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How do you build a routine with good habits? And more to the point how do you ensure it doesn’t become a bit well.. routine? Avoid humdrum by giving routine cards a whirl.

The idea of routine cards is that you have anchors throughout the day. These can be an activity or a time of day. When you hit an anchor you pull out a routine card and do the activities on it. I like them for flexibility and for forming habits.

So, for example, you might have a morning routine card. It could be triggered by you waking up but I prefer teeth brushing as a trigger. This means that I don’t have to start my morning routine as soon as I open my eyes. Instead, I can take my time facing the day/checking my phone/gulping tea and then spring into action when I head to the bathroom.

Then I’ll brush my teeth, take vitamins, write a line or 2 in my journal, take a shower and eat breakfast.

Another trigger for me is midday. At this point I stop work, wash up, prep lunch, do some yoga, and then eat lunch.

A flexible routine

What I love about this approach is the flexibility. How much time I have to get things done in the morning depends on the time I go to brush my teeth. If I do this early I can then do whatever tasks I might have scheduled for the day before my lunchtime cards kick in. If I get up really late then I might just have time to glance at my job list!

But whatever else happens I still get the things on my cards done. The things I want to make into habits. The tasks I don’t want to have to take up brain space remembering to do. And this also reduces the number of decisions I have to make.

Review your routine

I review my cards every month. So I can add new habits in. If I want to ensure that I play bass every day I just need to choose a card to add it (probably not morning routine) or start a new card with a new trigger point to anchor to.

I can revise the cards if my schedule changes. Or just change the anchor points. The point is you don’t need to worry about when you will ‘fit in’ certain activities. You’re teaching yourself a habit and freeing up thinking space.

So if you’re berating yourself for not getting making progress on a project, add doing a task on it to a routine card. Not exercising on a regular basis either add a workout to one card or break it up and add bits of it to each card.

And you don’t have to use cards. You could just right it in a notebook. Or on sticky notes. Or frame the cards and tick the tasks off one the glass!

So have a think about what might act as trigger points in your day and then anchor a routine to them.