You were super excited when the new year started. You wanted to try so many new things. You set goals, and you created a new daily routine.
Everything went well in the first week.
It got harder the next.
And by the third week, you were skipping days.
Initially, it was just one day.
Two became 3.
And three became forever.
Why is it so difficult for us to stick to a routine?
In this post, I will give you hacks to help you learn how to stick to a routine and achieve those goals that you wrote down for yourself.
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Why is it so hard to stick to a routine?
Before I start with how; I always like to understand why.
This technique helps us understand the root cause of the problem so that we can find a more permanent solution.
Let’s go back to why.
On the first few days, it’s effortless to stick to our goals. Why?
For example, I love starting new diaries on the 1st of January. I make a solemn promise that I will write 1 page every single day.
After a week or so, my resolve slowly dies and I stop writing regularly.
The same happens if I try to exercise 2 hours a day every day.
We make resolutions when we’re excited, motivated and fully pumped.
However, after a few days, the excitement wears down, and the motivation dies.
We stop practising these tasks out of motivation and slowly move on to our habits.
The problem is, the journaling habit I started didn’t stick yet.
According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits (I highly suggest you read this book if you want to learn how to build positive habits), it takes more than two months for a behaviour to become a habit – 66 days to be exact.
However, it is a common myth that habits take only 21 days to form.
This is why, we assume that the habit will have stuck and we’ll slowly get back to it, but in reality, we just stop because the behaviour or the task never really formed a habit.
Until the behaviour becomes second nature to us like brushing our teeth in the morning, it is empirical that we continue to practise it every single day.
That is the only way we’ll end up sticking to our routines.
How to make a routine stick – 9 Easy hacks to help!
Once you create the ideal morning routine that leaves you energized and productive, it’s time to stick to your routine!
1. Start small
Wanting to hike to the Taj Mahal and become a Masterchef at the same time is not incredibly realistic.
We are bound to fail if we set very high standards.
And partly the reason we fail is that we don’t get those mini-wins because the goal is too steep to achieve all at once.
Instead of writing a whole novel by week 1, aim for something like two paragraphs or 500 words a day.
This sounds more doable, doesn’t it?
But here’s the thing – our minds get bored quickly.
So, once you get used to writing two paragraphs every day, increase your daily goal to 1 page.
Slowly work your way up to 2 pages.
By the end of 1-2 months, you should be cranking out 1 chapter every day.
2. Don’t focus on too many goals at once
Likewise, don’t attempt too many unrelated goals at once. It’s going to become very difficult to achieve them all.
Pairing two similar habits together like exercising and monitoring your daily calories go hand in hand with becoming fit and healthy.
This is a goal you can achieve because both these tasks help you reach one goal.
Attempting to study law and become a professional Animator in 1 go is going to be very hard because your mind will have to switch between activities that are poles apart in nature constantly.
3. Create a to-do list the night before
If I fail to do this at night, it is the first thing I do when I wake up.
I cannot operate without a to-do list, and I glance at it several times during the day to help me finish all my tasks.
Contrary to what you might think, it ends up saving a lot of time!
Here’s how you go about it:
- Keep two lists – Work and Personal. I use my phone Notes app as it’s extremely convenient.
- Set 3 high priority tasks that must be completed no matter what and write down the remaining tasks that can be shuffled around or pushed to the next day.
- As soon as you wake up, aim to finish the most critical tasks in your to-do list.
- And then move on to the remaining tasks.
Doing this has helped me achieve several personal and blogging goals.
4. Identify your highs and lows
When I started my challenge of walking 10K steps every day, I knew I had to complete it by the evening, because I invariably get lazier after the sun sets.
So, I stay active in the mornings and clock in at least 8K steps so that by evening, I barely have to lift a finger to reach my 10K goal.
If you start a meditation habit of 10 minutes every day, do it at a time that suits you.
A lot of people suggest meditating in the morning.
But if you have kids and spend your mornings making breakfast and seeing that everyone is ready, do it after you drop the kids off at school.
Your routine should suit you.
This is when it becomes easy to stick to it and make it a habit.
5. Identify the cracks and seal them
When I started a routine of eating more home-cooked food, I didn’t get it right immediately.
There were days I’d slip and order food from out.
I tried to understand why I was doing this.
I wanted to order food from out because I didn’t know what to cook and what to eat.
I didn’t know what to cook and eat because I hadn’t gone out grocery shopping or done any meal planning for that day.
