“I’ve been thinking about taking up a meditation practice.”
“I really need to drink more water…”
“I feel so good when I exercise, I want to go to the gym more often, but can’t find the time!”
If you’re like most people you probably have considered starting a new daily routine to optimize one or more aspects of your life. In a world where time has become more and more valuable, distractions are at an all time high, and to-do lists are as long as ever – people are looking for ways to better themselves. One of the most common ways that folks use to make a change is by adopting a new routine.
Routines are actions or a combination of actions that yield a specific outcome or result.
They are the surest way to make an impactful change in our lives. By the end of this article you will be familiar with the 3 key steps to consider if you want to start an effective daily routine!
“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.”– W.H. Auden
Step 1: Keep the end result in mind.
As humans we have hundreds of little routines we practice each day. Most of these we don’t care to or need to focus on, they simply happen. Adopting a new routine is usually in pursuit of something new that we wish to attain. The benefit of successfully completing the routines could improve us physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Make sure to keep the end result in mind as you select your routine.This life changing benefit will keep you motivated and excited to stick with your routine!
Some common results people shoot for with their routine include:
- Decreased stress
- Increased energy
- Better sleep
- Improved mental clarity
- More time
- Better performance at school/work/sport
Routines to achieve these outcomes might look like:
- Take 10 deep breaths before beginning a new project at work.
- Exercise at least three times each week.
- Turn my phone to airplane mode 1 hour before bed.
- Make a list dividing each job into its constituent parts.
- Plan out my daily schedule every morning while I drink my coffee.
- Visualize what a successful outcome would look like for my upcoming event.
rou·tine / ro͞oˈtēn / noun: a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.
Routines are most effective when practiced daily. Sometimes we need to focus extra hard on following through with a new routine until it becomes a habit. This is an important factor to consider in both the selection and implementation of your new routine.
Dr. BJ Fogg, a behavioral scientist from Stanford, has a basic behavioral model he uses to describe the steps to change. He claims that in order for a behavior change to happen you need to have the right mix of motivation, ability, and a trigger.
If we are highly motivated to complete a task then the odds are that when a trigger occurs we will produce a successful outcome. Likewise we tend to be successful at tasks that are easy to complete even if we are not so motivated to get them done.
Makes sense right?
The challenge many of us face is that we fail to set up routines that take into account the motivation required to complete a task requiring a higher level of ability. We shoot for the stars and quickly burn out after our initial gusto wears off.
Does this mean that we shouldn’t aim to make big dramatic change with our new routine?
Kind of…not exactly…but yes.
At least Dr. Fogg would advise against it. Instead he suggest focusing on the smallest possible change available to you in your new routine. Consistency wins the long term change game so you should pick a routine that you know you you can complete every single try. This will generate momentum and a new skill that you can apply later to more challenging target areas.
Action Step: Get out a pen and paper and spend 5 minutes brainstorming some ideas of areas you would like to implement a routine. Think about the end result you would like to achieve and make note of the top 2 or 3 new routines that would be a first step on the path. Then let’s move on to step 2!
Step 2: Determine the lay of the land
This is a chance to take inventory of your assets and keep an eye out for potential pitfalls. Implementing a new behavior is challenging because it requires knocking our brain off of autopilot. Rather than coast through our day following the usual agenda we are throwing a strategic interruption to our thought pattern that lets us try something new. This step can be split into two categories:
Supporting Factors, things that can help you implement your routine. Some examples could be:
- A supportive partner or best friend
- A commute to work that offers some alone time
- Sticky note reminders you place all over your house
- A trainer, coach, or mentor who wants you to succeed
Distracting Factors, barriers, or common faults that would get in the way of you completing your daily routine. This might look like:
- Social settings where you may feel awkward practicing your new routine.
- People who interrupt you and take up your time (EVEN IF YOU YOU LOVE THEM)
- Physical struggles with things like exercise or waking up early.
- Bad influences on your diet, behaviors, or actions.
Action Step: List the top 3 assets you have that could help you start your routine and then the top 3 distractions that may keep you from succeeding. For the distractions, find a solution for how you could overcome it (eg. Coordinate workout schedules with a friend, sIgn up for a class the night before, or prep healthy lunches for the week on Sunday afternoon)
Step 3: Track Your Progress
Benjamin Franklin, perhaps the founding father of using routines for personal development knew the importance of tracking and measuring his daily practices. Each morning Franklin asked himself, “What good shall I do today? And in the evening, “What good did I do today?” Taking the time twice each day to check in on his progress created more opportunities for growth and self-improvement.
Not only that but Ben cycled through a list of 13 virtues he chose to improve his morality. He would focus on one for a week at a time and document any infractions to the redeeming quality. He noticed significant improvement in his adherence cycling through each virtue four times a year.
As you prepare to start your new routine you want to keep track of your progress. Having clear defined parameters will make you more likely to succeed and recreate the process again for future habits.
