Let’s face it, we all have a ton on our plates and making positive health changes can seem like just “one more thing” that we don’t have the mental or physical space for. Over the years, this mentality has kept me from accomplishing many of the things that I wanted for myself or my life and while it’s true that I am very busy, the tough-love reality is that I was often allowing my being busy to be an excuse. Becoming intentional about my time and developing habits that help me to optimize it, thereby creating the space for me to do and to see the changes I want in my life is an ongoing process that I am continuing to refine.
Establishing a daily routine, especially in the morning and before bed is a self-investment that allows you to be and to do your best. It gives structure and momentum that helps move us forward toward our goals. Another benefit is that routines and habits are independent of and so not subjected to the whims of motivation and willpower. This is a huge point: Routines and habits give you power over the fickle nature of willpower and motivation. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I’m saying it’s worth it. Brian Tracy says “Good habits are hard to form but easy to live with. Bad habits are easy to form but hard to live with.”
Here are some habits that I have developed and have gleaned from mentors that are making a big difference in my life! Perhaps some of them will speak to you! Remember, what works for one person may not work for you. You have to do the work of finding what routines and practices makes the most sense for you, but this work will pay off exponentially!
1. Start with positivity. This can be a simple prayer of thanks for a new day or a simple mantra saying “This is going to be a great day!” Say this prayer or mantra every day, even if you don’t “feel” it. Research tells us that intentional positive thinking is effective at managing stress as well as can improve mood. Eleanor Roosevelt said “you can often change your circumstances by changing your attitude.” This is also where I like to recommend visualizing yourself accomplishing your tasks and goals for the day. This can help to fuel motivation. For example, I might visualize myself completing my workout and how great I will feel physically and mentally afterward. Focusing on these positive feelings helps me feel exited and more motivated to get to it! You can visualize yourself sticking to your nutrition plan, getting your work done on time and enjoying a date night afterward, etc.
2. Be proactive. As difficult as it is, do not immediately check your messages, email, or social media accounts first thing in the morning. This sets you up to be reactive rather than proactive. In the book Manage Your Day-To-Day, Jocelyn Glei says “…the trouble with this approach is it means spending the best part of the day on other people’s priorities.” Blogger Chris Winfield gives the example that if you open up your email and you receive an email asking for work-related documents, you might feel compelled to provide them immediately…even though you may have had plans to work-out or spend some time working on a personal project that morning or you might open up Facebook and see something going on with one of your friends, which can easily steal your attention away from concentrating on what you needed to get done. It’s not to say that life doesn’t throw curve balls and we absolutely want to be there for our people when needed, but whenever possible, taking this time for yourself before plugging in, will set you up to be better prepared for and able to help others and be more productive in your day.
3. Make a daily to-do list. I cannot stress how much lists help me in my daily life. I actually like (and have recently implemented) the idea of making this list the night before (more on that later) and then spending a few minutes going over the list in the morning and planning out time blocks for each item on my list. Having specific time blocked out for a given task keeps me focused. I like having a “master list” of to-do’s that I usually make at the beginning of each month and add to it as things come up so I don’t forget about them. Then, on a daily basis, I pull items from this master list based on priority and make my daily to-do list. I start by listing the things that must get done that day, and if there is room, I will add “nice to get done” items. I also review my nutrition plan for the day. Having a clear plan significantly increases the likelihood of following through and sticking to my nutrition goals.
4. Follow up at the end of the day. Review your list, reflect positively on what you did accomplish and then turn your focus to what you did not. Ask yourself why you didn’t accomplish the things you set out to that day and take note as to why and give yourself some time to think about what can be done to fix that why. Sometimes it’s something out of our control, and many others, it is not. Lastly, take the things that did not get done and carry them over as you make the next day’s list. I find that making the next day’s list the night before helps me to relax at the end of the day as in my mind, there is a clear plan for the pending to-do’s that often float around in my head and inhibit me from getting good sleep or being present with my family after my work-day is over.
There you have it! Healthy routines and habits are always a work in progress, but focusing on establishing routines can be very powerful! Comment below on strategies you have found to work for you! I would love to learn from you!