The Best Routine For You Is The One You’d Actually Do

Routine Flat Lay - The 5th

So Jeanne’s post inspired me to write this. Particularly the bit about how she squeezed in some running time into her day. I’ve followed her for a while now, and it’s interesting to see how she’s grown into running this past year or so.

If you’ve been following my blog, you might’ve also noticed that I work out every day, thanks to me repeating that fact like a broken record. The reason? Because I’ve found a groove that works for me.

How I go about it is as thus: I put out 70% effort (or less). If, when I think about my problems, and I still feel the dread, I add another set. I keep doing this until the problem seems to mellow out. That’s it.

I don’t care if weightlifting builds more muscle than running. I don’t care if high-intensity exercise benefits my heart more than a mild jog. I just do it for the feels.

And most importantly, it’s what I would actually do.

All learn and no do

Let’s say I find an objective way to increase your writing output by 500%. Let’s say it involves sacrificing goats. Let’s say you get queasy when it comes to goat blood. It’d be safe to say that you won’t be increasing your writing output fivefold anytime soon.

But let’s also say that there’s another way to increase your writing output by 10%, and it involves eating spinach. What would you do? Eat the spinach? Or complain that it does nothing when compared to sacrificial rituals?

This is where I point out that the most important routine is the one that you will actually do. Because as the saying goes, “To know and not to do is not to know.”

So what if running gets your heart working more than walking? Would you quit your daily walk even if you enjoy it more?

And so what if your favourite Malaysian blogger says that Vim is the best word processor ever? Does that mean you can’t be productive with Microsoft Word?

This is me hating on optimisers

You probably have friends like this: They notice you eating more vegetables, then proceed to comment on the amount of pesticides you’re putting in your body. All while they wolf down a Big Mac and Coke.

Then there are the gym bros who only subscribe to one way of training. “Running does not work your sagittal planes enough, bro,” they’d say. “And it sucks for burning fat.”

Again, they probably say this from their comfortable couch, having not stuck to a proper workout routine for more than a month, and already they’re playing theorycraft about the only routines that are worth doing.

You know what I say? If someone loves running and sees themselves doing it till they’re 90, then there’s no reason to tell them to lift some weights.

Same with you. If you find yourself sticking to a particular activity despite your mind telling you that you ‘should’ participate in that other popular activity, then you should take heed.

Because the best routine is the one you’d actually do.

But there’s the danger of bad habits too

I had been listless and ambitionless for most of my young adult life. And no surprise too, as I’d chosen hairdressing because it was ‘cool’, then tried to be an accountant because I thought that’s where the cash was.

Every day I woke up without a reason, wondering how I could get by with the least amount of effort.

That was until I found writing. And that was the first time I’d ever felt what it was like to have a job that didn’t really feel like one. But I digress.

What’s more important to note, however, is that our daily habits could also turn us down a different path in life.

Like hitting that snooze button, for example. Or eating that bag of chips after dinner. Or watching that final episode when we really should be going to bed.

So sometimes, the worst routines for us are also the ones we’ll actually do.

My personal pitfalls

Of course, I’m not without faults, and I tend to fall into the overthinking camp sometimes. I often research a new routine and weigh out the pros and cons only to fall out of the habit one week later. Here are the areas in which I fall short.

I’m a hack chaser. Give me a new writing method and I’ll be all over it. Longhand, voice dictation, Notion… I’ve tried them all. Thing is, I sometimes spend so much more time optimising the routines in my head than actually applying them to my life.

I’m an idol follower. George RR Martin uses Wordstar? I’ll have to learn an equally archaic word processor. Neil Gaiman uses a fountain pen? I gotta splurge on the exact model he uses. Brandon Sanderson relies on outlines? I’ll ignore my own writing processes to do the same. Then I fail spectacularly and feel like an idiot.

I like novelty. I collect hobbies. I guess that says everything about my hack-chasing ways. In fact, I cycle through various writing methods throughout the months, just to get things feeling like new. I outlined this post with a mind map, for instance. The downside is that I don’t zero in on a practice I’d actually do consistently.

Personal growth: What does it mean to you?

So let’s talk cheddar. The real deal. The meat of the topic. What habits would you like to cultivate? And what would you actually do? Be realistic. No best-case scenarios here.

