Scott’s Thoughts: Routine Inventory

“The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”

Samuel Johnson, (September 18, 1709 – December 13, 1784), English writer

Man taking inventory.


We are but a couple weeks away from the start of 2020, and now is the time when many of us begin reflecting on the year behind us. Did we accomplish what we wanted to accomplish? Where did we excel? Where did we lag behind? An honest look at our successes and our shortcomings can help us set goals for the year ahead and prime the motivational pump for what we hope to do with a fresh calendar.

This type of big picture thinking is necessary, but it is not where real change happens. If we want to influence the big picture at the end of next year, we need to take a different type of inventory: Our routines and rituals.

What we do out of habit has an outsized influence on our outcomes. Concentrated periodic bursts of enthusiastic effort are no match for the incremental force of routine. The thing about routines is they are mostly invisible. That we do them without much conscious thought is also what enhances their impact on our lives. Good or ill, we follow them with practically zero resistance.

Take an inventory this month of your own routines and rituals. Do so without judgement. Look back on your daily habits and record what you see. Keeping an activity journal for a few days can help shine a light on routines which are usually off center stage. With your list in hand, you can begin to ask yourself one simple question: Does this routine contribute to or detract from my goals?

You might not always know the answer. Some may be obvious, of course, but others may be somewhat ambiguous. We all know regular exercise contributes to health and mental well-being, but is checking your email before bed stressing you out, or preparing you for tomorrow?

Hopefully you’ll identify which rituals and routines might need a replacement or even something as subtle as an upgrade. For instance, you might be in the habit of swinging by Starbucks for a bucket full of Caramel Brulée Latte, but rather than abandon the ritual altogether, why not downshift to a smaller size or switch to iced coffee? You don’t have to operate on an “all or none” basis to make lasting changes.

The macro situation of your life is a result of many micro factors. Finding the rituals and routines to tweak can make all the difference.

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