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

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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 October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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