For me, I’d be happy if each day consisted of: furthering my craft (writing for now, but who knows, it might change in the future), keeping the house clean, working out, eating well, taking care of my loved ones, and learning something new.

Of course, if I had it my way, I’d dedicate my entire day to this, day job not included. But life has a way of taking up most of your time (in fact, it takes up all of your time) so I have to water down each activity to fit them into my day.

This means writing 250 words a day instead of 1,000. Working out less intensely so I can maintain it throughout the year. Doing only one chore. Prepping my meals for the week.

I’m not making much headway in either field, but it’s something that I would do. What about you? What would you actually do in your day-to-day that’s related to personal growth?

And most importantly, will you get around to doing it today?

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44 thoughts on “The Best Routine For You Is The One You’d Actually Do

  1. Pingback: I ditched my branded handbag for a run pack to run home after work! – RandomHighness

  2. Hi. You make very good points. I’ll add that feeling comfortable in our own skins is pretty vital. When we’re comfortable that way, whatever activities and routines we do will be much more fulfilling. See you. Neil S.


  3. Stuart. Very interesting post and all blood causes me issues. I’m totally a believer in routines. I live and die by routines. Change my routine then you should stay away from me. I also don’t care about “idol” solutions and hacks get me every time. I do seek out opinions and validate them as best one can. My big thing now is reading ingredient labels on food. Looking for “added sugar.” Since I do nto adn will not take up running, excluding added sugar seemed like a good alternative to a healthier life style.


    • The sugar topic has been a pretty interesting one I’ve been following lately. Been looking into carbs too, and I even bought a glucose monitor to see for myself if they affect me. Still a lot of testing to go, lol, but avoiding sugar is a good one!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Years ago I gave up High Fructose corn syrup. Lost 10 pounds in short order. Now I am looking at the impact of added sugar. Sugar occurs naturally, but added can’t possibly be healthy.


  4. Nice broken record / groove pun. Your title does say it all when you boil it down. That’s why I like the 1% concept. Each day try and do what ever your currently working on 1% better. It makes what ever you choose to do, to be so much more less stressful. Like Ranjana said, “consistency is key…” I know you work very hard at trying to write a 1000 words a day as part of your routine. However some days your head just doesn’t want to. On a day like that I’d opt for rewriting the outline and play with creating multiple titles. Or write out an answer to a question a fan might ask about your book. In the end you might hit 1000 but if you didn’t at least you wrote something. And every little bit helps. Same goes with work outs, on bad days you just do what you can. All you can do is all you can do. And taking a walk to the end of the driveway and back is what you can do then that’s what you should do. Basically the routine is the doing of the action, it’s not always about how much you do. The greatest thing about any routine is that’s it is yours and therefore you can tweak it anytime you want so it is more suited for you. So you go right ahead and water down your activities. It is better to get a taste of everything you enjoy than to not have them at all. I hope all your days get taken up with doing the things you enjoy. Tweak your routine so you can get the most out of what is important to you.


    • Aww what a lovely message to start my day with. And that record/groove pun was totally unintentional. I only realise that now that you point it out, lol.

      And yeah, at this stage of my life, 1,000 words for myself is a tall ask, since I allocate many more thousands to my day job. But I still try to keep up the habit, which is where the magic of 250-a-day comes in. I’m all about those micro steps.

      Thanks for the lovely support, Razz!


  5. This makes me think of everyone who has given up their unreasonable New Year’s goals by Jan. 5th because they’ve set unrealistic goals. By the way, why not start our goals when our minds are right and not because the calendar says it’s a new year?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s like Valentine’s Day. I’ve never understood why I have to pay a mark-up to show my appreciation to my partner, when I can just do so every other day in normal life. Here’s to setting goals throughout the year instead of just the beginning!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Consistency is key to success in whatever we do. But rest days are equally important. Trying different hobbies makes life interesting. 😊 Totally relatable post.


