Having consistent routines can seem like a small thing. Does it really matter when you get up in the morning and what you do next? Does it make a difference whether you go to the gym on certain nights or do your laundry on certain days?Maybe not in the short term, but over time good habits can make the difference between thriving (always making progress) and surviving (getting the bare minimum done each day). That’s because when you do the minimum both well and consistently, you’ll be prepared and energized to achieve bigger goals. You’ll also eliminate bad habits such as inconsistency and procrastination.
The ability to delay gratification is one of the biggest signs of personal maturity. It’s very rare to achieve random success in life – most success is built on consistent daily habits. Routines enable you to take good care of yourself. It’s hard to be a healthy person if you don’t have good habits of self-care and responsibility.
Let’s discuss the power of habit and how to instill good habits and routines in your day-to-day life.
The Power of Habit
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.” – Aristotle
Small habits become routines that we carry out on a regular basis to accomplish a fundamental need or goal. Habits are powerful because they remove the need for decision-making. When you do something habitually, deciding to do it no longer takes up your brain space. Therefore, you benefit from it without wasting cognitive energy.Do you wear your seatbelt regularly? If so, you probably put it on without thinking about it, every time you get in the car. You don’t think, “Should I wear my seatbelt today? Is this drive dangerous enough to merit wearing a seatbelt? Should I take the risk? I didn’t wear it yesterday and nothing happened, so maybe I’ll skip it today.” This line of thinking would take mental time and energy. You just wear your seatbelt and move on.
In the same way, building small habits in other areas of your life means you won’t have to make new decisions every day about what to do. You won’t have to create a new plan to get the basics accomplished.
Of course, sticking to habits requires motivation and self-discipline. Having good habits doesn’t mean maintaining them is easy. It just means you don’t have to decide anew each day how to be a healthy, responsible person.
Let’s use an evening routine as an example. After dinner, you wash the dishes and move a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer. Before bed, you fold the dry clothes while watching something on Netflix. Then you wash your face, brush your teeth, pick out your clothes for the next day, set the coffee maker, and check the locks.
Yes, it would be easier to leave the dishes in the sink, forget about the laundry, and binge on Netflix until you fall into bed. That temptation won’t go away, even if you have good habits. But, having a consistent routine means that your dishes aren’t piled up from two days ago, your laundry is caught up, you have clean clothes to wear tomorrow, and when you wake up in the morning, you’ll have a head start on the day. Those ongoing benefits will provide their own source of motivation to continue your good habits.
Building Habits and Routines
The key to building successful new habits is to start small. Trying to implement many different habits at once will serve to overwhelm you. Instead, focusing on just a few at a time—between one and three might be a good start.
Stack Your Habits
Once you have a habit in place, you can implement a strategy known as habit stacking
“If you treated each component of a stack as an individual action, then you’d have to create a reminder and track each behavior, which can quickly become overwhelming. However, if you treat the entire routine as just one habit, then it will be easier to remember and complete on a consistent basis.”
In other words, habits can build on themselves, especially if you complete the same sequence of actions all at one time to build a bigger habit. For example, you do a short yoga sequence after you work out.
Or, on Sunday afternoons you go for a walk and call your grandmother; when you return, you upload pictures from the week and find a couple of good ones to send to her. Since you complete these activities in the same order and block of time, they become a habit stack, where one activity leads automatically to the next.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, habits can be the key to managing your day-to-day life, yet paradoxically this is when they are most difficult to achieve. Depression saps your energy; anxiety can make it hard to focus. A variety of other mental issues can make forming habits difficult, but even more crucial for your well-being.
A Christian counselor can help you identify areas in your life when you need good habits and help you create new routines. Or maybe you are more advanced in your habits and you want help setting higher goals for yourself – finding accountability with a friend or counselor can help you succeed.
Maintaining consistently good habits is much easier when other people know about your commitment. Whether you find an accountability partner with similar goals, or you enlist the support of a counselor, having someone else to talk to about your new habits can make a big difference in your consistency.
Keep It Simple
It’s important not to try to improve your life in too many areas at once. Setting multiple new habits can quickly become overwhelming, and you’ll be tempted to quit at the beginning. The key is to set realistic goals and then break them down into manageable tasks. Then decide which tasks you need to repeat on a regular basis, and automate them with a habit.
Start a Healthy Morning Routine
Highly successful people almost always rely on a productive morning routine to start their day, even if it just means getting up at the same time every day. Having a healthy morning routine sets your entire day up for success. And it’s a good beginner habit to focus on if you’re just getting started.
Your morning routine will be completely individualized to your needs and preferences. Some people get up at 5:00 a.m. and go for a run before work. Others are happy to have a cup of coffee in quiet. Whatever you choose to do, start small and be consistent. You can get up, wash your face, read a few Bible verses, and go for a 10-minute walk.
Your morning routine might be as simple as getting up in time to get ready for work every day instead of having to rush around. Start there and once you’ve been consistent for awhile, add in something else.
The key is being intentional and consistent. You’ve decided ahead of time what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it. Then, you repeat those actions daily until they become automatic. This routine takes the stress out of your morning and enables you to be calmer and more productive, regardless of what else happens throughout the day.
One Step at a Time
Good habits don’t have to be an exhaustive overhaul of your life. In fact, they’re much more likely to succeed if they’re small and incremental. Pick one area of your life that stresses you out, and consider what small habit, done consistently, would make a difference. Then challenge yourself to do just that for the next three weeks. Track your progress visually using check marks on a calendar, or a habit tracker app.
If you’ve been trying to build many good habits at once and you’re feeling overwhelmed, try to go back to the basics and be consistent in smaller habits for a few weeks. You might find yourself being more productive and less stressed when you take care of the small things consistently.
“Working”, Courtesyof Corinne Kutz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Writing”, Courtesy of Hannah Olinger, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Begin.”, Courtesy of Danielle MacInnes, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Visiting”, Courtesy of Ruffa Jane Reyes, Unsplash.com, CC0 License