3 Key Steps To Starting An Effective Daily Routine
“I’ve been thinking about taking up a meditation practice.”
“I really need to drink more water…”
“I feel so good when I exercise, I want to go to the gym more often, but can’t find the time!”
If you’re like most people you probably have considered starting a new daily routine to optimize one or more aspects of your life. In a world where time has become more and more valuable, distractions are at an all time high, and to-do lists are as long as ever – people are looking for ways to better themselves. One of the most common ways that folks use to make a change is by adopting a new routine.
Routines are actions or a combination of actions that yield a specific outcome or result.
They are the surest way to make an impactful change in our lives. By the end of this article you will be familiar with the 3 key steps to consider if you want to start an effective daily routine!
“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.”
Step 1: Keep the end result in mind.
As humans we have hundreds of little routines we practice each day. Most of these we don’t care to or need to focus on, they simply happen. Adopting a new routine is usually in pursuit of something new that we wish to attain. The benefit of successfully completing the routines could improve us physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Make sure to keep the end result in mind as you select your routine.This life changing benefit will keep you motivated and excited to stick with your routine!
Some common results people shoot for with their routine include:
- Decreased stress
- Increased energy
- Better sleep
- Improved mental clarity
- More time
- Better performance at school/work/sport
Routines to achieve these outcomes might look like:
- Take 10 deep breaths before beginning a new project at work.
- Exercise at least three times each week.
- Turn my phone to airplane mode 1 hour before bed.
- Make a list dividing each job into its constituent parts.
- Plan out my daily schedule every morning while I drink my coffee.
- Visualize what a successful outcome would look like for my upcoming event.
- a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.
Routines are most effective when practiced daily. Sometimes we need to focus extra hard on following through with a new routine until it becomes a habit. This is an important factor to consider in both the selection and implementation of your new routine.
Dr. BJ Fogg, a behavioral scientist from Stanford, has a basic behavioral model he uses to describe the steps to change. He claims that in order for a behavior change to happen you need to have the right mix of motivation, ability, and a trigger.
If we are highly motivated to complete a task then the odds are that when a trigger occurs we will produce a successful outcome. Likewise we tend to be successful at tasks that are easy to complete even if we are not so motivated to get them done.
Makes sense right?
The challenge many of us face is that we fail to set up routines that take into account the motivation required to complete a task requiring a higher level of ability. We shoot for the stars and quickly burn out after our initial gusto wears off.
Does this mean that we shouldn’t aim to make big dramatic change with our new routine?
Kind of…not exactly…but yes.
At least Dr. Fogg would advise against it. Instead he suggest focusing on the smallest possible change available to you in your new routine. Consistency wins the long term change game so you should pick a routine that you know you you can complete every single try. This will generate momentum and a new skill that you can apply later to more challenging target areas.
Action Step: Get out a pen and paper and spend 5 minutes brainstorming some ideas of areas you would like to implement a routine. Think about the end result you would like to achieve and make note of the top 2 or 3 new routines that would be a first step on the path. Then let’s move on to step 2!
Step 2: Determine the lay of the land
This is a chance to take inventory of your assets and keep an eye out for potential pitfalls. Implementing a new behavior is challenging because it requires knocking our brain off of autopilot. Rather than coast through our day following the usual agenda we are throwing a strategic interruption to our thought pattern that lets us try something new. This step can be split into two categories:
Supporting Factors, things that can help you implement your routine. Some examples could be:
- A supportive partner or best friend
- A commute to work that offers some alone time
- Sticky note reminders you place all over your house
- A trainer, coach, or mentor who wants you to succeed
Distracting Factors, barriers, or common faults that would get in the way of you completing your daily routine. This might look like:
- Social settings where you may feel awkward practicing your new routine.
- People who interrupt you and take up your time (EVEN IF YOU YOU LOVE THEM)
- Physical struggles with things like exercise or waking up early.
- Bad influences on your diet, behaviors, or actions.
Action Step: List the top 3 assets you have that could help you start your routine and then the top 3 distractions that may keep you from succeeding. For the distractions, find a solution for how you could overcome it (eg. Coordinate workout schedules with a friend, sIgn up for a class the night before, or prep healthy lunches for the week on Sunday afternoon)
Step 3: Track Your Progress
Benjamin Franklin, perhaps the founding father of using routines for personal development knew the importance of tracking and measuring his daily practices. Each morning Franklin asked himself, “What good shall I do today? And in the evening, “What good did I do today?” Taking the time twice each day to check in on his progress created more opportunities for growth and self-improvement.
Not only that but Ben cycled through a list of 13 virtues he chose to improve his morality. He would focus on one for a week at a time and document any infractions to the redeeming quality. He noticed significant improvement in his adherence cycling through each virtue four times a year.
As you prepare to start your new routine you want to keep track of your progress. Having clear defined parameters will make you more likely to succeed and recreate the process again for future habits.
Action Step: Make a plan to track your progress. What is the the key aspect of the routine are you measuring. What time of day will you log your results? Are you writing it in a notebook or on your phone or laptop? What will you write on days when you forget to adhere to your routine?
“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”– Archilochos
So now that you have the 3 key steps to starting an effective daily routine how are you going to implement them?
