Routine is key to forming new habits

Have you ever wondered how some people create a new habit quickly with relative ease, while others struggle to get any sort of momentum going? Well, it’s all about rhythm.

Believe it or not, we all need routines for our mental and physical health.

We are creatures of habit, and our daily habits fit into our circadian rhythm.

These 90-minute cycles control our hunger, sleep patterns and body temperature, and they regulate our mood. Without a routine, we deregulate our circadian rhythm.

So, in the words of Canadian clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson, “No-one can live without a routine. If you haven’t got a routine, you’d better get one going, because you cannot be mentally healthy without a routine”

Keeping the motivation going

When starting out on a new goal or habit change, setting a routine is a great way to keep on track after the initial burst of motivation fades.

Try to set a designated time each day for any new action: routines keep daily disciplines easier to manage by reducing the need for decision making (which gives you more opportunities to opt out of doing something!). Of course, there will be days when you can’t keep to that routine and that’s fine, but be mindful to get back on track as soon as possible: it can be hard to regain a regime if you let it slip for too long.

Let consistency be your friend

Consistency is your biggest ally when taking on a new habit. Once you have done the same thing on a regular basis over a long period, it’s easier to step away from set times, knowing that this action is so ingrained you will pick it up at some point in the day, regardless of whatever else is happening. For me, exercise is a great example of this: after 20 years of playing professional sport, I am institutionalised in the need to exercise daily. Sure, there are other commitments I will have to attend to, but I know that, no matter what, I will still get out for a run, or a bike ride.

And regardless of when experts say, the best time for you to do something is when it suits YOU best. It’s hard enough fitting everything into our busy lives without being told when we should be doing it.

Don’t strive for perfection

Waiting for the perfect moment to make big improvements only delays the process: small, daily, incremental steps will reap the rewards long term. It really is the case that doing something is better than doing nothing.

First thing each morning, mentally go through your to-do list, and decide what you definitely will accomplish that day: your ‘MITs’ (Most Important Tasks). Limit these to three, and commit to completing them on that day, no matter what. By prioritising and being clear on these commitments you can more effectively manage your time and focus on completing each one.

We can apply this practice to both our professional and private lives and, like most things, the more we do it the better we become. Our bodies like routine and, when we create a schedule or routine, we are one step closer to reaching our desired goal.

And remember, your aim is not to be perfect, but to simply be better than you were yesterday.

Nicky Forster had a professional football career spanning over 20 years, playing a total of 721 professional games and scoring 221 goals for eight teams. He represented England at U21 level, playing alongside David Beckham and Phil Neville, and also managed Brentford FC. He now spends his time as a keynote/motivational speaker, and at The Spot Wellness Centre in Godstone.

Nicky Forster



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