My fondness for routines started from my school days. Every evening after my sister and I got back home, we would have some tiffin before starting our homework. We used to look forward to these light meals. My mom followed a routine for the tiffin.
- Mondays – Egg sandwich (or) Cake + Snacks from the Bakery
- Tuesdays – Chapathis + A different veg kurma every week
- Wednesdays – Dosa varieties (3-4 of them)
- Thursdays – Upma varieties
- Fridays – Homemade snacks
The good thing was you knew what you were in for, but there were variations which could still surprise you. I was not a big fan of dosa for the longest time. I knew to set my expectations lower and not get too excited on Wednesdays. But I would always be excited for Mondays and Fridays. As I grew older, I figured that my mom had a routine for everything. From lunch and dinner menus to allocating specific household chores for every day of the week, and shopping lists for weekly & monthly grocery runs. I witnessed the benefits of the time spent planning and following routines. So when I had to do all this myself, I adopted most of her practices. I also extended it to other areas of my life that could benefit from a routine.
Over the years, I have read a lot about building habits and setting up routines. Having incorporated many of them in my life, I’ve understood what works for me and what does not, which ones are sustainable and which ones are not. Based on my experience, here are 5 common mistakes that people make when starting or maintaining a routine.
Your routines are not easy to do
Most of us rely on our will power when we start something new. Instead, place visual cues to remind you about what you should be doing. Try to remove any impediment that could interfere with your ability to do the task. Design your environment to reduce those distractions to eliminate the friction towards doing the task. Fewer the roadblocks, lesser you have to think before getting started. Automate as many activities as possible so that you spend less time thinking about what/how to do and more time working on it.
You aim for perfection
Ditch the all or nothing approach. Instead of expecting you to give 100% every time, try to do a little better than the previous day. On some days when even that is not possible, do it anyway. If you are expecting to be perfect right from the day you start doing something, you are setting yourself up for failure. You need to put in the hours and work hard before you can dream of success. And even after you have become good at something, it is still ok to have a bad day and do a mediocre job than not attempting it at all. Every day will not be the same. There will be good days, and there will be bad days. Make peace with that.
You make too many changes at once
When people get motivated to start fresh, many of them make the mistake of changing every aspect of their life at the same time. Introducing a new habit or activity into your routine is always challenging. Instead of overhauling your complete routine, start with one or two new tasks. Give yourself time to get comfortable with the intensity and the frequency before you move on to make the next set of changes. If we go overboard and make too many changes, we tend to get overwhelmed and drop everything.
Always make small, sustainable changes. Never change too many aspects of your life at the same time.
You do not track progress
What we think we do and what we actually do are two very different things. We assume we’ve been diligent with our habits and routines, but unless there are some metrics to substantiate the thought, there is no way we can know. That is why tracking progress is an important aspect of following a routine. Not only does it give you an idea of how you fare, but it also gives you meaningful insights into your routines. It helps you understand if your routines are practical and if you can spend time on it after the initial motivation ebbs, and your ability to stick to routines. You can find out which ones you are diligent, and the ones for which you are not able to find the time. You can then evaluate the feedback and then make the necessary changes to ensure it aligns with your lifestyle.
You are not consistent
If there is one thing you need to do, to become a pro at anything -it is this. Consistency. When we start something new, we tend to overestimate our capability to stick to a schedule and underestimate the effort it takes to do it. To avoid the pitfall, always start with the bare minimum. Say doing a task 3 times a week. Once you get comfortable with the frequency, increase it by a day. Else reduce it by a day. The aim is not to go all out in the first week and drop it the next week. Choose a pace that works for you, even if it is doing it once a week. The key is in maintaining the momentum.
The best part of routines is how it puts you in control of your time. Say you allocate one part of your day to your routines. This will give you a good idea of the time you have left for the other day to day tasks. You can still be flexible with what you choose to do and not to do. The idea is to understand how much you can do for a day and ensure you handle the most important ones first, before moving on to less important ones.
While there are many do’s and don’ts when it comes to routines, it is imperative to develop a healthy relationship with your routines. I used to be hard on myself when I started, and feel guilty when I missed out a task. But over time, I’ve learnt to see them as a guideline rather than a strict reminder of the pending work. Today, I am comfortable to skip a few tasks in my routine when some other aspect of my life takes over. I do not feel guilty t about not hitting the gym or not getting time to read or write once in a while. Life happens. But I always remember to get back on track. Because, irrespective of whether you are in a situation that favours you or is against you, It is all about making things work for you!
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