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
You’ve probably heard of one of the most popular diets in the nutrition world right now, intermittent fasting (IF). Though this type of diet certainly isn’t new, the fad-ish uprising of it’s popularity have left a great deal of guru’s, buzz words, and misinformation floating around on the internet. However when celebrities like Beyonce, Terry Crews, and Hugh Jackman swear by a diet it is definitely worth giving a try. Today we’re going to break down some of the facts about intermittent fasting. You can decide if it’s right for you!
Before we get into the benefits of intermittent fasting it’s important to know how it works. There are many different protocols and standards that define the versions of this diet. The parameters that most people adjust include:
Time, when to eat and when not to. Most protocols recommend a ratio of 16 hour fast to 8 hours of eating. This could look like skipping breakfast and eating your first meal of the day at 12pm. You then have until 8 pm to eat.
What counts as fasting, if you’re in your fasting window are you allowed to consume anything? Most diets encourage water during the fast. Many also allow black coffee or tea (hold the cream and sugar) during the fast. Outside of these beverages, some people alse consume MCT or coconut oil, BCAA drinks, or ketone supplements. This will depend on your goals and the approach you take.
What to eat during meals. This is dependent on the types and frequency of foods that work best for you. If you practice intermittent fasting you will benefit the most by adhering to a diet that eliminates inflammatory foods and refined carbohydrates.
Intermittent Fasting claims to have a great deal of benefits and many people have found it works great for them. There are also a great deal of myths or areas that still need to be verified by science. Most of the benefits of intermittent fasting seem to have more of a correlation with successful diets rather than to be the primary causal factor. As we work our way through the many claimed benefits of IF let’s address what benefits you can count on and which ones to put to the test.
Lower Insulin Resistance/Increase Insulin Sensitivity
If you hear insulin resistance I’m sure you’re thinking two things. One, I know that is important. Two, I don’t have diabetes so how does it apply to me?? Insulin is a hormone responsible for regulating the amount of energy (glucose) in the blood stream. By lowering insulin resistance the body improves its ability to store extra glucose as glycogen (ready to use energy) in the muscle rather than as fat. Intermittent fasting reduces the bodies exposure to energy fluxuations making it more sensitive when you do eat a meal.
You can burn fat while gaining muscle
This is one of those difficult to navigate situations. The fact is that going 16 hours or more without eating will make your body more reliant on fat as a fuel source. The major factor to consider is that the biggest player in gaining or losing both fat and muscle is energy balance. Intermittent fasting combined with healthy food choices and consistent exercise will produce the desired results, but if you’re consuming more calories than your body needs the calories will contribute to both muscle and fat gain.
Better dietary adherence
Many people love to use intermittent fasting simply because it is a great fit for their lifestyle.
Reasons for this vary from one person to another, but one of the key reasons seems to be that it reduces decision fatigue. Most people find themselves making poor dietary choices when they are either in a hurry or tired. By eliminating decision making around food it becomes easier to plan for one or two healthy meals in a day. Food becomes less of a focal point. You start eating to live, not living to eat.
Improve mental clarity
This ties into the powerful effects of insulin on the body. After a meal our body secretes insulin to maintain blood sugar levels in the body. When we are constantly eating we are dependent on a steady supply of glucose to feel energized and awake. Too long without food or an imbalanced meal causes the dreaded brain fog you’ve probably felt an hour or so after lunch. Many people report being more alert and focused when when adapted to an intermittent fasting diet.
Give your gut a rest
A continuous diet of hard to digest foods can leave our digestive tract operating at less than optimal capacity. This leads to low energy levels, poor digestion, and a general inflammatory state. Intermittent fasting gives digestive enzymes and the healthy bacteria in our gut to build up stabilize.
This benefit of IF is about as straightforward as it gets. Eating fewer meals and/or at fewer times of the day will save you time. Not only that but you’d be surprised how much time gets wasted on meals when you’re trying to fit in 5-6 small meals per day. Without the interruption of food you’ll have more time for other activities.
This goes hand in hand with saving time. Fewer meals means more money saved. Even if you are eating bigger portions for lunch and dinner it means a smaller grocery bill and fewer days of the month you have to eat out.
As we’ve addressed some of the benefits of intermittent fasting we also need to play devil’s advocate to why it might now be the right choice for you. Let’s take a look at why you should not try intermittent fasting…
Some populations that may want to avoid IF would be individuals who have had issues with yo-yo dieting, overeating, binge eating, or make poor dietary choices. Some practitioners of intermittent fasting have reported an obsession with food or constant daydreaming about eating during their restricted hours. It is important to consult with your doctor before making any major change to your health including a significant shift in your diet.
Other individuals who may want to steer clear of IF would be individuals who are not consuming sufficient nutrients to address a specific health condition or goal. These could include specific micronutrients like vitamins or minerals. Children, teenagers or anyone who needs more total calories to gain weight may not be able to consume enough food during the limited time window associated with intermittent fasting. If you are a hardgainer, increasing your training volume for a sport, have a job that requires intense physical activity, or are in pregnancy this may not be the diet for you.
Hopefully highlighting some of the benefits of intermittent fasting has given you the information to see if you want to explore it further or shut it down like your high school prom date.
If you have questions about diet or exercise guidelines lets start a conversation! Contact us now