I stumbled upon two points today that might resonate with you, especially if you’ve been interested in – or struggling with – creating new routines.

The first came to me in an email from James Clear, author of Atomic Habits. I wish I could say I knew him personally, but I don’t. I am on his email list though – because I signed up. This email described “the 2-minute rule,” which says: When you’re trying to establish a new habit, keep your first steps toward it under 2 minutes. That doesn’t mean that the habit itself (working out, flossing your teeth, whatever) should take less than 2 minutes, but that your first step toward establishing that habit should. For example, I want to meditate for at least 10 minutes a day consistently. Of course, that behavior falls outside the 2 minute window. But, a new habit which will take me toward my goal is to regularly schedule meditation. That takes about 20 seconds. Definitely in the window. I love his examples:

  • “Walk 10,000 steps each day” becomes “Put on my running shoes.”
  • “Keep the house tidy” becomes “put one item of dirty clothing in the laundry.”
  • “Be a better partner” becomes “make my partner a cup of coffee every morning.”
  • “Get straight A’s” becomes “set my books out on the desk when I get home.”

As Clear writes, “standardization before optimization. Make it the standard in your life, then worry about doing it better.”

The second was an article in The Guardian: “I interviewed hundreds of people in search of the perfect routine. I realised there isn’t one,” by author and podcaster, Madeline Dore. It was heartening to confirm that not only is there no perfect routine that we should all feel compelled to do, but that routines can ebb and flow with our needs. They may come and go as our life circumstances change, and we may rely on them throughout our days at certain times more than others. We can use them without depending to structure our entire day on them. I also realized (realised) I’m a “bookender:” my morning and evening routines are pretty set in stone, but I like to be free-form during the day, responsive to what may arise. The bottom line is that routines are helpful, but there is no perfect routine. Just the perfect ones for you.