    • I think the main thing that helps me for weights day is increasing the rest time. Since weights = strength training for me, I don’t need to push myself to cardio exhaustion (though ‘the burn’ brings its own version of tiredness). So in between sets, I write or listen to the podcast I have playing. A great change of pace from the usual, long-droning runs!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow! Thanks for the mention! Agree with your title statement! Keeping thing simple as you recommended in an exercise post is also what I find effective! I stay away from routines that keep changing. While running is a simple activity we could always change up or switch ‘down’ intensity and duration. I saw this somewhere- that we need to ‘show up’ for our exercise. Great post as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like to take a play from Courtney Dauwalter’s book, and that’s not knowing what your routine is going to be until you start running. That has helped me be more intuitive with my runs. Anyway, keep going and inspiring, Jeanne!


  8. Yes, you were calling my name in this post. I just stick to what works. It is good to try new things but at the end of the day it is about having some kind of consistency. Take my workout routine. My goal is every day but if I can get 4 days in I still feel good. I no longer do it for the weight loss but like you for the feelings. And that is what keeps me motivated to do it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve really noticed an uptick in workout frequency ever since I started doing it for the feels. I, too, started with aesthetic goals, but soon realised that ‘ecstatic goals’ was the better term, lol. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, weight management is something I totally get. It may surprise you, but working out 3 – 5 times/week is optimum because it gives your body time to “catch its breath” when you’ve been killing it. What’s even more impactful is what you put into your body! Not even so much as calories, but overdo it, but the contents of those calories.

      I understand you weren’t asking for my opinion, but I wanted to let you know you are on the right track. Typically speaking, people are more concerned about the sacrifices they must make to lose weight, rather than the benefits they’re gaining by paying attention to what they’re doing.

      You absolutely got this!! 🥳


      • Yes, so true! Thanks for your encouragement and perspective on weight management. I agree with what you said about what you put in your body. I have made dietary changes over the years. My latest one was reducing my meat consumption. I am not totally vegetarian but eat a lot less and feel much better.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Me, too! Red meat MAYBE once a week, bacon every so often (flushes), and chicken. I also cut WAY back on starches. BUT, weird thing, the biggest impact on my weight management is negating stress. HUGE, but so difficult.

        It’s so great to know someone else gets to experience this trial with me. 😉


  9. “I sometimes spend so much more time optimising the routines in my head than actually applying them to my life.”

    If you could see my bookshelf right now, your head would implode (less messy that way) from the “OMG” pressure.

    “I’ve been reading since I was four.”

    “I’ve got so many books, I’ve run out of room on my bookshelves. ”

    “Screenwriting? One-quarter of my library is about screenwriting!”

    “Hypnotherapy? One-quarter of my library is about hypnosis!”

    “Creating websites? I’ve created so many that it’s scary!”

    “Public speaking? I used to work with motivational greats like Robert Kiyosaki and Jack Canfield. I even spoke with them. And boy, can Jack cuss!”

    “Creative writing? Graduated near the top of my class with six awards and the Advanced Achievement Award of my class!”

    That’s right–I’m well-rounded. But in considering all of the droning I’ve done, what’s really come of it?

    For starters, I do have a forest of trees worth of paper on my shelves, but I’ve only read about 1/4. I may be a “bookaholic,” if that’s a thing. Tell me a book that teaches without opening, and I’ll show you a lifeguard who’s never been in a pool.

    Of all the things I “know how to do,” the monetary gain from all of it is $0. Why, when I’ve directed literally hundreds of thousands of dollars on all of this, haven’t I managed to get something out of it? Is it because I suck at everything I do? I don’t think I do, although I’m certain my exes would disagree.

    It’s because of follow-through. Yep, I’ve never been good at golf. And I don’t recall my most successful game because I was blasted. I don’t have any follow-through. If I did complete something that I could get acknowledgment for doing, that means I could also fail. And who the hell wants that?

    That would mean I wouldn’t have been prepared! Yes, I was a top-notch girl scout as well. I can make a ‘Smore like nobody’s business, as well as tie about 25 varied knots.

    Optimizing routines, I’d be the first one out of any restaurant, theater, grocery store, etc. in an emergency. I habitually case the room out every time I enter one, out of paranoia and priding myself on always being prepared.

    OF COURSE I’M PREPARED! BECAUSE NOTHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN! This means I will never be let down. And all the things “I’m good at doing” have never really been tested, I only have the “visible” proof; the accolades and the framed certificates that say I got it.

