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How I Build A Routine And Cut All The Unnecessary Decisions (And Why You Should Try Too)

How I Build A Routine And Cut All The Unnecessary Decisions (And Why You Should Try Too)

From the moment we get out of bed, we are constantly making decisions throughout the day.

Try to recall how you started the day in the morning: did you have trouble deciding which outfit to pick? What to eat? How many sugar cubes to put into your coffee? Small decisions like these can suck mental energy out of us. They are simply unnecessary, which is why we shouldn’t waste time on them.

We all have limited willpower and every decision we make is using up our willpower.

When we have too many decisions to make every day, it can be very overwhelming. Instead of wasting our willpower on the trivial things, we should be focusing on the more important and fun things in life; and a routine allows us to do exactly that.

Instead of training yourself to make decisions faster, get rid of unnecessary decisions by building a routine.[1]

Having a routine means doing the same set of things over and over without consciously thinking about it. No decision-making is required. That’s the beauty of a routine—it saves us mental energy.

Now that we have fewer decisions to make, we are less likely to get tired. This can actually be explained, and Kahneman does this very well in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow.

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Kahneman suggests that we have 2 modes of thinking:[2]

System 1 is the faster mode; and System 2 is the slower mode. System 1 is faster because it is “automatic” and “intuitive”. It builds habits and speeds up reactions for us.

Which is to say, having a routine allows us to think less when we’ve trained our brain to think with system 1, helping us to save time and energy.

So if you want to get through your day more efficiently, you should work on forming a routine.

To start forming a routine, begin with something small, so small that you can’t say no.

Author and entrepreneur James Clear introduced a strategy guide for forming a routine which is very useful for all of us. He suggests to start small when it comes to building a habit and here’re the things you can kickstart doing:[3].

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1. Pick a small thing to fit into your daily life.

Starting something new can be hard, especially if you are the kind who struggles with staying motivated and sticking to something.

Starting with something very easy can be helpful because our motivation is not stable over time, and your goal here is to set yourself up for success in the long run.

Pick something that doesn’t require motivation and make it easy for yourself at first.

For example, I’ve always wanted to drink more water. So in order to make my first step easy, I’ll just put a big mug of water on my work desk so I’ll always be reminded to drink it even when I’m working.

2. Increase its difficulty gradually.

You might be worrying about not being able to make progress with a small start. But the truth is, you will get better at doing the same action over time.

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Small improvements can add up, and you will be ready for something bigger eventually — just think of it as a training for your willpower and motivation.

3. Break your daily goal into reasonable sessions.

In order for the first two steps to work, you can try breaking down a task to make it easier. Achieving goals, even small ones in the beginning, encourages you to keep going with your routine.

Again take my example of drinking more water, I increase the difficulty level by measuring the times I refill my mug. The first week, I only need to refill my mug once a day; then the second week, I’ll add it to two times a day etc.

4. Keep track of your daily progress and have an overview of it.

Sticking to a routine is difficult, which is why it’s a great idea to remind yourself of how far you’ve come in order to motivate yourself.

I have downloaded an app about water consumption every day, it’s basically a log about how much water I drink every day and it’s really helpful for me to keep track of my progress.

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If there’s no apps available for you to keep track of your progress, you can just make use of journal spreadsheet to know how you do all the way.

Trust that if you keep making a little progress every single day, you will find it easier and easier to stay on track.

5. Stick to your pace and be patient about the results.

Since building a routine takes time for you to get used to, you really want to progress at a comfortable pace and not rush it. If you push yourself too hard too soon, you are more likely to give up. Allowing yourself enough time to improve bit by bit is key to success.

Forming a routine can be tricky, but it’s achievable. Start today, set a goal, and work your way up. Eventually, you’ll be able to take your mind off of what’s trivial and focus on what’s really important—also, you’ll be saving so much time in the process.

Reference

More by this author

Wen Shan

Proud Philosophy grad. Based in HK.

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Last Updated on December 10, 2019

How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

It is hardly a secret that the key to successfully accomplishing one goal after another is staying motivated. There are, of course, tasks which successful people may not like at all, yet they find motivation to complete them because they recognize how each particular task serves a greater goal.

So how to stay motivated most of the time? Here are 5 simple yet effective ways on how to stay motivated and get what you want:

1. Find Your Good Reasons

Anything you do, no matter how simple, has a number of good reasons behind it.

You may not be able to find good reasons to do some tasks at first but, if you take just a few moments to analyze them, you will easily spot something good. We also have many tasks which don’t need any reasoning at all – we’ve been doing them for so long that they feel natural.

If you’re ever stuck with some tasks you hate and there seems to be no motivation to complete it whatsoever, here’s what you need to do: find your good reasons.

Even when you set goals, there needs to be reasons behind these goals. They may not be obvious, but stay at it until you see some, as this will bring your motivation back and will help you finish the task.

Some ideas for what a good reason can be:

  • A material reward – quite often, you will get paid for doing something you normally don’t like doing at all.
  • Personal gain – you will learn something new or will perhaps improve yourself in a certain way.
  • A feeling of accomplishment – at least you’ll be able to walk away feeling great about finding the motivation and courage to complete such a tedious task.
  • A step closer to your bigger goal – even the biggest accomplishments in history have started small and relied on simple and far less pleasant tasks than you might be working on. Every task you complete brings you closer to the ultimate goal, and acknowledging this always feels good.

