How routines help experiments

Routines give you more pegs.

One of the surest ways to help a new habit stick is to integrate it into your normal routine. If you want to, say, do more pull ups, you might install a pull up bar in a prominent door frame in your home. Then each time you walk through the doorway, do a set. You’re already going through the door, so it can serve as an automatic reminder.

How ’bout another example? If you want to start reading more classic fiction, peg it to your morning coffee. While you drink your normal cup, dive into some Melville at the same time.

See, the problem comes when you and I try to install new habits without placing them in time or space. You might want to become a better writer by writing each day, but you have no place to put it. As my students would say, “This… this problem, teacher.”

That’s where routines come in.

Most of us have some already. We get up each morning, maybe not always at the same time, but we get up. We eat, we drink, we use the restroom. The majority of us go to work. Others go to school or launch into some other regular activity in the middle of the day that occupies a large portion of our time. Maybe we relax after that, with a good book, a favorite TV show, or a gander out on the Internet. Maybe we cook some food or grab something to go. Maybe we play with our kids or consider making some more.

Most of us have some routine. The more you and I realize this and create more of it, the easier it is to find spots to peg our new habits, the experiments that help us learn. It’s a bit counter intuitive, but it goes a long way in helping these experiments become a permanent feature, at least for me.

It’s not that the experiments are permanent. It’s that the decision to constantly experiment becomes permanent. Routines help this happen by giving us lots of little, permanent pegs where we can hang these new habits and swap them out easily.