    The short end? Regardless of this lengthy post, I need to buckle down and finish something. I just keep working at posting regularly–because there isn’t a real ending. Is there? I just can’t find that stationary spot.

    So now, I’m practicing my writing skills. The three books I’ve started are supposed to be best-selling, according to “the fans.” The thing is, if they’re wrong, all of my books, all of my instructors, my awards, and my “know-it-all ” attitude will be one of those fires in the room for which I was unprepared.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Whoa, this is a detailed comment indeed, and there’s no reply I can write that can do it justice. But one thing remains true: we’re always going to be battling with ourselves to finish what we started. So here’s to always choosing the right path for ourselves!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I totally agree with you on this, Stuart. I have been working out at home for most of my adult life. I started when my kids were small because getting up early in the morning and squeezing in a workout was the only way I could make it happen. Lots of people tell me to join this gym, or try that activity, but I’m sticking with my home workouts. Why? Because, it’s pretty easy to drag my butt out of bed, get dressed, and down 2 flights of stairs to the basement. It would be really hard for me to drag my butt out of bed, down one flight of stairs, out to my car, scrap the snow off my car, drive to a gym… I think you get the picture!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the convenience of being able to work out at home. It certainly helped during the pandemic. But I also feel a stronger motivation once I’m at the gym. I’m still externally motivated, as much as I’d like to be fully internal, lol. But yeah, the only way I get to be consistent is because I set my own workout schedule. If I were to wait on others, I don’t think I’ll have the patience to keep up a routine! Thanks so much for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Wonderful post Stuart. A question if you will, if you work out every day, then when do you rest? Or do you not have rest days at all?

    Please don’t think I’m lazy to ask this, so many people have called me lazy for having rest days. I can’t workout 365 days of the year, and I also can’t write 365 days either. And yet the tag of laziness is put on me by the people who do neither of these things for most of the year, and then try to create a new year’s pledge, which they fail to follow.

    I’ve not taken any pledge of sorts in my life, and yet I’m more productive than these people. Because I accomplish most of the things I set out to do. (Yes, I do fail sometimes, but that is part of the life.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t have any rest days. But then again, there are days when I just take it super easy, such as running at the pace of almost a walk, are recovering completely before starting the next calisthenics set. And that’s the reason why I can maintain this every day. It’s not as if I’m superhuman or anything, lol.

      Resting is part of the process, so I don’t get why those people would call you lazy. Anyhoo, we all have our paths to find, and you certainly seem to have found your groove!


  12. This post resonated so much with me.. I also believe that we can stick to something consistently only if it’s something that speaks to us. But like you, I’m a victim of trying out the latest fad or trying out hobbies to impress my friends or partners.. and I’m a very grown up person! Haha!

    My perfect day would be something like yours too.. if I can manage to squeeze in bits of all the things that give me joy in a day, I’d rather do that than excel at anything- that would include going for a walk listening to my podcast or a jog listening to music, catching up with my family, reading and writing 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • At some point I think I may have ADHD, lol, since as much as I try, I just can’t seem to stick to one thing at a time, be it at the micro or macro level. But maybe that’s my exact method to my madness. Maybe that’s the only way I’ll get things done. *shrugs

      Anyway, love that you stopped by!

      Liked by 1 person

      • My partner says said about me sometimes.. but I feel like the song – ‘where is my mind’, most of the times. I will be doing something and then I’ll zone out. I know one thing for sure, I’m not built for multitasking lol!
        But hey, I also feel we’re all mad at some level.. as long as we get the work done though right? 😁


  13. Hmmm…so you’re a sucker for new writing methods huh? So have you tried….haha just kidding Stu! Great post yet again! And yes I single this part out because I too fall prey to my own personal pitfalls. Chasing down rabbit holes is such a thing for me whenever a news article or book or podcast episode or…sends me running to the nearest library, website, etc. And before I know it, another writing day’s gone and I’m left feeling ruined…sighhhh…must try to stick to a goal I’ll actually do — and make good of it! Will come back to this post again and again whenever I forget this important learning. Thanks again man for sharing your wisdom…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lol those danged rabbit holes. It’s just too tempting to want to look up the next interesting headline that we come across. I think I’ll need to use those read later apps and see if they work. Thanks for your thoughts , Kelvin!

      Liked by 1 person

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