How to Enjoy Your Routine and Still Work Toward Goals

Woman at Work

“There is little success when there is little laughter.” ~Andrew Carnegie

As a former night owl converting to a morning person, I’ve made a few discoveries about adopting a new routine.

Now that I wake up before sunrise, I experience a slow decline in my enthusiasm at around 10:00AM.

The other day, I realized that I had not yet poured myself a cup of coffee. Completely floored at how I managed to forget—but also grateful and proud that my energy stayed up naturally up until that point—I made my way to the office coffee machine.

I felt a sense of panic as I searched for the coffee bean bag on the counter—nowhere to be found. I looked in the grinder to see if perhaps the leftover grinds from yesterday could somehow fill my mug today. It couldn’t.

I finally looked in a cabinet nearby and—tah dah!—a whole stash of coffee beans ready to be ground! A sense of calm came back instantaneously. What I realized between 10:00AM and 10:11AM, while searching for coffee, is this:

I’m deeply fond of the comforts of my routine, whether I choose to admit or not.

I’ve fought it for the past few years. I’d come into the office sluggish and frustrated, and it was written all over my face to the point where co-workers would avoid me. I didn’t find a sense of purpose in my job, and since I was a transparent person, I justified that it was okay to show it.

I was miserable during many parts of 2009 and 2010. I thought if I embraced my routine, I would somehow be settling.

I was afraid to allow things to make me happy in the present because I was trained to look forward. I was accustomed by my upbringing to continually outdo my current situation.

I felt that if I took life more seriously than everyone else, which included resisting anything that didn’t align with my personal opinion of success, I was a step ahead. I craved constant achievement. I was a serial improver and it made me unhappy.

Eventually, I came to a point where I straddled the line of giving up and settling versus fighting and improving.

I straddled for a year—immobile, lost, and scattered.

Fast forward a year later, and I’ve found that we don’t have to be torn between being in the moment and creating the next one.

Instead, we can carry both ambition and happiness with us on our daily journey. The goals, the destination, and the visions we have for the future are only worth accomplishing if we can be present and appreciate the ride.

Appreciating doesn’t have to mean settling. It just means to be here now and be a part of the ride instead of on the sidelines fighting it.

Here are three ways to happily achieve:

1. Live your life one small improvement at a time.

Do not overwhelm yourself with pressures. Simply take it one step at a time. It’s easy to become stressed and enslaved by something we’re diligently pursuing. In the process, we only see the prize—the “someday,” the end—while missing out on the many amazing little moments that could bring us happiness.

Embracing our current routine doesn’t have to mean to succumbing to it or becoming complacent, but instead to take growth one day at a time. Commit to a small adjustment each day that corresponds to your overall goal. The power of consistency will be transformational.

In The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy talks about the monumental improvements we can make in daily disciplines that compound over time to create results:

Small, Smart Choices + Consistency + Time = Radical Difference

Be consistent, be patient, and stick with it.

2. Rearrange the current routine.

Some of the most brilliant, accomplished, present people I know have a routine that they’ve tailored to their ambitions. They’ve created a daily, weekly, and monthly way of living that suits their grand purpose or goal.

In order to achieve without feeling imbalanced, treadmill-bound, or overwhelmed, it is crucial to create new enhancements to our daily routines.

Take an honest assessment of your day. Play with time; turn your day inside out.

Figure out how to puzzle in step number one, whether that’s going to the gym during lunch three times a week instead of chatting with colleagues, waking up twenty minutes earlier each day to begin that inspirational book, or winding down an hour earlier at night with a podcast or your journal, for better rest and your overall well-being.

Place all excuses aside and simply be open to redesigning the day. Give it a chance. Let it settle in for a few weeks before judging it.

I was a night owl for many years—I loved rebelling the midnight hour. Illogically, I thought I proved something by staying up extra late, just because. Come morning time, I felt fuzzy because I couldn’t move quickly enough.

Over the past few months, I’ve formed new priorities that required me to move writing and working out to the morning. I’ve found that my creative thinking at 5:00AM is something completely different from what it was at 11:00PM.

The workout routine, despite my excuses about how I could never do the morning thing, has given my day a tremendous face lift. Jump-starting the day with extra time and wellness has set the stage for a more meaningful schedule to follow.

Find a way to puzzle in the enhancements for a better routine. Your happiness and productivity depend on it.

3. Become a source of time.

Once you rearrange your routine, the final key to empowerment is a small adjustment in the perception of time.

The biggest complaint I often hear from co-workers, family, and friends is that they are unsatisfied because their routine does not offer time to accomplish what they want. Because we feel there’s “no time,” we often think our routines create our reality instead of realizing we create our lives.

In The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks proposes:

“Begin with time itself. Do whatever it takes to get yourself in harmony with the reality that you are the source of time. A simple way to begin is put to yourself on a radical diet: complete abstinence from complaining about time. When you stop complaining about time, you cease perpetuating the destructive myth that time is the persecutor and you are its victim.”

We are the source of time. While this conceptually may make sense, it takes practice to integrate.

Recently, I removed “I have no time” from my vocabulary, and after two months of doing pretty well, the benefits have begun to feel both incredibly productive and enlightening.

Our days are too precious to fight. Take the time today to contemplate how to customize a more balanced path to happily achieve by reflecting on your own unique situation.

Acknowledge how far you’ve come to be who and where you are. Then brainstorm ideas to creatively redesign the day to bring more value to your routine. Find a way to grow a little bit each day, while being patient and present.

Carry these two ideas with you on the journey, savoring each moment with awareness, gratitude, and laughter while consciously creating the next.

Woman at work image via Shutterstock

About Cat Li Stevenson

Cat is an explorer of the human journey and a lover of well-being. She is living and practicing at an urban Zen Center in San Francisco, and working for Wisdom 2.0, an organization that strives to bring wisdom and awareness into the digital age. You can add her as a friend on FB or find her writing on Medium.

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