Building A Routine

I have always struggled with building a routine that lasts. It’s kind of funny because on the flip side I’ve found it easy to start a new project but finishing is a different story.

To clarify what I mean by “finish”, finished would be a state that people would consider that something is in a completable state. It doesn’t have to be perfect, as that definition of finished is even more difficult to reach and probably impossible.

Also, I’ve used the word finish where this article is about building a routine and almost by definition a routine is never finished however as long as the routine continues, so does the progress.

The fun part of creating a routine is the start, you have a wide open space for what needs to be done, almost any progress made is fast and there’s novelty. On top of all that, there’s no pressure or expectations on what the outcome will be. As an aside, I would like to speak with people who struggle to start the routine to get their perspective on things.

If starting is easy, then why is continuing difficult? My number one issue with continuing a project is actually the fear of failure. The closer I get to finishing something, the greater the chance of it failing. It’s interesting and I don’t know why, but I find it more acceptable to fail without even trying than to fail trying.

The funny thing is, that even while I’m writing this article, the further I get the more I think “this won’t be useful” etc and that’s the side of me that says don’t hit the publish button.

Even If I get past the thoughts of failure, then I just doubt whether or not it’s even worth my time. Then there’s the novelty wearing off, and expectations growing. I wonder if these are just excuses and it all boils down to the fear of failure.

How do I build a routine?

I’ll meme the answer first whenever someone says or asks “How do I X?” the answer is to remove the “How do I” and just do it. It’s not a bad way to look at things really that said, I’ll answer how I build routines below.

I build routines through consistency. I had always read that habits are built in 30 days and in my experience, that’s about right, maybe even a little faster. I believe most people intuitively know this, you brush your teeth every day, I doubt it’s because you enjoy it. It’s just something that you do.

The larger and more complex a routine is, the easier it will be to break out of. The classic is a diet and having a cheat meal. Many people give up entirely after only one mistake. They believe that their diet is ruined. In reality, if they took a step back, they’d see that they had one meal and nothing changed. All they had to do to succeed was trust in the process and get back on track for the next meal.

That sets us up to discuss not being strict. You don’t need to punish yourself, or give up just because you slip outside of whatever routine you are building. You will inevitably fail at one stage, and you just need to continue when it happens. Build into your routine some leeway. You don’t need to give up on your project because you took a weekend off, it’s not the end of the world.

Next on my list is creating a routine in which you can make progress on a day to day basis. This doesn’t mean you need to do it each day, but that when you do work on it, a few hours should mean that you can accomplish something, like writing an article in this case.

Take a look back at the progress you’ve made. It’s easy to forget how far you’ve come. Take the time every now and again to reflect on what you’ve achieved so far. You’ll be amazed.

For me that’s it. Build the routine in a habit. Allow the routine to fail but have a try/catch to restart, have the routine be small enough to make progress each time you work on it and take the time to reflect on how far you’ve come.

Read more about similar things :)

Carpe Diem
2023 — Matt Gould