Routine reboot

If you're feeling the strain of a pulled circuit or two, consider a routine reboot to get your good habits back on track.

Routine reboot
Photo by Jason Leung / Unsplash

I’ve become sloppy about my routines lately. As I emerge from a month-long schedule that bordered on bananas (but good bananas!), I’m noticing cobwebs forming on my coping tools for life. Daily maintenance mechanisms which once sustained me are more frequently being pushed to tomorrow.

Tomorrow. I’ll do those things tomorrow...

Unfortunately, what got pushed to “tomorrow” also got pushed to the day after, and when life got extra busy, healthy habits like my exercise routine, sleep hygiene, and daily journaling practices disappeared like 80s hair (unless that’s in-vogue again, then, 90s hair).

Tomorrow invariably got pushed to the next tomorrow...and wouldn’t you know it? Tomorrow just so happens to be today!

So, without any further stalling, here’s what I’m doing to reboot my routine and get my good habits back on track before bad ones slide in like little gremlins to take their place (and believe, me they will).

#1: Sleep hygiene

While traditionally I adhere to a somewhat rigid sleep schedule, the past few weeks have been pell mell with my sleep and wake times. This lack of consistency hindered my ability to achieve deep sleep, causing a vicious cycle of insomnia which resulted in a reduction of energy for rigorous exercise, which then resulted in further deterioration of my sleep quality.

Food and caffeine timing, exercise, sunlight exposure, and evening rituals also play a role in these sleep outcomes, and I haven’t exactly been diligent about adhering to those rules lately either.

Sleep Hygiene Reboot Recipe
Here’s what I’m doing to get my sleep routine dialed in:

  • Recalibration of sleep and wake times (to be kept consistently).
  • Sun exposure early in the day (at least 10 minutes) to set my mental clock. More about that here in this overview by Dr. Andrew Humberman: How Sunlight Affects Everything You Do
  • Drink 16 ounces of water within 30 minutes of waking.
  • No caffeine eight hours before bedtime.
  • No food or snacks several hours before bedtime (~4-5 hours).
  • No screens one hour before bedtime.
  • Resumption of (almost) daily rigorous exercise (in addition to my daily walk).

#2: (Almost) daily workouts and nutrient timing + ample hydration

I was a few days overdue for a solid workout when I realized I had already missed my most basic fitness goals twice this week. Since I rarely miss my basic goals, this was a red flag for me.

One area of friction keeping me from more rigorous workouts had been a lack of energy due to poor sleep, but another, less obvious issue was poor nutrient timing. I won’t go into a lot of detail about nutrient timing here, but I’ve found eating specific types of foods (protein, carbs, and plenty of water) within a certain window of time leading up to a big workout helps me have more energy during the workout. I had been neglecting this important step.

Another important element for me is the timing of the timing. I tend to have my best workouts earlier in the day, before I’ve had lunch (lunch is my biggest meal of the day), and on days when I choose to divert a workout to the evening, I tend to have less energy for my workout and am more likely to skip or miss it altogether.

Exercise Reboot Recipe

  • To help signal to my body and brain that rigorous exercise is back on the agenda, I chose to incorporate this week’s deficits into my last two workouts to make up for the loss. It was a challenge to stack additional exercise minutes onto those two workouts, but doing so helped me feel like I was taking a positive step toward getting a handle on my outcomes.
  • Plan workouts for when energy is at its peak. It’s tempting to put workouts off to later, but if I’m being honest with myself, the brief break to exercise pays dividends in the form of improved energy throughout the remainder of the day and usually brings with it improved focus and deeper sleep.
  • Pre-fuel workouts with protein, carbs, a small bit of sugar, and plenty of water.

#3: Morning Pages & Mindfulness Meditation

I’ve been neglecting Morning Pages and mindfulness meditation lately and feel their absence during the days I skip them. Morning Pages and mindfulness meditation help me in several important ways:

  1. Morning Pages help me clear the mental gunk out of my brain first-thing in the morning, so I can approach the day ahead with clarity.
  2. Mediation helps me become more aware of my monkey mind through mindfulness. The practice strengthens my self-awareness and makes it easier for me to recognize when my thoughts are being flooded with chatter.
  3. Morning Pages help me see what my brain is fixating on most so I can gain perspective and set the tone for the day.
  4. Mindfulness meditation helps me check in with myself and re-center.
  5. Morning Pages helps me set my intention for the day and incorporate positive cognitive reframing through the practice of writing.

Morning Pages and Mindfulness Meditation Reboot Recipe:

  • Schedule it. When I find myself struggling to make something stick, I find scheduling that task for a specific time, in a specific place, helps me follow through.
  • Morning Pages should occur before I dig into my morning emails, as once I get busy with email, it’s likely I’ll forget to devote time to Morning Pages. For me, the best time for this is right after breakfast, when I’m sipping my coffee. Anchoring my habit of morning coffee with Morning Pages helps me tie the habit to another habit, which makes it more likely to stick.
  • Meditation right after a workout is a great way to cool down and check in with myself before heading into the remainder of the day. This daypart seems to be the most optimal for me, so anchoring it to another healthy habit is a win-win.

#4 Know when to call it a day

Routines wither without structure. Working without healthy limits can quickly erode even the best laid plans, so it’s important to remember that a healthy routine requires balance and limits. Yes, sometimes schedules will fluctuate wildly, but action should be taken whenever possible to help recalibrate as soon as possible.

Afterthoughts: I have many more important rituals and nature journaling is one of them. Nature journaling is full of benefits and helps me slow down, notice, reflect, and relax. You can learn more about nature journaling here.