Is having a routine really that helpful?

I have been listening to a lot of podcasts that focus on improving yourself and one thing they all seem to mention is having a routine. It seems that research has shown that people who get into a routine are more successful and are able to focus their energy onto more productive habits. So what does a routine look like and how can it be helpful and not boring? Because when I think of daily life having the same routine, the free spirit in me starts to yawn. Let me try to explain.

I was very surprised to learn that the human brain uses around 20-25% of our daily energy. I also read that the brain tends to be lazy and will always go toward the path of least resistance. Interestingly enough the science behind the notion that the brain does not produce new cells or pathways has been debunked. Now I hear about neuro-plasticity and how we can retrain our brains! I’m pretty sure there’s an app to help you do just that. So how long does it take to retrain the brain, or get a new habit/routine hardwired into our brain to the point it practically becomes the default system?

I’ve heard some say it takes 21 days to create a new habit. Others say 30 and then theirs even others who say it’s more like 66 days needed to make a new habit automatic. Here’s a link to an interesting read that talks about all these dates and the results they found after running an experiment on 96 individuals. . So what should one do until you get that new habit to become automatic? And why should someone even bother?

I’ll answer the 2nd question first, because that’s just how I roll. As a person with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, having enough energy to get through the day can often be a challenge especially on those recurrent flare up days that make doing the simplest things feel like I just did a mud run. These type of day’s are where a routine that my brain just automatically defaults to comes in handy. It’s kind of like when you drive the same route everyday, often arriving without really noticing the drive. The brain is so used to the same route that it’s as if it’s on autopilot and autopilot uses less energy. We want to save up our energy for other tasks that need doing, so whatever we can do on autopilot is a wonderful thing.

So what are some of the things to do on autopilot? Like I mentioned, getting up daily at the same time, going through the same routine in the morning like eating the same breakfast, etc. will eventually (66 days) create a routine that’s on autopilot, autopilot means the brain uses less energy. The only downfall I have with this is that sometimes I’ll go through my routine and then ask myself if I actually did something, such as eat or lock the house. But on the other side of that, if I don’t have at least some routine down, I feel like I’m rushing to catch up on everything I want to or need to do that day and that becomes stressful and tiring. I can resolve this by doing simple tasks to start with and add another and another as time goes on.

Things like waking up at the same time every morning, making the bed immediately, washing hands, saying prayers, coffee, breakfast, gym…etc. You get the picture. It may even take a few tweaks to get down the routine that works best, but if I can just get up at the same time, make my bed and get to the gym I consider that a good day.

You see well known and very successful people are very good at keeping a routine. They usually get up around 5 a.m. and have a specific routine they do to get themselves optimized to have a successful and productive day. Some of these people even look as if they are wearing the same clothes everyday. I am not into fashion, so I could totally do this, my daughter not so much. Having a small choice in wardrobe or a number of the same shirts, pants, skirts, etc. makes it easier to get dressed. You don’t have to waste time trying to decide what to wear. You just grab a clean pants, or skirt and clean top and off you go. Steve Jobs seems to do this, always wearing the same thing. Sounds good to me and would cut out a lot of wasted time and frustration from my morning.

I recently heard about the 5 a.m. club and am a bit fascinated by what it does to the brain and how it helps people rock their dreams. My only hurdle is trying to get up at 5 a.m. after a night of insomnia. I did hear the founder talk about having a bedtime routine to help our brain make the switch needed to get into sleep mode. It does make sense and every parent knows the benefit of a bedtime routine to keep kids well rested and preserve the sanity of the parent. I guess as we become adults we are so against being told what to do that we end up doing what we want because we can and it actually may not be such a good thing for us? I am not sure of the way, but I know for myself I have some terrible night habits that have to do with electronics.

I’ve heard over and over and over again about how bad our electronics are for our health and how being on them disrupts our sleep cycle. The blue light and radiation is apparently reeking havoc on our poor little brain chemistry yet the majority of use need said electronics to do anything these days. The business person does business on it, the student their homework and the mom runs her world through the phone or computer, at least this mom does! Trying to turn it all off 2 hours before I want to go to bed is almost impossible for me. I am either writing down my last thoughts, learning something online or reconnecting with family on friends. The only way I get around this is by using blue light filters on all devices, turning everything on night mode, listening to teachings instead of reading online or watching a lesson or just putting everything away and reading a book. Honestly though, I don’t think it’s 2 hours before bed that I turn everything off. But guess what? I don’t feel bad about not doing it perfectly, I just try each day to do whatever it is I am trying to accomplish, a little better than the last days efforts.

Sure, these things are great at saving energy, being more productive and so on, but I try not to beat myself up if I’m not doing it exactly like the experts suggest. If I had small kids, there would be no way, if I just had surgery there sure as hell would be no way. I have to look at the circumstance that I’m currently in to see where I can implement some change and try it for 66 days. I may have to restart trying to wake up at 5 a.m. over and over, failing often but never giving up if it’s something I really want to do.

I personally feel starting the day early and having a morning and evening routine is very good for the brain and soul. Having some flexibility, not too much, is also important because we all know that life happens and we need to roll with it or it may roll over us. I think that is the definition of resiliency, strength with the ability to go with the changing circumstances without loosing your goals and character.

The one thing I want to try to get solid is my morning routine of getting up at 5 a.m., immediately making my bed, prayers, coffee, gym, walk dogs all while getting the suggested 8-10 hours of sleep. Taking naps is even allowed. I like to listen to something relaxing while taking a cat nap to recharge for the rest of the day. And guess what? It’s okay to take a damn nap in the middle of the day and not feel guilty! There are even offices in Japan that encourage their employees to nap so they are recharged and more productive. That’s my type of place to work.

I sincerely hope you found something helpful in my rant and are encouraged to try to make one new thing for the next 66 day’s.

Thank you for your time and have a productive day!

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