How I set up my routine (and am keeping it up)

In my previous post, I wrote about my daily routine that helps me feel anchored in my traveling life.

I realized after talking to a friend that I never wrote about how I actually set up this routine and how I came to solidify it.

So how did I get started?

For me, it was important to fully understand why I was attempting to create this routine.

Did I want to learn a language just for the fun of it or was I going to apply it somewhere? Did I want to pick-up yoga because it seemed like a ‘trendy’ practice to do or because I actually knew it would help me?

Whatever the reason, it was very helpful to keep the effects of my new habit in the picture as that would motivate me on days when I didn’t feel like getting things done.

However, … In our busy lives who has time for another ‘to-do’?

As Duolingo reminds me once a day – if you find time for Instagram then you can study 10 minutes a day.

I think often people feel intimidated by putting another to-do on their list.

I felt the same. I actually started this routine while I was working full-time and simply continued it when I started traveling. And I’d honestly say that keeping it up whilst traveling was almost harder. Why? Because the rest of my day wasn’t as structured as it used to do so it was harder to build my ‘personal routine’ around days that had no structure.

Anyway, when I started, I decided I wanted to meditate regularly, do exercise (i.e. yoga) and study Portuguese regularly (other practices came to the list at a later stage).

If you are new to meditation you know how it feels. You sit down, set a timer for 30 minutes (because you read somewhere that that’s the length people meditate for) and 30 seconds in you glance and your timer and think ‘What! It’s only been 30 seconds?’ How do people do this?’

I think it’s important to remember that like everything new that we’re attempting in life, a routine is also a step-by-step process and the first step is often the hardest. Once you make that step and then commit to your routine, over time it will be much easier to follow through.

So I started small. Really small.

I started with meditating for 1 minute. Which felt like forever for my racing mind. Eventually, I got used to the minute. That meant making the next step. I increased the time to 5 minutes, then 10…. You get the idea.

I also quickly realized that attempting to create three habits at once wouldn’t work. I tried and failed. So, first things first. At a small scale. Eventually, once I felt the habit started to form, I’d add another practice.

When I then eventually started adding yoga to my routine, I practiced for 10 minutes. That seemed like forever in the beginning (I’m can be impatient at times…). I increased it to 12 minutes eventually once I started feeling comfortable doing any yoga at all and making myself get up early for it. I increased the intensity of my practice and the time. Currently, I am practicing 30 minutes every day which to me feels the right amount of time and I can really feel the benefits, especially by being consistent.

Finally, Portuguese. I started with 5 minutes of studying on Duolingo. And if I was too tired for that (which is almost too much of an excuse), then I’d at least watch a YouTube video for a few minutes that was related to studying Portuguese (‘almost’ the same as watching TV after all). The most important factor to me was that I went through with it!EVERY DAY!

I wanted to create this consistency in life that starts feeling second nature, just like brushing my teeth. And like this over time I also increased the time for studying.

Again, all this time I used my ‘goal tracker app’ that I talked about in my last post and reminders from different apps. And as mentioned, after a while, I just got used to my daily routine, so I don’t need the reminders anymore.

How am I keeping up this routine?

Let me first say that the two challenges I found for not sticking to my routine were time and motivation.

I won’t have time to do all this’.

I just don’t feel like doing this today. I’m going to give it a miss‘.

I had these thoughts a lot in the beginning. Yet, they have become much less over time.

If I really don’t get motivated, I try to go back and reduce the time I had set for my task. I’ll meditate for a minute if everything fails and do yoga for five or just some simple stretches. The most important point for me is consistency!

I think it’s better to do something for 5 minutes fully concentrated, than 30 half-hearted.

If time is the issue, I try to get creative as in where I could squeeze in my practice in a shortened way.

  • I might study Portuguese for a few minutes, when I have ‘waiting time’ for a bus, friends, a call…
  • I might meditate in bed or take a moment when I’m in some nice, quiet surroundings and just take a few mindful breaths or put up a guided meditation before I go to sleep.
  • To meet my exercise habit, I used to walk the stairs at school or offices or at the subway. I still believe it’s one of the best exercising lifehacks, especially if you the number of steps is high 😉
  • I had a friend who did yoga in the staircase of her work during breaks! That’s what I call true commitment and dedication.

Having said this, I have also learned that life happens and there are times when I really wasn’t able to go through with it. Then, the most important thing is that I focus on getting back into the routine and not slack by thinking ‘ah well another day of missing out on yoga will be ok’. That’s when I have to catch myself. It’s about being honest to myself in whether outer circumstances prevented me from keeping up or just my inner motivation.

