Maybe the trick to doing something everyday isn’t to remind ourselves how important it is but to instead convince ourselves it’s run of the mill.
It is incredibly hard to do something every day.
I’m talking one activity or practice for some amount of time
For many things, like writing for instance, there are experts everywhere that tell you the best way to get good is to do it each and every day, even just for a little while. I remember a long time ago, my mom handed me “On Writing,” a book by Stephen King that laid out his memoirs and tips for writers. In it, he mentioned muscle memory several times (if my brain memory is correct) and how writing a little every day is better than just writing one day a week for a long period of time. Even back then, in high school (I believe) and having a world of time around me, I thought to myself, “How is that even possible?” Everyday is such a commitment. It includes weekends and holidays. It includes days we’re sick or generally not feeling like it. Everyday disregards the weather and our emotions. It doesn’t care how much we’ve eaten or what our sleep was like the night before. How is it possible to commit to an everyday? Yet, here is Stephen King, an immensely successful writer, telling me that Everyday is the key. And it doesn’t stop at writing. I’ve also heard this advice plenty of times from music instructors, personal trainers, meditation guides, hiking/nature advocates, dating/socializing counselors, foreign language teachers and plenty of other people in different fields. The topic may be different, the execution specific to the field, but they all agree on one the: the effectiveness of whatever you are doing is going to be at its peak with an Everyday mindset.
Now, notice that I’m compounding the “Every Day” into “Everyday.” Because I personally believe that’s the key to making something and every single day sort of practice. To break it down, “every day” is used in English to signify something done, well, every day or each day, to specify. However, “everyday” actually comes with its own meaning. “Everyday” is an adjective that is often used with negative connotations and means “ordinary” or “run of the mill.” Sometimes this connotes something boring or overly safe, but ultimately boils down to being recognizably typical.
And honestly, that’s perfect.
Yes, I’m talking about things we hold in high regard: creativity and productivity and fitness and mental health and social health and so on and so on. However, the key to doing these things every day, to make sure we get in our practice and build a sense of muscle memory might be to remove a bit of the grandeur around these topics. If we make them typical or ordinary occurrences in our lives, they become easier to set aside time for.
Think about it this way: what things do you already do every single day? We wake up and go to sleep every day. We eat every day. Some of us bathe every day (and many others need to). If you have a dog, you walk your dog every day or at least let them outside if you’re lucky enough to have a yard. You feed your pets or children every day. Many of us watch TV everyday or read every day, even if just on our phones. And all these things are also fundamentally “everyday” tasks, in that we don’t THINK about how we do them every day because they don’t hold that much esteem in our mind. They are just typical tasks, the things we do because we do them and often because they are necessary to our bodies.
So what if we convince ourselves that the thing we absolutely WANT to do every single day is also one of these typical Everyday tasks? It’s honestly not even that hard to trick yourself into it. It just takes a small tweak in perception wherein you never think or say “I HAVE to do this” or “ugh, I wish I didn’t HAVE to” or “am I sure I want to?” Instead, just treat it like it’s already concrete and, hell, has already even HAPPENED. We don’t lament our future meals, we just think of them as guaranteed blocks of our time that we’ll have to be eating. They exist and sure we might see them as a bit of a roadblock, especially if we’re not particularly feeling like cooking anything. But in our minds they’ve practically already happened because we know they will. Same with sleep or using the bathroom or any other Everyday activity. And so it boils down to instead of treating the activity in our minds as something that “has” to happen or “should” happen or “needs” to happen, we treat it like it is just a thing that happens. “When I get off work, I’m going to eat” is something we can reasonably understand: this person’s immediate future is work and then eat. Done. So instead of “when I get off work, I have to work out,” choose instead to say or think “when I get off work, I’m going to work out.” If we tweak our perception of these activities as things that we have crammed into our already busy schedules and instead just accept them as truth, they become much easier to swallow on a day to day basis, as they have become things we do just because we do them. They become typical and ordinary. Everyday.
That isn’t to say we aren’t allowed any joy or grandeur in our activities. The goal is to just ingrain the habit into our subconscious. Just as you would occasionally take an extra long, soothing shower or take an extra bit of time to prep yourself an extravagant meal, it’s okay to put extra effort into the Everyday task whenever you have to motivation to do so. The goal of making these task Everyday isn’t to make them flat or boring, it’s to make them things you just do so they become immune to excuses and negative emotion. Some days we have bad days. Some days we’re so focused on it being a weekend or a holiday that any sort of productive task will just cramp our style. Some days we’re honestly just lazy. And while it’s okay to feel this way at times and even okay to just decide you don’t have it in you to be productive today, it’s a lot EASIER to avoid bailing on a task if you’ve already established it as just something that happens. Sure, there are extremes, and by all means if you find yourself completely incapable, then dig deeper and figure out where the baggage is or find someone who can help.
In one of his journals, Henry David Thoreau said:
Routine is a ground to stand on, a wall to retreat to; we cannot draw on our boots without bracing ourselves against it.
- Journal: Jan 23, 1841
He’s absolutely right. He goes on to mention how we need routine in our weakest times for comfort and how in our strongest times we need it as a “springboard” to improve and become great. That’s why doing things every day, gaining muscle memory for the things that matter to us is absolutely vital. That’s also why it’s important to make these things typical in our routine. Build that ground and wall that we support ourselves with out of the things that matter most to the direction of our lives. Become accustomed to small workouts and stretches every day so that we can dive headlong into long runs or hikes or intense muscle building sessions. Get used to writing a small journal entry every day so we can be ready to spend an entire day pumping out chapter after chapter once we get hit by inspiration. Find the routine of plucking away at the guitar in unison to our favorite songs so that we can have the motivation to learn the songs needed for a new gig. It isn’t about devaluing the tasks, its more about teaching ourselves to engage in smaller portions so that the motivation for larger portions comes easier.
So to get started, find the thing you wish you did more, whatever it may be, and start to break it down to its smallest components. You can do this with a pen and paper or just in your head, but really dissect that bad boy into smaller and smaller bits. What is the most basic form you can get it to? Can that basic form be further divided into even more basic forms? Once you get to the bottom, you’ve got your routine. That is your Everyday: the bare minimum activity that you can do every day to start building your support routine. From there, you need to just play it by ear. If you feel like doing more, go for it. If you just feel like the Everyday today, that’s fine to. Something is absolutely better than nothing at all.
Two final things to consider:
- It’s important to not spend all your time on your Everyday. The goal is to at least occasionally branch and expand. Use the Everyday as both your support and springboard. It will always be there when you need it, but is only the beginning of what you can achieve.
- Watch out for excuses. They will happen and that’s totally understandable, nor do they make you any less of a productive person. However, remember that defeating excuses IS productive in and off itself. It’s fine if you don’t want to spend 10 minutes doing Yoga on Thanksgiving, but imagine the sense of pride you’ll feel if you overcome that excuse. It’s understandable if work was so hard that you don’t feel like working on a graphic design project, but imagine the accomplishment of doing it anyway. It’s absolutely okay if you didn’t sleep well and don’t feel like practicing the piano before class, but imagine the energy you’ll get from being strong enough to overcome. NEVER shame yourself if you give in to an excuse, it happens and hell there are plenty of other Everyday tasks we sometimes shirk for various reasons. Just always keep in mind how good it will feel to break through those mental blocks.
I hope this helps you guys find your Everyday and work towards your goals. I know I have a lot of thinking to do myself.