Have you ever noticed that sometimes you feel very clear and make good choices while other times you make rash decisions that don’t really serve your bigger goals and aspirations?
What if you knew something about the way our minds work that would allow you save some energy and make better choices on a daily basis?
Let’s talk about an important topic that I work on with my coaching clients:
The Power of Routines
Routines are patterns of habitual activity that we do systematically and repeatedly. A well-established routine requires little of our thought or attention because we are compelled by habit to act it out.
Let me give you an example of a simple routine we do every day. We wake up in the morning, turn off the alarm, use the toilet, and brush our teeth. You probably don’t put too much thought into how or when you brush your teeth or use the toilet, right? That’s the nature of habit and routines.
The cool thing is that we can tap into the power of habit to compel us into action by building routines that support us and move us toward our goals each day. This is important because our focus, attention, and willpower are like muscles that can become fatigued after periods of use. Like muscles, these mental powers are stronger and more effective after periods of rest and replenishment.
By building supportive routines into our day, we are able to conserve energy. Instead of exhausting the limited energy of our willpower to get things done, we can instead be compelled and carried forward by the power of habit to accomplish our daily goals. We can do this in a number of ways, including doing something at the same time every day or the same day each week. This imprints a rhythm into our body and mind. Having triggers and cues is also helpful for activating good habits.
Let’s look at one simple example from my life. I take nutritional supplements daily with my breakfast and lunch. I have the supplements ready to go in little cups next to where I always sit and eat. As I finish preparing my meal I walk over to the water filter and grab the pint glass that I keep next to it. I fill it with water, take my supplements, and sit down to eat. I do it in that order each time. I don’t think about it. I see the supplements there, next to my place mat, so I don’t have to remember to get them out of the cupboard. I see the glass next to the water filter. In the beginning I had to think about it, but now it’s habit.
We have limited mental energy to make decisions and complete tasks each day. Routines are made of habits, which require little mental energy to carry out. If we can build beneficial routines into our days to carry out ordinary tasks and reduce the phenomenon called decision fatique, then we can conserve our mental energy for those times when we really need it, like making a big purchase, negotiating a contract, or making an important business decision.
What daily activities are currently consuming your valuable mental energy? Where could you build routines that would conserve your willpower, decision making powers, and focus?