Routine and Habit Log 1: Doing the 75 Hard Challenge

The reason why I’m sharing this

A routine is the backbone in any productivity system. Yet, it’s almost as fun as getting your teeth pulled out via dental floss. That’s why I take great care in forming routines, taking great care in understanding why I’m going to do something frequently, what benefits I’ll get, and why I’m doing it in the first place.

I believe that documenting and sharing this kind of thinking will be beneficial for me in the long run to improve my way of thinking about productivity. For you, my dear reader, I think it’ll be beneficial if we start a culture of sharing and exchanging notes on productivity, because productivity is deeply personal, and it would serve humanity well if we learned to examine all the different ways we cope in order to get things done.

My philosophy behind routines

To me, a routine is a string of habits, and a single habit is an action repeated in a regular frequency through a period of time. A routine is like a pearl necklace, with each bead representing a single habit. On its own, a pearl is already precious, but together it greatly improves whoever is wearing it. So it is with routines.

To create a real pearl means a great deal of patience and perseverance. You cannot force the oyster to create a pearl instantly. So it is with habits. Which is why knowing which habits to string together and why is so important. You don’t want to waste time creating habits without knowing why, or worse, because everyone else is doing them.

Everyone’s philosophy when it comes to forming habits is different. This informs why I even bother to think about this so deeply. For me, the goal is to live a well-balanced life, consisting of many different aspects. The goal is not to keep everything perfectly balanced all the time. Certain seasons in life require more in some areas more than others. The point is to understand:

  1. What my core areas of life are
  2. What my bare minimum is for all of them

Think of the different gauges in The Sims. That’s kind of what I have

👪 Family - my partner, pets, and close relatives

👷🏽‍♀️ Career - business, financial freedom

🧘🏽‍♂️Personal - health, appearance, and learning all fall under personal because I take care of all of these areas for myself

🙏🏽Spiritual - if I don’t pray and read my bible I can actually feel my life spiraling down

👯‍♀️ Social - my team (yes, not in career), my friends, just getting outside to see or be around other people and not necessarily talk to them

As of writing, I don’t quantify how balanced my life is and solely rely on how I feel about areas of my life

I also have an Ideal Day that I am working towards, but that’s a topic for another time. The point of this is that this routine is a Work In Progress. To cut it short, ideally I’d have a balanced life where I have enough time for my family, be closer to God, have social energy every so often for close friends, be healthy by being active and eating right,  be a good partner, have some time learning theory (courses, books etc) and practice (hobbies) depending on interest, and have enough money to provide for needs and wants.

To be more specific, an example of that kind of life would be:

  • Eating 1 serving of vegetables per day on average
  • Walking 5000 steps per day
  • Drinking 8 glasses of water a day
  • No work on weekends (free to do social calls, hang out with family, explore hobbies)
  • Less than 6 hours of work per day on average (free to do other things)
  • Have quiet time with God first thing, every single day
  • Do house chores daily

I understand that these aren’t ideal numbers, but again, they are a stepping tone in the right direction.

Activities don’t necessarily fall on only one category: an action can fulfill both financial and learning needs, for example.

My current routine prior to change

I practice a technique I call Framing, where I frame the day with a morning routine and an evening routine. That leaves the middle of the day with more flexibility, but creating that frame allows me to be centered instead of moving without direction.

  • Morning Routine (Simplified)
  • Write for 30 minutes
  • Check team notifications, delegate team tasks, prioritize own tasks
  • Do morning chores (which includes cleaning, pet chores, and cooking)
  • Breakfast
  • Self-care routine
  • Work
  • Evening Routine (Simplified)
  • Walk dog
  • Dinner
  • Self-care

My AM routine is much stronger than my PM routine ever since, and I believe it’s because I have more willpower in the morning Ideally, I want to work towards a stronger PM routine (I really just want to have an end of day review and plan for the next day the night before). I’m not sure if this is the case with everyone, or it’s because I am really a morning person (which means I am most productive in the morning vs at night)

Changes in current routine

Prior to writing content for 30 minutes upon waking, I used to pray. But I find that once I start writing I go straight into work without taking time to pray, which is why I am currently bringing back having my quiet time first before anything else.  The writing routine has disappeared as a consequence and I am trying to bring it back. Currently unknown whether it’ll be more effective if I write in the morning or in the afternoon, but I definitely won’t be writing at night.

I started doing a challenge called 75 Hard with some friends. Here’s a list of what we need to do every single day, without fail, for the next 75 days. Text in parenthesis are my personal notes:

  • Drink 1 gallon of water
  • Exercise for 45 minutes, twice. One of the workouts needs to be done outside.
  • Read 10 pages of non-fiction.
  • Take a progress pic.
  • No cheat meals or alcohol. (I’m assuming a cheat meal is a meal that goes against the diet you’ve chosen)
  • Go on a diet (they did not specify what kind. For me, diets are not a thing I want to do. I don’t believe they’re sustainable and I’d only do them if I want it to be part of my lifestyle, like perhaps LCIF. That being said, for this one I decided to track my caloric intake instead, because I know by experience I will automatically start curbing calories when I track them.)

I haven’t tried changing my routine so abruptly in a long time. Thankfully, the tasks in 75 Hard are aligned with my long term ideal goals and are similar to things I’m already doing for myself, so though there are way more things I needed to do, I already meant to do most if not all of these anyway.

Reflections on changes

Right now, the new habits are combining with the current routines well enough that I think I’m 60% satisfied with the current setup, which is not bad considering it’s only been almost 2 weeks since I started 75 Hard.

Points for improvement

The surge of new habits and way more exercise than I’m used to makes me so tired. The good news is I can feel my body adapting, but the bad news is that some minor habits are out of sync and not as consistent as before.

These are minor things that don’t affect me greatly, like vacuuming every few days instead of everyday. minor things that aren’t deal breakers in any way. Still, I’m on the alert to make sure I can incorporate those minor things back into their regular frequency.

Observed benefits

Any good habit of course has its benefits. Although my body gets physically tired, I am now at a point (2 weeks in) where I can feel my endurance getting better. A 45-minute walk used to be boring, and now it’s becoming normal for me. I also like that I can get my step goal faster now. Exercise and diet has always been a challenge for me, but because of this challenge I’m more open to trying different kinds of exercise to get myself moving.

Next steps

One major thing I’d like to improve is having a set stop time for work to signal the start of my second workout. Still unsure how it’ll turn out, but I believe it’s worth a shot.