Problem: No meal plan results in no home-cooked meal.
Once I realized the problem, I started planning my meals in advance. I would create a grocery list and stick to the list only when I was shopping.
I also allocated 2 hours to cook the meal and I slowly began to fall in love with the process.
This small change helped me cook healthy meals at home and eat from home more.
And it has resulted in a healthier me.
6. Record your progress
Recording your progress or just writing about your goals in a journal every day is an excellent way never to lose interest or sight of your vision.
I use a simple Moleskine like this and I love it.
When I see that I’ve stuck to my daily step goal every day for two weeks straight, it helps me feel accomplished and makes me want to try harder the next day in order to not break that streak.
Record every tiny bit of progress you make and every mini-win.
It will help you stay consistent and stick to your routine.
7. Never skip your habit two days in a row
Sick days happen.
Unexpected events happen.
It’s entirely alright to skip one day, especially if you had no other choice or just couldn’t take the time to do it.
But never repeat it the next day because you will officially have lost your habit and routine.
It’s going to get more challenging as you keep doing it.
66 days is a long time for your routine to become a habit, but you must stay consistent because the takeaway will be huge.
The difference between successful and unsuccessful people is that the former will spend all their time and energy doing what they know will get them the results they want.
Even when pursuing the task or behavior becomes a challenge, they never lose sight of their vision – their goal.
However, the latter will give up easily or start another unrelated task a few days or weeks down the line.
Every single positive habit (no matter how tiny) will impact you immensely. But you need to follow through with your routine for a long, long time to see the transformation.
8. Inspire yourself constantly
When I wanted to create a daily drawing habit, I followed over 200 artists on Instagram.
Watching them develop their art style inspired me to work on my own.
I regularly read books on illustrating and watched tons of drawing classes on Domestika to help me reach my goals of becoming an Illustrator faster.
Likewise, ask yourself what inspires you.
Create a vision board.
Or read articles/books that inspire you.
Listen to podcasts by successful people in your field to help inspire you to grow.
Surround yourself with positivity and enlightenment.
This is the best way to stick to a routine.
9. Go easy on yourself
Whatever habit you decide to incorporate into your daily routine, it’s not going to show its transformation immediately.
If your goal is to lose weight and you’re exercising every day, don’t feel disheartened if you don’t see results right away.
You may be building muscle and muscle weighs a lot more than fat.
Additionally, it may also take time for your body to adjust to your new workout routine.
If you do end up stopping due to some unforeseen circumstance, it’s okay.
Don’t beat yourself up and give up altogether.
Working on becoming a better person is not easy.
The things worth doing are undoubtedly hard.
So, get back after your break and try again.
Keep repeating your tasks till they become a habit.
What do you do when the routine becomes boring or cumbersome?
There will come a time when you just don’t feel like doing the task, or you’ve lost your driving force.
Either way, sometimes even willpower will not work.
And during this stage, it is necessary to take a break, sit down and re-evaluate your goals and vision.
Perhaps you found a better way to achieve your goal?
For instance, if you were going to the gym every day for an hour and felt like you were wasting a lot of time commuting or it became unsafe for you to travel due to the pandemic, you may try working out from home itself.
Sometimes, a shift in behaviors or tasks may be necessary to achieve the goal.
In 2016, I tried to read 50 books.
I didn’t even reach half my goal.
In 2017, I reached precisely half.
In 2018 and 2019, I missed the goal by two books both times.
But you can see I got close.
I realized that I was spending more time on my phone than actually picking up a book.
I read a lot. But I focussed on reading articles and blogs because my phone was always with me.
To modify this habit, I started reading more books online.
It helped me reach my goal, and in 2020, I hit my 50 books a year goal!
So, ask yourself why you’re not hitting your goals and then revaluating your routine or making slight modifications can actually help you get on the right path.
Positive and healthy habits will change your life and make it 10x better.
Over the last five years, I’ve adopted plenty of personal and healthy habits by always adding tasks to my routine based on my personal goals.
And these habits have become ingrained in my daily routine.
I no longer need reminders to do them because they come naturally to me just like brushing my teeth in the morning.
So, start working on your routine today itself.
Take baby steps in the beginning and focus on just practicing it one day at a time.
I hope this post gave you the confidence to adopt a new routine and work on your routine more strategically.
Now, it’s your turn! What habit are you going to start practicing today?
If you’d like to simplify your life and start living more intentionally, you can take my 5-day Simplify your life email challenge!