The Psychology of Daily Routines: Why We Struggle with Habits

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The Psychology of Daily Routines: Why We Struggle with Habits If you’ve tried to establish daily routines and failed, don’t feel bad. Your struggle is a common one... and you can overcome it if you understand the psychology behind daily routines. there are many underlying reasons why you might have failed with building routines in the past. Learn about seven psychological principles and the way they impact your ability to build positive habits. When you understand how they work, you’ll recognize why you make certain positive and negative choices on a daily basis. 1: Decision Fatigue As you make decisions throughout the day, you’ll eventually become worn down and start to look for shortcuts. Example: Eating a fast food meal rather than taking the time to prepare something healthy There’s another possible negative outcome of decision fatigue—doing nothing. When we’re tired from a day of working hard and maintaining constant willpower, we often feel frazzled and tired. This causes us to procrastinate on major projects we have planned for the end of the day. Takeaway: Too many choices lead to overwhelm, causing people to make bad choices or shut down and do nothing. Routines limit the number of decisions you have to make, increasing your odds of doing the right thing. 2: Cognitive Load The more you have to think about the process of completing an activity, the less energy you’ll have for future activities. Example: It takes more mental energy for the person who is just learning to drive compared to someone who has been driving for several years. The amount of cognitive load is lower when a topic requires less effort. Takeaway: Daily routines help in reducing the amount of cognitive load because, in a sense, you become an expert at the things you do day in and day out. 3: Ego Depletion “A person’s diminished capacity to regulate their thoughts, feelings and actions.” - Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney (Willpower) Once you’ve used up your supply of willpower for the day, it’s very difficult to exercise discipline. If you try to adjust too many things in your routine all at once, you are more likely to fail. Takeaway: Focus on one routine at a time.Don’t worry about the others until you’ve turned your new routine into a series of automatic actions. 4: “What-the-Hell” Effect In spite of our best intentions, we often hit a bump, slip up and fail to do what we set out to do. You have two choices: learn from this mistake and jump right back into the routine or succumb to what’s commonly called the “what-the-hell” effect. Example: You’ve sworn off sweets, but you mess up and eat a cookie. If you eat one cookie, the “what-the-hell” effect might lead to a cookie binge. 5: “Monkey Mind” Monkey mind is a Buddhist term that means “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable.” It often happens when an action causes you to think of a related action. The second action leads to a third, and so on and so forth. Eventually you’re doing something that has nothing to do with the first action. Takeaway: Instead of succumbing to the Monkey Mind, learn to recognize when it’s happening and avoid succumbing to the lure of this thought pattern. 6: Multitasking Isn’t Effective Multitasking is regarded as a faulty practice that causes you to get less done, not more. Daily routines are much more than something you check off a list. They improve the quality of your life and the lives of those around you. Instead of multitasking, choose to be present. Be mindful of your current focus. Push aside anything that doesn’t enhance or add to that one thing. Set a time limit for your current focus. Takeaway: You’ll get a lot more done if you are completely present with whatever you’re doing. 7: You NEED Downtime Downtime is not an act of laziness. It is an incredibly important factor to keep in mind when it comes to daily routines. The truth is, we need more downtime than most people think. It’s important to avoid getting so caught up in daily routines that you don’t have any time to recharge.

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