Last but not least, I constantly evaluate my ‘routine’. If I notice that I don’t get it done, then I look into why that is. Time is not always the problem. It’s more often a problem of motivation: ‘This is too exhausting for my brain at this hour‘ or ‘I don’t think I really benefit from this right now‘. I adapt it if necessary and might scrape some practices. I don’t want to force myself to carry out my routine but still enjoy it and see its long-lasting effects! I’m doing all this for myself and not because someone else makes me do it after all 🙂

So, I hope that helped explain where I’m coming from with this routine. This is just my own experience that I’ve built over time and I hope you can find your own! The benefits can be amazing!

Additional resources that I recommend:

1. Coincidentally this week one of my favorite Personal Development Podcasters, Kara Loewentheil released an episode that she called, the ‘Infinite 1%‘.

In it, she describes the huge difference between being at 0% of our goal versus 1% and how making the first percent is the biggest step we can do towards 100%.

2. I recently read ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg and was glad to see that I had actually figured out many of the things he mentioned by myself already. I do think it’s a great read if you want to dig deeper into the science of ‘building long-lasting’ habits.

My daily routine – what keeps me grounded when traveling

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement

James Clear

If you’ve read my previous post about ‘searching for a home’ and being a little travel-fatigued, you might wonder what I do to feel some sort of stability in life (if you haven’t read the post, find it here).

‘Commited’ is probably not an adjective you’d use to describe a traveler, however my commitment to certain practices are exactly what helped me have some feeling of stability and some anchor over the past year. The one thing I have been resorting back to constantly has been my routine

You might think why on earth would you want to have a routine when you travel?

Isn’t traveling all about being free and doing whatever you want?

I agree but I have learned that having something ‘constant’ in my life to hold on to can be very grounding and reassuring. It’s like a base that I’m standing on from which I can then go and explore instead of just floating around.

Having traveled for a year at an earlier stage in life, I also knew that I wanted to get more out of this year than the previous time. Yes, I wanted to do whatever I wanted, but I also wanted to make sure that I kept up the practices and the routine from my regular life that I knew were good for me. I didn’t want to interrupt my progress in those aspects which is something you can forget too easily when you’re in the ‘every-day-is-different’- lifestyle of a traveler.

One of the most important aspects for me was my morning routine. Maybe you’ve heard about people getting up way before everyone else and how they take that time to get started in the day. I can only say that it’s been life-changing in the way I work on my routine. Getting up 30 min before my usual alarm has given me some very precious extra time!

So, despite traveling, I decided I would do my best to keep up my routine or adapt it to my current needs.

Yoga and meditation have played a major role in this and I’ve worked hard to keep up that habit. It can be tricky finding a space to do yoga, and I had to learn to overcome the thought of ‘everyone can see me, that’s embarrassing’. I have done yoga next to the reception desk, the hallway, on the floor between all the bunk beds and wherever else possible. That time in the morning is very valuable to me and often when things don’t go well during the day, I try to think back to my morning practice and how I successfully started my morning. I also like to journal in the morning to get whatever is lingering in my mind out and on paper. And being the language nerd I am, I already study on a language app right after I wake up (language learning works best in the morning or evening I think – your brain has to work a bit more but what you learn really sticks!).

Also, I found that my morning routine is the easiest to stick to when traveling or even in general. Unless II hav to get up earlier than usual, say to take a bus or head out on a tour, I cam usually set that designated time aside, which is often harder to find or to remember in the middle of the day.

I do, however, make sure to complete some practices during the day as well. Smartphones, as dependent as they can make us, have amazing resources. 

I use my phone a lot for language learning and thus study Portuguese at least 30min a day during the afternoon.

My evening is usually ‘catch-up-time’ if I didn’t get some things done I had planned to do. I like to journal again and often end up on a language-learning app (who would have guessed…)

How do I keep myself accountable? Back to my smart little helper, my smartphone and an app called ‘goal tracker’ (I am an app junkie ;)…). You basically make a list of the things you want to get done regularly and then check them off every day. At this point, I don’t use the app anymore to remind me of what I want to do. I know naturally what I want to get done every day as I’ve created strong habits and do these things without thinking about them and without really having to motivate myself to do them. However, it gives me a nice overview of how consistent I am because there will still always be days when I will not do everything 😉

I’m not perfect.. 😉
also some goals are only once a week like my self-coaching, PD means personal development. Also this is not my full list but there’s only so much you can get on a screenshot

As I mentioned in the beginning, during my first trip, I wished I had had a bit more of a routine. These days I know how to start my day which is a very reassuring feeling as the rest of the day is often in the unknown. I like knowing that there is a frame that I am constantly working on in which I can then paint a new picture every day.

update: I wrote a part 2 to this post: How I set up my routine (and am keeping it up) Check it out for more ideas on productivity and building long-lasting habits!