Motivation vs Routine
| 8 minutes read
Is motivation or routine more important to reach a goal?
You need motivation only to get started. Routine is more important in the long run. Never skip twice and make the start of the routine as easy as possible.
If you like a clean kitchen and a smell-free home, clean up in the evening. Even Bill Gates is doing his dishes in the evening. It helps wind down, have better sleep and frees up your mind. Habits help to reduce stress and to start focusing on other things.
I like sticking to routines. They help me to focus and more importantly, they help me structure my day. If I have a thought, about what I have to do at some point, I write it down. So I know, everything I have to do is on my list. This helps to focus my thoughts. But productivity is a topic for another post. So let’s concentrate on another habit. Going to the gym.
Usually, I go 4 to 5 times a week to the gym. And often I get asked, how I stay motivated to go to the gym this often. There is a short answer. I don’t. I don’t like going to the gym. I don’t feel motivation going to the gym at all. There is not much fun in doing bench press. You don’t have anything to laugh about during squats. But then why do I go so often? I don’t want to be unathletic.
It takes around 50 repetitions to form a habit. Going to the gym is a habit for me since I am doing it for years now. After work, when I close my laptop, I go to the gym. This is not because I am looking forward and by far not because it is so much fun. But it is because for me it is a habit.
I have multiple habits, good and bad once. If I sit on the couch, I start the TV. Bad habit. If I take my phone out, I open youtube. Bad habit. If I stop working, go to the gym. Good habit.
Forming new habits is quite hard. There is a whole youtube bubble around habits, creating habits, and using habits.
Atomic Habits by James Clear summarizes all these youtube contents.
It is one of the best books I read so far. And it tought me a lot.
(Interesting side note, if you search for habit on stock images, you’ll find a lot of images with smoking humans. So it seems like the habit is a bad annotated word. For me, habit is more of a feature and not a but. Maybe kind of a bug, but you can make it a feature for you. It is only a bug if you let it be this way. So eating chips every evening is maybe a bad habit. But going to the gym is a good one.). So thee will be no stock image here 🥲.
Following there will be my takes of the book and how I form new habits and stick to them.
Make it obvious
You have to make it obvious which habits you have.
For example, if I sit on the couch I have the urge to eat sweets or chips. I go into the kitchen, take the sweetest sweets I can find and eat them. But if there are none, I cannot eat them.
Easy. I don’t buy sweets anymore. And if I do, I know, they will be eaten before the weekend is over.
So try to find your bad habits first. There is one technique I found quite helpful here. Open your phone and set 10 random alarms for your day. Everytime the alarm goes off, rethink what you are doing and check if this is a bad habit and if this is, what you want to do with your time.
I have this for youtube as well. Every 15 minutes my phone will ask me, if I still want to watch. Then I have time to reflect, and decide for the next 15 minutes (it is a setting in the youtube app).
Make it attractive
Many people create a vision board and try to imagen where they want to be in X Years from now. How they want to look and why they want to go to the gym. For me, it is not that easy. I like being fit. But there is no clear goal how what I want to look like. So making a vision doesn’t make it attractive to me. And going to the gym for example is hard to track. You see yourself every day in the mirrow. It is hard to see any progress without tracking.
I am still regretting, that I didn’t made pictures every year to see what my transformation looked like. I just know, that I used to weight under 70 and now its over 80 (not sure yet if it’s good or bad 😅).
Having a tasty drink during sports does does motivate me to go. So I had a nice fitness drink (for me it was creatin with tropical flavour) during gym time made it always really attractive to go there. I was looking forward to this drink every time (not anymore, since it is sold out already for month 😒, but still going).
Make it easy
Making it easy to go to the gym is easily said. Isn’t it easier to do some sports at home? Isn’t it easier not to go to the gym at all?
Yes, it it. But if you reduce the effort as much as possible, it can be quite easy to just get going. So my rule was, just pack my stuff beforehand and then only go to the gym for like 10 minutes. Shower there and go home again.
An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion. -
Newton's first law
If you are at the gym then, you don’t stop after 10 minutes. Then you are already there and make your 45-60 min workout. But after like 5 min home work out it is super easy to stop, one short message, one email, one thing to google, one call or the door bell or whatever. There will be an excuse to stop immediately. So for me it is way more effective going to the gym and doing my sports than doing a workout at home. I have to escape my compfortzone to make progress.
_ By the way, this is the same with presentations or blog entries. I am always scared, that people will hate them. But whats the worst thing that can happen?_
Make it satisfying
You have to find something that feels good or why you are doing something or want to do something. For me, it is seeing my statistics (how much I can bench press) and having muscle cramps. Being in bed after gym in the evening feels really really nice. In the end, gym is just for me. If I don’t get asked, I don’t tell how much I can press. Sure, I am proud of it. But one one cares. It is just for me. For no one else.
And having a good sleep after sports. You sleep so much better after a workout 💪.
There is also a technique of sticking or stacking habits together. So if there is already a habit, just use this trigger to form a new habit.
Example. I open youtube at least 5 to 10 times a day. If you then search for learning content, content that is related to your work or goals, like getting fit, the algorithm is then showing you this content. If you then continue watching youtube, you will learn new things. Or you will be reminded, that you should start your workout or whatever your goal is.
There is just one issue, you have to stick habits that are equal often. You don’t have to add the habit of cleaning the windows to brushing your teeth. You brush your teeth way more often (I hope). So to clean your windows more often, maybe stack it to whiping the floors.
Never skip twice
One of the most important rules for me is never to skip twice. If you skip twice it is much harder to get started again (like after vacation ☹️). But not letting it happen helps. So I plan to go to the gym like every day. But I am allowed to skip one day. So I skip 2 to 3 times a week. But after doing this, I still go to the gym fairly often.
Staying motivated to do stuff that isn’t pure joy is hard. But if you have to do something every day, it is even harder to stay motivated. So to reach a goal, I would argue it is way more important, to have a routine than motivation.
A routine also helps to get started. Like writing these articles. I need to get started, then it is fairly simple to write down my thought (in this case it took me maybe 3 hours). The hardest thing is getting started. Routines help here as well. Back when I was travelling every week by train, I wrote way more since it was a habit of writing during train rides. Now I take time Sunday afternoons and write. So I try to create a new habit as well. And it is super nice to see people read my blog 😀.
I would love to hear about your habits and how you tackle such problems. Just write me on LinkedIn or an email.