & pursuing goals. Now I want to talk about the power of habits and routines, and how we can use them to help us meet our goals.

I have to admit, this is not easy for me, but I’ve been working on it. I’m always getting distracted and falling down rabbit holes. And I always want to explore and try new things. Sticking to a routine can make me feel straight-jacketed… and I wind up rebelling.

But if you’re trying to use your time efficiently, or you’re trying to incorporate new behaviors into your life, then habits and routines can make it MUCH easier. Why? Because you don’t have to spend any time or energy making decisions about what to do, or how or when to do it, or if you feel like doing it. You’ll just do it.

So what’s a habit and a routine?

Aren’t they the same thing? I used to think so, but I’ve learned there IS a difference. After some research* I’ve put together these definitions:

A Habit is a behavior you do automatically and requires little to no conscious thought or effort. For example, someone sneezes and you say, “bless you;” always finishing dinner with dessert; picking up coffee on your way to work every morning.

A Routine is a SET of habits you consciously choose to practice – – they require your effort and intention. For example, you get up, make the bed, brush teeth, get dressed, go to the gym, come home, shower, dress, and go to work. You could easily skip most of these activities but you choose to do them because they are serving a purpose for you. A routine can be turned into a habit if you make a conscious and prolonged effort to do so.

What habits do you have?

Now here’s the thing…most of us DO have habits and routines, many of which we’re not even aware. Some are for our good, like brushing our teeth twice a day, and others are to our detriment, like checking our email first thing in the morning and then reading the newspaper, even though we KNOW those are time-sinks and will distract us from getting to work on our priority project. (guilty!)

You get to choose!

The trick is to consciously choose to develop a new routine that moves us in the direction we want to go. If we practice our new routine consistently and long enough it becomes a new set of habits and gets easier and easier to stick to. It becomes your way of life.

I know it can be hard.

For most people, changing habits and routines is difficult. We start off with good intentions but often slip back into our old and comfortable ruts.

I’ve recently found some ideas and tools that have helped me tremendously to break some old habits and get me moving toward meeting my goals…and I want to share them with you.

Things that can help:

The first thing is to know WHY you want to do a certain thing. I’ve talked about this before, and I’m sure I’ll talk about it again because it’s that important. If you have a strong enough reason WHY you want to do something, then when you’re tempted to slide back to your old ways you can fight that urge by remembering your WHY.

The next step is to create a new routine for yourself that will set you up for success.  Make it small and absolutely doable to start and build on it as you get stronger.

The last step is to build in some way to keep yourself on track. Generally, people need to consciously work hard to stick to the new routine for about 12 weeks until it really becomes a habit, so getting some form of support is super helpful. (You can join the Many Chapters Community Room facebook group – – lots of support available over there!)

An Example:

To give you an idea of what this looks like in real life, I’ll tell you what I’ve done and the tools that are helping me.

At the beginning of this year, I decided I wanted to get up earlier every day, get into Meditation, and exercise regularly. Around the same time, I stumbled upon a journal called “The Morning Sidekick Journal” put out by Habit Nest. It isn’t a day planner – – it’s a journal to “help you plan your mornings every day and to start each day with purpose and intention.” I started using it along with my regular day planner and it has totally changed my attitude about routines. I no longer feel straight-jacketed and I AM doing my new routine pretty consistently. (Pats self on back.)

So using Sidekick and the Facebook Support Group associated with it, my morning routine became this:
Get up at 5, take meds, make my hot lemon water, take care of Minnie (my kitty,) turn off outside lights, clean up any left-over dishes in sink and/or unload dishwasher, make coffee, write in journal, take walk or go to gym, have my coffee, shower, meditate, check email & social media, and then settle down to write by 10 am.

It took time to get to where I am now and many tweaks to the list. I still haven’t figured out the “perfect order” of doing these things, so that varies, but they still get done every weekday, more often than not. And I actually do a lot of that on weekend days too, but I don’t hold myself to it. Allowing myself that freedom gets me out of the “straight jacket” feeling! 

When I think about where I was at the start of the year and where I am now, it’s a huge WIN!

I went from: dragging myself to bed at 1 or 2 am, dragging myself out of bed to the sound of the alarm at 7 am, wasting most of the morning looking at email and social media, feeling bad that I had wasted yet another morning, feeling bad that I wasn’t exercising or meditating, feeling bad that the kitchen looked a mess, feeling bad that I couldn’t seem to settle down to work until the afternoon, and swearing I would do better tomorrow only to just repeat the same bad pattern again and again…

to: getting up at 5 am without setting an alarm, being eager to get out of bed, feeling good about getting out early to exercise, feeling good doing my meditation, feeling good that I’m keeping the kitchen under control, feeling good that I don’t look at my email or social media until I’m ready to “get to work,” feeling good that I’m in bed by 10 pm, feeling proud of myself for following my routine, and overall, feeling good that I no longer am wasting half the day AND am making progress toward achieving my goals for this year!

I feel so strongly that The Morning Sidekick Journal is a wonderfully effective tool to help move you in the positive direction you want to go that I strongly recommend you get it and try it!

NOTE – Affiliate Link – – If you buy it from this link, I WILL get a small commission from Habit Nest for the referral…but it does not change the price you pay.

Try it!  Let me know in the comments below that you bought it and what habit(s) you plan to build!
Join their support group and/or join the Many Chapters Community Room support group on Facebook and share your experience with us. We’ll all be there to help you!

♥ Nan

How Are You Doing?

profile photo of Nan Lewis wearing purple sweater sitting on beige couch with orange pillow.

Change is hard.  I know. I’ve been there and done that.  You don’t have to go through it alone.

If you are facing a big career change, planned or unplanned, and are feeling stressed and alone – – I can help.

How?

  1. Read my blog articles – that’s where I share information and lessons I’ve learned that I think would be helpful to others.
  2. Check out the resources page. I only recommend things I’ve used myself and found to be helpful.
  3. Join the email list so you don’t miss any articles or info. Don’t worry – I really don’t email a lot.
  4. Comment on the blog posts.
  5. Feel free to contact me with specific questions. I’m happy to listen and try to help.

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