With any activity that you would like to make routine, there are three things you need to know.
- Why is the activity worth committing to? Deciding to make something part of your daily routine is a big step. It will sometimes inconvenience you. You certainly won't always be enthusiastic about it. Be honest with yourself about the time commitment you are making, and what you expect to gain from adding this thing to your life.
- How long do you plan to commit to this? It's important to add a new activity within a fixed timescale. This timescale should be long enough to allow you to make a reasonable judgment about whether the activity is something you want to continue, but short enough that you will be able to consistently perform the activity until evaluation day. The evaluation step is critical, because it allows you to reflect on whether this routine is helpful for you, whether it should be modified, and whether it is enjoyable or miserable. If it's not working out, the formal evaluation step allows you to drop the activity without guilt or other negative emotions.
- How will you deal with the inevitable lapses in the activity? Day-to-day life is mostly routine, but only up to a point. Maybe you get drunk one night, and wake up late the next day. Maybe you get snowed under at work and don't update your TODO list. Maybe you get sick and can't go jogging for a week. It's essential that when you lapse, you don't allow your routine to collapse under the weight of your guilt and violated expectation of perfection. Carry on, and continue when you can. These things happen. Often, they're not your fault. Even when they are, you are only human. Refrain from any kind of self-judgment or criticism. Only when you reach the evaluation point are you entitled to evaluate.
A concrete example: You dream of becoming an expert in the Japanese martial art Aikido. You seriously evaluate why you want this. You decide you are keen on the fitness, spiritual and self-confidence aspects of the art. You imagine yourself effortlessly dispatching opponents, and you are motivated. You realise this will take years to achieve. You decide you should begin with a goal of training for two hours, at least twice a week. Because any new physical activity is hard and unpleasant until you acquire some basic skills, you decide to commit to one month of training, before evaluating your progress.
The first two weeks are miserable. Everything is difficult to understand. Your body aches all over. You hate it. You are invited to the cinema by friends, but must decline because you have practice. But you keep going, because you haven't reached your evaluation point yet, and you guessed it would be like this.
In the third week you catch a cold, and miss a session. You are frustrated, but you don't allow this setback to weaken your resolve to see this experiment out to the end. You attend the next available class.
At the end of the fourth week you evaluate your progress. You now realise this is much harder than you expected, and it is going to take a long time to reach your dream. You also now practically understand how much of a time commitment is involved. On the other hand, you are starting to get the hang of things, and your body feels stronger and hurts less. After careful consideration, you decide on balance to carry on. You decide to set your next evaluation point for six months time.