Life happens. Obligations arise. Sometimes you have to adapt. But how do you adapt without losing momentum in your daily routine and rituals?
Here are 5 tips to avoid the exception becoming the rule.
(1) Commit to a Consistent Routine
As a starting point, you have to commit to consistent daily rituals in the first place.
If you wanted to, you could find an excuse every day why you can’t create consistent rituals.
Don’t let the the exceptions become the rule. Resolve that you will be consistent no matter what, and that exceptions will be few and far between.
Trees that aren’t strong enough get blown over in mild storms. You must cultivate rituals that give you roots to your day.
(2) Allow Exceptions Sparingly
You actually have more control than you think over many disruptions.
This goes back to the first rule. You have to be committed. Every day, something can arise that feels important enough to derail your routine. The good news is that you get to decide which you will allow.
At the start, it can be helpful to craft a set of rules that dictate when you will allow exceptions and how wide those exceptions will be.
For example, as a general rule I do not take morning meetings. I make exceptions in rare cases when the meeting is high value to me and only after exhausting all attempts to schedule it for a different time of day.
In those rare cases when I allow that exception, I still adhere to fitness first and meditation. And I try to move around my other rituals. (See Tip 4.)
(3) Meet Your Musts
Define your MUSTS in advance. What is non-negotiable for you.
My morning routine has expanded over time to include many rituals. Fitness First. Meditation. Writing. Journaling. Thinking time.
Sometimes I must adapt to accommodate an exception for a morning event. In that case, I have a pecking order. There are rituals I can drop or defer to later in the day, and rituals that happen no matter what. Those that happen no matter what are my musts.
My musts are fitness first and meditation. They are non-negotiable. There’s a reason it’s called Fitness First.
If necessary, I can fit in writing between the gaps in my day. Since resolving to publish daily, there have been many days where I’ve turned back to writing late at night. This is not ideal, but as an exception to the rule I can make it work.
(4) Focus on Your Outcomes
When you adapt, it’s crucial to focus on your outcomes and not on the specifics of the actions.
Look at the bigger picture of your MUST list and identify your outcome.
For example, I typically exercise for 90 minutes to 2 hours in the morning. But if I have made an exception for a morning meeting, or if I’m attending a conference, I may shorten that time to 20–30 minutes. It’s not ideal, but my outcome is to exercise and move my body. I do what I can in a shorter amount of time.
Similarly, with my commitment to publishing daily to my blog, there have been days when I just go with good enough. Forget “published over perfect.” Sometimes it’s “published over proofread.”
The quality/quantity matrix applies here. Doing something is always better than doing nothing because it keeps the momentum going.
Exercise for 20 minutes.
Meditate for 2 minutes.
Write for 10 minutes.
You can always do something.
(5) Acceptance and Surrender
Even when we have a consistent routine, we sometimes are required to adapt. Because … life.
Your kids get sick. You get a leak in your basement. You have a major presentation or meeting. A family event. Natural disasters. Acts of god.
Storms happen. What enables a tree to withstand a storm is the fact that it can bend in the wind. The trees that are old and dried out and have no flexibility left are uprooted in the storm. Be flexible. Look for ways you can adapt to the disruption, rather than fall victim to it.
The first four tips will help you stick to some semblance of a routine. But invariably certain circumstances will require you to sacrifice some rituals.
If you can’t get it done, bring a dose of self-compassion to the situation. Resolve to get back on track tomorrow.
Look at where things derailed so you can plan better for next time. Because there will definitely be a next time.
Life may be unpredictable, but it’s not that unpredictable.
If you found this helpful, join The Ritual Revolution, my movement to spread the benefits of consistent daily rituals.