Routine is difficult to establish, especially in the beginning. If you ask anyone who has created a successful routine for themselves, they will tell you that falling out of sync now and again is inevitable. They will also tell you that whether or not you fall off doesn’t matter – what’s important is that you get back up and at it again.
What’s the best way to do that, though? We lost steam for a reason, after all. Getting right back to it is easier said than done when stress levels are high, especially around the holiday season. Here’s our tips for getting back to a routine after you’ve fallen of the wagon.
Step #1: Accept Failure
Too many people in the world have a “one-and-done” mentality. They drop the ball, and then suddenly they lose faith in themselves and things continue to roll downhill from there.
Of all the successful and happy people I’ve met in the world, exactly 100% of them had to fail (multiple times) before they finally succeeded. That should tell you something, given how few things in the world are 100% certain (other than death and taxes).
What makes or breaks your success isn’t failure; it’s quitting. If you fail, you can at least get up and try again. If you quit, then it’s over.
Unfortunately, the society we live in tends to focus more on failure as a negative than quitting. Children are often scolded and disciplined for failing a test or task, but often receive little pushback if they want to quit an activity or hobby they’re involved in. Over time, this creates adults who beat themselves up due to failure, and then don’t realizing that quitting is the real problem.
Step #2: Take Some Time to Reset
Have you ever attempted to swap a car tire on a vehicle that’s moving? Probably not. I’m guessing the car is parked and no longer in motion because that’s the smart way to fix a tire. It minimizes mistakes and makes it into an achievable task (instead of an impossible one).
Although not quite as impossible, trying to force yourself back into a routine while you’re amidst a lot of other stressors is a recipe for problems. There’s a reason you fell off in the first place, after all.
So pick an amount of time where there’s no distractions and relax. Maybe it’s a day or an entire weekend, or maybe its just one night off. Use that time to clear your mind and focus on something relaxing such as self-care or a hobby (if you’re in need of new hobbies, we have a list of some productive ones here). Once your mind is clear and you’re able to plan more calmly, then you can move forward.
Step #3: Assess and Adjust the Routine
As humans, we often expect too much of ourselves and make changes that are too large to be sustainable right away. We create routines while we’re in a motivated mindset; a point in time where we’re ready to take on the world. Unfortunately, we tend not to account for the fact that the world swings back, and we can’t always be motivated to make positive changes.
One of the greatest tips I ever received was from a book (more on that here) that talked about how our routines need to be feasible even for the worst versions of ourselves. Do you really think the worst version of yourself is going to want to go to the gym for an hour three times a week? Not likely, but they might be able to pull off 3-5 minutes of pushups a couple times a week.
That might seem pointless, but even 5% effort is better than 0%. If you get done your 3-5 minutes and say “this is pointless, I want to do more” than you can do more! Otherwise, you just do your small amount so the habit can form before taking any bigger steps.
After these steps, your routine should (hopefully) be more manageable and achievable as you work on getting back into rhythm.
Step #4: Eliminate Things That Can Set You Back
While adjusting a routine we set aside is important, it is also just as important (if not more) to look at what made us fall out of routine. Creating a better life isn’t just about improving the good things, after all; you also have to remove the bad.
Did bingeing that Netflix series or videogame start everything off? Maybe don’t start a new one without having a plan to pace yourself. Was it caused by having too many things pop up and get in the way? Look at your time management and making sure that you’re only multitasking where it’s helpful. Chronic injuries getting in the way? Schedule a doctor’s visit to get it looked at.
If we don’t remove the barriers blocking our path forward, then a good routine is only going to get us so far. Sometimes, all it takes is removing the things that cause our setbacks in the first place.
Step #5: Create An External Consequence
When we’re stressed or out-of-sorts, it can seem like a larger-than-life task to stay on routine. Sometimes, a good solution to this is to create a punishment for ourselves that is greater than the hassle of staying on routine.
As someone who stays pretty busy, there are plenty of times in life where I neglect healthy eating and just order takeout for days on end because its the most time-sensitive thing to do. While I do eat much healthier than I did as a teenager, I’ve still got quite a ways to go before I complete my goal.
One step I’ve taken to assist with this is to have a consequence for eating out. Every month, I try to set aside some money for future vacations and events so that I can afford them. Now, any time I eat out, I will take $100 out of that account to cover the funds of the meal I just ate (even if the meal costs nowhere near that much).
While it may seem like overkill to do that, it definitely helps me keep in line. The negative consequences on my health are something I might ignore on a busy day, but losing that vacation money is an immediate action that makes me re-think whether or not its worth it. Usually, that small consequence is enough to push me into cooking something healthier for myself.
Find a consequence for yourself, something that will have an immediate impact, and see if that can help your routine stick.
Change isn’t easy. If it were, the world would be a much different place. If what we are currently doing is keeping us alive, our body and mind are designed to continue doing those things so that we can continue surviving without expending any extra energy. Although that is a great survival instinct from the cave days, it is something we have to fight to overcome when looking to better our futures.
So when you try to get on the wagon next time, remember all these tips to making it a bit more successful. Eventually, with enough improvement, the routine will become part of everyday life and you will be better off for it.