Dealing with Disruptions in Your Routine
Post written by Leo Babauta.
One of the biggest reasons people get sidetracked from their new habits is some kind of disruption in their regular routine.
This week, after 11 straight days of meditating in February, I missed two out of three days. Yikes! But I didn’t miss because I didn’t feel like meditating — I plain forgot. The reason I forgot was that my routine was disrupted — we have relatives visiting this week, and my usual meditation habit trigger of making coffee was disrupted when I had coffee with the relatives. That’s not a bad thing, but when my usual trigger didn’t happen, I didn’t remember to meditate at all.
It’s a lesson on how powerful triggers are when it comes to changing habits. The habit is tied to the trigger, and if the trigger doesn’t happen, the habit isn’t triggered.
So what to do? There are two important strategies to adopt:
1. Plan ahead. Think ahead and see if you can anticipate a change in your routine that will affect your habit. Good examples: travel, visitors, having to work earlier or later than usual, being sick, having a sick child, a death in the family. If you anticipate a change in routine, this means you should either have a temporary trigger (something you’re sure to do while traveling, for example), or just be extra mindful each morning of doing the habit even if the trigger isn’t happening as usual. Obviously I didn’t do that this week, which resulted in me not doing the habit twice, but I plan to be more careful from now on.
2. Get back on track asap. If you didn’t plan ahead properly, don’t fret. You can easily get back on track. Just be aware that you missed a day or two — which should be obvious if you’re using some accountability system — and take steps to fix the problem. If your trigger isn’t happening, find a new trigger (perhaps a temporary one), or get your routine back on track. At any rate, do the habit again as soon as you can, instead of allowing the habit to fall away into oblivion. The longer you wait, the longer it will take for the habit to form, but the sooner you get back on track, the sooner it will form. Don’t delay!
Disruptions in routine are inevitable — it’s just a matter of when. They are a part of the habit creation process, and learning to deal with these disruptions is a vital skill to learn. And like any skill, you only learn by practice.