The world is going gaga over habits. Habits this , habits that. Many authors, including this one, have written numerous articles on how to build habits, how to pick up a skill or an activity and do it repeatedly, to form a habit. But what about routine? Have u given a thought to that?

  • It was 10:30 pm last night. I was onto my last few pages of reading for the day and it suddenly struck me, I had not opened the BL app since morning. Despite a 198 day streak of meditation, I have had instances where I missed doing meditation at my stipulated time in the morning, and finally did it either in the late afternoon or in the night, just before bed time. While we all have our own preferences for timing and duration of meditation, there are instances when we miss doing it at that specific time, and then struggle to get it back into the day’s routine.
  • A research paper I came across during my PhD class recently, talked about importance of routine in organisations and how, not just for individuals, but for organisation as a whole, routines are extremely critical for efficient functioning.
  • Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates (noticed how these two gentlemen, when referred, always has Bill before Jeff? ;-)) have talked often about having thinking time in their routine, designated by blank spaces in their calendar. And these routines are quite sacrosanct. Very little scope for deviation.

Routine, Routine, Routine. Enough. What exactly is this ‘routine’. A simple definition of routine states that it is “a sequence of actions regularly followed”

  • Events: Activities, tasks, habits
  • Sequence – doing one after the other and before yet another one.
  • regularly– daily/weekly/monthly – first one being the most important.
  • followed – be dedicated and sincere about doing it without fail.

Now see, a habit gets better when done regularly and for doing something regularly, its best to associate doing it along-with something else, which is done at a specific time. Notice how its easy to remember to brush our teeth first thing in the morning, because it helps us really ‘wake up’.

  • Ever rushed into the shower right out of bed, even if u were not late for work/school?
  • Ever jumped onto breakfast table at 6am, right out of bed, even when u did not have a flight to catch?

Like all self proclaimed knowledge gurus, who are just ordinary people who have the courage to write whatever they feel like and hit the ‘publish’ button, I love my routine, especially the morning one.

  • Wake up- hot glass of water with lemon and salt – toilet – wordle – brushing – morning tea – journaling- writing – workout – meditation – shower – breakfast – work. 

Now, this routine has deviations, aberrations, changes, tweaks every once a while, but generally, I try to stick to it. What it does, is that a series of activities, each of them in isolation would require lot of thinking, coaxing and prodding, but together, get done much more easily, as they are part of a super-set called routine. I feel much better going for workout, if I have done my writing:  I will pump a few more iron at the gym or clock a few extra miles in the run, etc.  

If I  miss out on exercise in morning for whatever reason, its almost impossible for me to sneak it in for the rest of the day, at least not till the evening. 

I am just not able to put my mind to creative writing anytime later during the day. The mind needs to be really fresh for the same (notice how I have not included checking phone, whatsapp, social media in my morning routine, as I try to avoid that ). If I have a topic in mind, I just want to think on that topic, so I can ‘let it flow, let it flow, let it flow’!!

Also, when done in sequence, time for each activity can be limited, so you put in your best for that limited amount of time, rather than dawdling with it. Exercise is 1 hour, so it can be either 55mins or 65 mins, not 2 hours, etc. as there are other activities to follow up. 

Our mind works as per our plan, if we give it a plan. Otherwise, it can wander in all possible directions and ensure we do NOTHING. So the advantage of a routine is not just one task, but a sequence of painful tasks (painful as we have not been able to do them regularly without being prompted, not that they involve any kind of physical or mental pain!!) can be done with much more ease, than when done in isolation.

So when u want to pick up a new habit, don’t just think of doing it in isolation. But club with some other small items (like watering the plant, watching the sunrise, taking pet out for a walk, cracking knuckles, folding bed-sheet, etc.) and then say you have a routine to follow. It will definitely work out easier.

It’s similar to :

  • When told to get bread from the store, u might forget it at times, but when u are told to get 1 kilo of potatoes, 1/2 kilo of tomatoes (since cannot afford 1kilo anymore!) , 100 gms of butter and 6 eggs along with the bread,  its much harder to forget.
  • If your homework is to solve 5 questions in maths, its easy to put it off till 5 mins before bed time (or forget it completely) , because you were too busy chilling, playing, watching TV, etc. But when u have 2 chapters of science, 1 chapter of English and 10 pages of history to also be studied along with those maths questions, you dare not do anything else before finishing your homework.
  • How chasing the manager at Reliance Media for the deal was forgotten but when you were told that all the 10 companies of Mukeshbhai had to be reminded about the pending proposal, you remembered to call them all.

So this was just me sharing what works for me and assume it should work for most (if not all) of you. These are some of the ‘daily nuskhas’ which might not have great academic value as they are not some pathbreaking suggestion that will help you invent something big, but this will definitely help u achieve a bit more than what you normally ‘thought’ you were capable of, in a given day.  Now that I have penned a great article, excited to head to the gym for my workout !! Enjoy and have a fabulous week!!

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Hetal Sonpal

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