2. Make It Fun

When it comes to motivation, attitude is everything. Different people may have completely opposite feelings towards the same task: some will hate it, others will love it.

Why do you think this happens? It’s simple: some of us find ways to make any task interesting and fun to do!

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Take sports for example. Visiting your local gym daily for a half-an-hour workout session sounds rather boring to some. Yet many others love the idea!

They like exercising not only because they recognize the good reasons behind it, but simply because it’s fun! At certain time of their daily schedule, they find going to gym to be the best thing to do, simply because nothing else will fit their time and lifestyle so perfectly.

Depending on how you look at it, you can have fun doing just about anything! Just look for ways of having fun, and you’ll find them!

A simple approach is to start working on any task by asking yourself a few questions:

  • How can I enjoy this task?
  • What can I do to make this task fun for myself and possibly for others?
  • How can I make this work the best part of my day?

As long as you learn to have the definite expectation of any task being potentially enjoyable, you will start to feel motivated.

Some of you will probably think of a thing or two which are valid exceptions from this statement, like something you always hate doing no matter how hard you try making it fun. You’re probably right, and that’s why I don’t claim everything to be fun.

However, most tasks have a great potential of being enjoyable, and so looking for ways to have fun while working is definitely a good habit to acquire.

3. Change Your Approach And Don’t Give Up

When something doesn’t feel right, it’s always a good time to take a moment and look for a different approach for the task.

You may be doing everything correctly and most efficiently, but such approach isn’t necessarily the most motivating one. Quite often, you can find a number of obvious tweaks to your current approach which will both change your experience and open up new possibilities.

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That’s why saying “one way or another” is so common — if you really want to accomplish your goal, there is always a way; and most likely, there’s more than one way.

If a certain approach doesn’t work for you, find another one, and keep trying until you find the one which will both keep you motivated and get you the desired results.

Some people think that trying a different approach means giving up. They take pride in being really stubborn and refusing to try any other options on their way towards the goal.

My opinion on this is that the power of focus is great, but you should be focusing on your goal, and not limiting your options by focusing on just one way to accomplish it it.

4. Recognize Your Progress

Everything you may be working on can be easily split into smaller parts and stages. For most goals, it is quite natural to split the process of accomplishing them into smaller tasks and milestones. There are a few reasons behind doing this, and one of them is tracking your progress.

We track our progress automatically with most activities. But to stay motivated, you need to recognize your progress, not merely track it.

Here’s how tracking and recognizing your progress is different:

Tracking is merely taking a note of having reached a certain stage in your process. Recognizing is taking time to look at a bigger picture and realize where exactly you are, and how much more you have left to do.

For example, if you’re going to read a book, always start by going through the contents table. Getting familiar with chapter titles and memorizing their total number will make it easier for you to recognize your progress as you read. Confirming how many pages your book has before starting it is also a good idea.

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You see, reading any book you will be automatically looking at page numbers and chapter titles, but without knowing the total number of pages, this information will have little meaning.

Somehow, it is human nature to always want things to happen in short term or even at once. Even though we split complex tasks into simpler actions, we don’t quite feel the satisfaction until all is done and the task is fully complete.

For many scenarios though, the task is so vast that such approach will drain all the motivation out of you long before you have a chance to reach your goal. That’s why it is important to always take small steps and recognize the positive different and progress made. This is how your motivation can sustain in long term.

5. Reward Yourself

This is a trick everyone likes: rewarding yourself is always pleasant. This is also one of the easiest and at the same time most powerful ways to stay motivated!

Feeling down about doing something? Dread the idea of working on some task? Hate the whole idea of working? You’re not alone.

Right from the beginning, agree on some deliverables which will justify yourself getting rewarded. As soon as you get one of the agreed results, take time to reward yourself in some way.

For some tasks, just taking a break and relaxing for a few minutes will do.

For others, you may want to get a fresh cup of coffee and even treat yourself a dessert.

For even bigger and more demanding tasks, reward yourself by doing something even more enjoyable, like going to a cinema or taking a trip to some place nice, or even buying yourself something.

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Your progress may not seem to others like anything worth celebrating but, take time and do it anyway! It is your task and your reward, so any ways to stay motivated are good.

The more you reward yourself for the honestly made progress, the more motivated you will feel about reaching new milestones, thus finally accomplishing your goal.

Mix and Match

Now that you have these five ways of staying motivated, it is a good moment to give you the key to them all: mix and match!

Pick one of the techniques and apply it to your situation. If it doesn’t work, or if you simply want to get more motivated, try another technique right way. Mix different approaches and match them to your task for the best results.

Just think about it: Finding good reasons to work on your task is bound to helping you feel better; and identifying ways to make it fun will help you enjoy the task even more.

Or, if you plan a few points for easier tracking of your progress and on top of that, agree on rewarding yourself as you go; this will make you feel most motivated about anything you have to work through.

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Featured photo credit: Lucas Lenzi via unsplash.com

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