Well, not exactly first…
Routine has been on my mind a lot lately. The goal is to build a daily routine that reinforces habits that are worthwhile, while discouraging the mindsets that allow for distraction and anti-habits.
Anti-habits are really my being all-Mr.-Fancypants in how I am describing something. They really are simply bad habits or bad routines. There’s nothing special about it, only my insistence in being a twat. There’s a reason other than that to why I am referring to them in such a way. By calling them anti-habits, they seen by me as habits that tear down rather than build up. They are habits that reinforce unwanted behaviors rather than encouraging positive ones. Bad only refers that the habits aren’t positive; they fail to illustrate that they do more harm than only being there.
Anyway, it’s a working concept.
To help build a better routine, I’ve added the habit of reading each morning. After writing in my journal, I read. 20 pages at least. Maybe more if the mood strikes me. 20 pages though can take me 15 or so minutes depending on the density of the words on the page and the material. Deeper material or more dense words-per-page books will take longer. Pages. It’s pages, not time. I could say to read for X-time, but often, particularly if the book is dull at parts, I might be prone to daydream while the clock ticks away. To avoid that possibility, the goal is a page count.
Since doing this, I notice that there has been some positive benefits that have come out of it, even after only a little more than roughly a dozen days. First, I am reading every day. This might seem like a simple benefit, like “well why can’t you just pick up the book and read it at any time of the day?” The point here is that by making it happen first, it is guaranteed. Before this, it was a 50/50 shot at best that I would pick up a book to read. I love reading. A lot. But given the events of a day and the constant pull of other distractions, reading often drew the short stick.
Second, by making it a habit performed within the first few minutes of waking up, the desire to read more is more pronounced in my brain. The task is already one I enjoy, sure, but the fact that I started the day reading makes it much easier to read later in the day. More often than before I will pick up whatever book I was reading and go back at it. It takes that from that rough 50/50 shot to more like 75/25 in favor of reading.
Lastly, I’ve noticed a small mental shift in reading daily, especially with it being in the beginning of the day. It’s like it sets my mind into a different lane of traffic compared to the endless days where reading wasn’t included at the start. It’s calmer. Plus I feel more introspective and focused. Those are both subtle shifts, nothing so dramatic that I would ever be like “this is the solution to everything!” as many are often apt to describe. Still, it is a positive shift that I have noticed in my life. And that is nice.
Given that as a writer, it should be important that I also read. However, like most other things, it competes for my attention. Writing is to me, the most important activity of my day (not including family and work responsibilities). When given the choice between writing and reading, crafting words wins over digesting them. And that is a shame. I did not like that. Including the habit into my morning routine has helped resolve that. Now, no matter what, I read. It helps to set the right start to my day.