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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

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Wen Shan

Proud Philosophy grad. Based in HK.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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