If you’ve slipped into a negative routine during the winter, you’re not alone. Colder weather makes it harder to exercise outdoors – or leave the house at all. But even when the outdoor world resembles a snow globe, there are ways to develop, change and stick to habits.
Fortunately for us, summer is on the way. And spring is a delightful time for fresh changes – figuring out which habits serve you and shaking off those that don’t. Perhaps it’s how you manage stress, organize your time, or maybe you want to get into a fitness routine. Maybe it’s all of them. How do we root out bad habits and create long-term strategies for routines that make life better?
4 ways to set and keep a new routine
1. Don’t waste mental energy
Steve Jobs started each morning the same way. He would pick a black turtleneck jumper from a pile of black turtleneck jumpers. This habit required zero mental effort, meaning he could save his mental energy for more important matters. Like co-founding Apple. Creating a new habit is easier when it becomes something you can do without thinking.
2. Identify the root cause of your bad habits
Figuring out what it is that’s triggering a bad habit isn’t always clear. So you have to ask yourself why. In Hooked by Nir Eyal, the author suggests approaching the five whys to get to the root cause of your urges. Ask yourself “why” five times until you truly understand why you’re falling into a negative routine.
- Why are you stressed? Because I’m late for work.
- Why are you late for work? Because I didn’t get out of bed as soon as my alarm went off.
- Why didn’t you get out of bed on time? Because I’m tired and stressed.
- Why are you tired and stressed? Because I hate my job.
- Why do you hate your job? Because I can’t control my stress levels.
Rather than channeling your anger into the bad start to the day, how about thinking about the way your stress response affects the way you react? Stress management is the primary cause of numerous problems in the workplace today. By being aware of the way you’re truly feeling, you can streamline your energy into more positive routines that reduce your old habits and bring in more positive ones.
3. Make new habits keepers
With a new mindful approach, you can create new habits that stick. The first way to do this is by binding new habits to existing ones and create triggers. For example, you always walk the dog at 6pm every evening. Use this as a trigger and link it to a run around the park. You always turn the heating off before bed. Use this as a trigger to get your healthy lunch sorted for the next day.
4. Keep it simple
If you want to go to the gym every day after work, have your gym gear ready in the boot of your car to go the minute you get out. If you want to do some yoga on an evening, set up your mat, block, and yoga pants the night before. If you want to drink more water, leave a bottle at your front door so you can’t miss it in the morning. Once these routines have been done a few times, your brain will try to save energy by doing them on automatic. No complicated theories. No self-help guru bibles. It’s as simple as that.