Getting Back on Track: How to Jumpstart your Habits after Backsliding
The other day, Mallory and I were chatting about how we felt like total frauds, because we ourselves haven't been using the planner we created to its fullest potential. We never want it to seem like we've got it all together when we don't, and just because we've created a system that know really works doesn't mean we're perfect at incorporating it ourselves! Everyone slips up on their schedule and habits sometimes – it's what makes us all human. What makes a person successful is not never facing setbacks or "failures", it's learning to roll with the punches, learn from missteps, and get back on track.
This summer, I personally feel like I've hit a wall. I'm not sure if it's pure exhaustion from the whirlwind of building two product-based businesses from the ground up in the span of 12 months, a general lack of attention to my physical and mental health, spending the last 18 months navigating a pandemic, or all of the above (spoiler alert: it's all of the above). I've found it extremely difficult to stick to any new habits, like trying to drink 96 oz of water per day and spending my mornings phone-free, and I'm more tempted than I have been in a long time by my cravings, like sugary foods. Does this sound like you, too?
When you have had a really good routine going, even if you only feel like you hit your stride for a few weeks, it can feel extremely daunting to try to drop back into it after setbacks and skipped days or weeks. If you're like me, you get too caught up in beating yourself up and feeling like a failure to even think about trying to start over and work back up to that routine you felt so good in. Momentum works both ways, and once you're out of a routine, the momentum towards staying out of it can often be stronger than getting back into it!
Here are a few strategies I'm currently using to get back on track:
Use this as an opportunity to evaluate your current routine AND the routine you dropped off of.
Just because you had a planned routine doesn't mean it was all working for you. Was everything you were incorporating into your life purposeful, and coming from a place of getting you where you want to be, or bringing yourself more joy, calm, or health? Do you truly care about the habits you're trying to create? Was there anything you were doing purely because you felt like you *should*?
Starting a new habit is always difficult, but if you're feeling a lot of resistance toward doing something, it might be that you're taking on too much too fast or doing something that's not all that important to you.
How about your current routine (even if it doesn't feel like an intentional routine)? How is it making you feel? What's working and what would you like to adjust?
Allow yourself to experiment and note how you feel.
Once I realized my routine had basically become nonexistent and approached it from a place of having the opportunity to reevaluate, I gave myself a couple of weeks to try on different routines and see how they felt. This reaffirmed for me that I want to renew my effort to be on my phone less, particularly in the mornings, and to drink more water throughout the day. I notice a real difference in the way my body and mind feels when I incorporate both of those into my life.
I also learned that I'd like to work toward cutting my caffeine intake in half, which was not something I'd even been paying attention to previously! Even though I'll have a headache to contend with for a little while, I feel a lot less jittery and anxious without that second coffee! These are my starting points while I'm getting back on my feet, and I'm certain down the road more goals will emerge, but these are the most important to me at the moment.
Once you know what you'd like to keep in your life, stick to it, even if it's in a minor way.
If you aren't up for a full workout or can't find the time while you're easing back in, at least take a walk around the block, or do a few jumping jacks. Something to fulfill the idea that you are a person who finds a way to be active.
If part of your ideal routine is to draw everyday but you are having a hard time getting started, just pull out some paper and create a couple of quick sketches. Fight the momentum to do nothing at all if you can't do the perfect thing.
I plan to supplement my water intake with things like Liquid IV when I'm falling behind, because I've noticed that it really helps my body feel more balanced and hydrated. And if I can just spend my first 10 minutes or so each morning without checking my phone, that will feel like a win if I can't commit to the couple of hours that would be really ideal.
Find someone or something to keep you accountable.
Unfortunately, it's really easy for a lot of us to break our promise to ourselves. Some people are great at internal accountability, but a lot of us have an easier time showing up when there's someone expecting us to. Find a friend to meet at the gym or go for walks with, or a partner who wants to take a look at your sketches every day, or technology to help remind you of your commitments. I'm using the native iPhone time limiting settings to only allow myself to check the weather or receive calls/messages before 7 am, and limit my total time on my doom scrolling apps (Instagram and Twitter) every day.
Don't focus on the ideal - focus on the progress.
It's really easy to let perfect be the enemy of good. Maybe in an ideal world, you'd get to the gym 5 mornings a week, come home, make a fresh green smoothie for yourself, and spend some time stretching and meditating before starting your work day. And if you know you're not going to do ALL of that, it sounds easier to just not even try.
If that's not realistic for you at the moment, getting to the gym a couple of days a week and eating yogurt with granola as you hop on your laptop for the day is still an improvement over not going at all and eating Cap'n Crunch every day while you doom scroll on Instagram before starting your day (no shade here if that's your current routine - I've been known to crush a bowl or two of that sugary goodness faster than you can say Crunchatize me Captain!). Allow yourself to be a work in progress and build up gradually. Maybe you'll get to the ideal eventually, or maybe you'll find the ideal was never even necessary for you to feel great.
Commit to never missing twice.
As I mentioned earlier, the momentum of habits and routines goes both ways. When you're in a groove, it feels easy to keep the chain going and stick to your schedule - because you just feel like a person who goes to the gym every day, or takes a walk every day, or drinks water every day, or meditates every day. Burt as soon as you miss a day, the momentum starts to shift. It becomes easier and easier to continue to miss. So as you build your new routine, make a promise to yourself (and your accountability buddy!) that even if you miss a day in the future, you will not allow yourself to miss twice. Nip that backsliding momentum in the bud!
Have you been more easily falling off of your routine lately? What steps have you taken to get back on track?