August 28th, 2008

How Significant Changes in Your Routine Can Threaten Your Daily Positive Habits

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Betws y Coed
Life is like a river

Life is like a river. It’s moving, and you can be at the mercy of the river if you don’t take deliberate, conscious action to steer yourself in a direction you have pre-determined.

-Anthony Robbins

Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits recently wrote a very honest post about The Dirty Little Secrets of Productivity Bloggers, and I’ll be sharing one of my own with you in this post. To give you some background, over this last month, I have been on two extremes, and am now back to normalcy. For the first two weeks, I was on vacation. I had lots of free time, and I managed my own schedule and did what I wanted to do. I lived on my own sleep schedule (I’m a late riser). I meditated and exercised every day. I did a lot of reading, writing, and relaxing.

When I came back to work, I was immediately placed on an intense project, which involved long hours and weekend work for 2 weeks. I went from 100% free time to 100% structured time. Was I able to maintain my positive habits when my routine changed so significantly? Nope. And this explains my dirty little secret- I wasn’t able to follow my own advice.

I ended up building sleep debt due to long work hours. I was unable to maintain my exercise routine due to getting home so late from work, I ate unhealthy food (catered into our conference room at work), and I stopped meditating.

Why couldn’t I maintain my daily positive habits when my routine changed?

I love being challenged and pushed to extremes- this is a way to personal growth for me. I dedicated myself to the success of the project at work, and gained a lot of experience from it, but in doing so, I also adopted the norms (eating and sleeping habits) of the team, and temporarily lost my positive habits along the way.

I wasn’t able to follow the advice of my blog post about living like a sprinter (having a healthy balance between stress and recovery), versus living like a long distance runner (no balance/time for recovery, leading to burnout). During these past two weeks, I have been confronted with how difficult living like a sprinter can be. How do you maintain positive habits when routine changes, and the nature of your work can be so chaotic?

Your routine will change, that’s a given- plan for it

I’m learning that routine changes will happen to you and I many times in our lives, but the important thing we need to have in place is a a backup plan. A back up plan is your pre-determined way of handling drastic routine change and maintaining positive habits. Why come up with a backup plan early on? If you have to come up with the backup plan while you are in crisis mode, it’s already too late:

Changes to routine have a smaller impact on your positive habits when you use a backup plan
Changes to routine have a smaller impact on your positive habits when you use a backup plan
Here are several examples of creating a backup plan:

Routine Change: Working long hours, unable to work out at gym

Backup Plan Options: If long work hours are going to be a long-term occurrence, you will want to find an alternate work-out time, such as early in the morning or over lunch break. If it is only short-term, you can simply cut back on your daily caloric intake, and plan to get back into your workout routine as soon as your work hours go back to normal.

Routine Change: Unable to leave work for lunch break due to deadlines, unhealthy snack options in the office

Backup Plan Options: Bring a bag of trail mix or nuts with you to work, use this as a meal replacement when you are unable to eat a normal lunch. Otherwise, you may end up eating unhealthy office snacks, or even worse, you will be starving by dinner time, and overeat to make up for the missed lunch.

Routine Change: Unable to get enough sleep during the week

Backup Plan Options: Take a mid-day 20 minute nap at work. If you have you own office, this will be easier to do. If not, you will have to be more creative with napping at work.

It’s Your Turn to Share

It’s much easier to maintain positive habits when your external environment and routine stay the same. But when the situation suddenly changes, are you able to adjust? Do you maintain your positive habits, or do you revert back to the way you were before you acquired the positive habits?

I’m still working on my backup plan, and experimenting with the best ways to maintain positive habits when my routine changes. I’d love to hear your experience with maintaining positive habits through routine changes- please leave a comment!

Creative Commons License photo credit: aledt

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2 Responses to “How Significant Changes in Your Routine Can Threaten Your Daily Positive Habits”


September 2nd, 2008 - 12:34 am

I had a similar situation some time back. Was not able to Gym because of work. So Instead of 5 days a week gym I turned it to 2 days, One of which Saturday. Spending extra time on Saturdays and thinking of at least touching and Flexing muscles. Although It was not very efficient but it helped to move it faster when Got time. :)

Derek Ralston

September 2nd, 2008 - 12:50 am

@Guri- Thanks for sharing! Yeah sometimes just working out as much as you can given your busy work schedule is the best way to stick with the routine. It’s certainly better than being a perfectionist and giving up completely because of a chaotic schedule.

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