How To Build A New Routine When Your Lifestyle Unexpectedly Changes

Creating habits and building routines allows us to execute on the goals and plans we set for ourselves. If you’re anything like me, you might be a creature of habit who thrives under circumstances that support a daily routine. It requires an unmatched level of commitment and determination to craft a routine and stick to it regardless of what comes your way. 

But what happens when you’ve worked hard to create a routine that worked for you, only to experience a lifestyle change that throws your routine off its tracks? 

Feelings of frustration, anger, and disappointment often follow disrupted routines in my life. It sucks to work hard at something, to feel as if you’re on track to achieve your goals and dreams, only to get thrown off course and interrupted. 

Here’s the deal though, life comes with unexpected changes all the time. You can still achieve all of your goals and dreams! Unforeseen lifestyle changes don’t have to consume you or hold you back. 

It’s possible to keep moving forward as long as you know how to adapt and build a new routine. Try these tips for building a new routine in the face of an unexpected change without losing momentum on the progress of your goals. 

Decide what matters

When deciding how to build your new routine, take some time to consider what matters most to you. Understand the reasons why your routine needs to change and what factors will impact the changes you need to make. Define your intentions and the outcomes you hope to achieve first. 

Ask yourself: 

  • Why do I need to create a new routine? 
  • What am I hoping to get out of this new routine? 
  • How do I want my routine to make me feel? 
  • What worked well for me previously? 
  • What changes should I consider to make my new routine more effective than my previous one?
  • What tasks or activities am I trying to support by implementing a new routine?

For example, when my morning routine changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I redefined what I wanted my mornings to look like and how to best use my time within my new environment. Without having to wake up and get ready for and commute to work each morning, I wanted to make sure I crafted a routine that allowed me to sustain the energized, positive attitude I started my mornings with previously. I wanted to implement activities that supported good energy to help me stay focused and productive throughout the day. 

Choose small, measurable actions to incorporate into your routine

Progress can be hard to track if it can’t be measured in some way. One way to increase the success of your new routine is to identify and incorporate small, measurable actions. 

A few of my favorite morning routine activities are: 

  • Making the bed 
  • Opening the blinds and windows to let the sunlight in 
  • Reading 20 pages of a book while drinking a cup of coffee 
  • Completing one Yoga with Adriene video on YouTube

Not only do these activities create a tidy environment and clear headspace for me to prepare for the day ahead, but they are also easy to measure. Measurability helps me understand if I’m on track or not.

Find an accountability partner

Finding an accountability partner can help set you up for success, particularly if you are extrinsically motivated. 

Let’s say you’re looking to implement a brand new fitness routine into your day-to-day plans. You want to work out every evening at the same time, but you often talk yourself out of your pre-planned work out for various reasons. 

Find a friend, spouse, partner, or coworker that might be interested in committing to your new fitness routine to do it with you. Work through the details and hold each other accountable. If you set a meeting time, hold each other accountable for showing up on time. If you set a specific goal (e.g. 20 pushups every day), check-in with each other, and ask for progress updates.

Keep in mind that you can hold a partner accountable virtually or electronically too! Being an accountability partner can occur in a variety of ways, so don’t feel limited to in-person strategies.

Write down your new routine, or follow a Google Calendar

It’s useful to think through your new routine in your head, but writing it down, or mapping it out can help you stay on schedule and feel more committed. 

While I’m a fan of my paper planner and writing tasks down, I also favor using my Google Calendar for plans and lean on it for time blocking purposes. Once you’ve determined what your new routine is going to be, get those thoughts out of your head and onto paper or in your electronic calendar. 

Get in the habit of planning your weeks ahead of time 

Adjusting to a new routine will require a transition period. You can make the transition easier on yourself by getting in the habit of planning your weeks ahead of time. Planning your weeks out ahead of time prevents feelings of overwhelm and trains your brain to know what to expect. Consistency is key! 

For example, perhaps you have the same GYST day every week. (If you don’t have a GYST day, you need one!) You know what to expect each week on your GYST day and know exactly how and where it fits into your routine. 

Check-in with yourself and review your routine

As you start to build and try out your new routine, check-in with yourself regularly to determine if it’s working for you. If there are parts of your new routine that don’t feel right, think of ways that you can change your new routine to increase its value. Don’t be afraid to change something that isn’t working rather than feel forced to make it work. 

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