Action Step: Make a plan to track your progress. What is the the key aspect of the routine are you measuring. What time of day will you log your results? Are you writing it in a notebook or on your phone or laptop? What will you write on days when you forget to adhere to your routine?
“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”– Archilochos
So now that you have the 3 key steps to starting an effective daily routine how are you going to implement them?
It is official, summer is here!! This means warm weather, longer days, vacations, cookouts, and so much more. Summer can also bring a sense of worry or anxiety to those who are trying to stay on track with a nutrition plan. Or you may feel like you cannot “enjoy” summer because, if you do, you will throw your goals out the window. This doesn’t have to be the case. It is possible to find a sense of balance so you can enjoy summer and still stay on track with your nutrition goals. You may just have to change certain habits or adapt new ones which keep your goals in mind. Maybe you will add some flexibility and reduce your level of accuracy. This doesn’t mean you will stop the journey to your goals, however, it may just slow down slightly over the summer! I put a list together of some things which have worked really well for me and a number of my nutrition clients:
- Track Your Food. Using an app like MyFitness Pal makes it easy to keep track of your meals. Once you develop a good habit of logging your food you can make adjustments as needed to make sure you are still hitting your macro goals before you eat it. This can come in handy if you are out and about making a nutrition decision on the fly. Most restaurants will have their menu already uploaded to the MyFitness Pal database as well so you can account for meals out.
- Find Balance. This is something which can be different for everyone. One way to find balance is to commit to prepping all of your meals to be 100% Monday-Friday. Then on Saturday you could allow for more flexibility. Whether it is being 100% with all of your meals until the evening, then in the evening allow for food and drinks which wouldn’t normally be on your plan. Then on Sunday you jump right back onto your nutrition plan. For some, adopting an 80/20 rule over the summer might be more ideal. The bottom line here is, if you want to stay on track with your nutrition goals, you will have to maintain some level of consistency and accuracy with your nutrition.
- Make Healthy Choices. When it comes to the foods we put in our body, we have complete control over what we choose. You have the choice to pick a sugar loaded dessert or fresh fruit. Be mindful of your goals and try to make the best choice possible to help you stay on track. It will make a difference. When you attend events, gatherings, or get togethers eat your veggies first. This will help fill you up and reduce the chances of over-indulging in things you know will not help you reach your goals. Pick and choose when you want to indulge. Indulging every once in a while will not create as much of a negative impact as it would if you start to make a daily habit of it.
- Plan Ahead. “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”. This is one of my favorite quotes by Ben Franklin and it couldn’t be anymore true. If you commit to plan for things, you will set yourself up for success as long as you choose to stick to your plan. If you have a busy weekend coming up or you know you are going out of town, create a plan to help you stay on track with your nutrition goals. Get in the habit of having healthy foods prepped and ready to go. Have back up options ready to go incase things change. As an example, we usually have weekends filled with baseball. I will load up a little cooler with my meals. Yes, I will eat them cold if I have too. Or if there is an Eat Fit Go close, we sometimes go there to eat. Have an emergency bag packed. This could include items like RXbars, almonds, rice cakes, or ziplock bags of protein powders. These types of snacks are much better than hitting up a drive thru or completely skipping a meal!
- Skip The Vacation Mindset. For most people the idea of a vacation is a time to relax, let loose, and get off all your normal routines. While this can be great for rest and relaxation, it does not mean you have to completely blow off your nutrition goals. Whether you choose to or not, it is pretty easy to travel with meals, especially if you are driving. Just recently when a group of us traveled to Nashville for the CrossFit Central Regionals, I prepped all of our food for the weekend and stored them in ziplock bags. Whenever we made a stop at the gas station, I put my food in a container and heated it up. Most hotels have fridges and microwaves which make it convenient. Then we allotted for one meal out each day. While this worked well for us, it doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. Most restaurants will be able to prepare a grilled meat with steam veggies. If you need carbs they usually offer rice or sweet potato for example. Depending on how serious you are with your goals, you can make it work! Instead of choosing to indulge in unhealthy foods, spend the money on exploring or doing something adventurous. Again, this is a great time to pick and choose what to indulge in. If you are in a place whcih is said to have the best burger and fries, this might be something you choose to work into your day!
- Stay Hydrated. Drinking enough water is very important, especially if you are out in the heat during the summer. When we do not stay hydrated this can cause the body to hold onto fluids which, in turn, could cause some weight gain. Water can also help keep you from overeating. I always like to drink a glass of water before I eat. Many times I will find I was only thirsty when I thought I was hungry!
- Keep Your Goals In Sight. With the busyness and excitement of summer events and activities, it is easy to forget about your nutrition goals. If you keep them somewhere in sight, it can help motivate you to stay on track and think twice about your decisions. Every day you will be given the opportunity to take another step towards your goals. Things will happen and there will be days where maybe you allow in more flexibility and that is ok! You can still make progress while being a little more flexible. You will just have to be ok with the fact that it may take longer to get to your goal. It is all about the balance.
I hope some of these tips will help you stay on track with your nutrition goals this summer! If you are interested in nutrition coaching let us know.