01/08/2014 02:08 pm ET Updated Mar 08, 2014

From Resolution to Routine to Reality

It's a bright and shiny new year. If you're like most of the world's population, you've made resolutions or at least thought a bit about what you would like to see happen in the coming year. Maybe it looks like training for a marathon or learning a new language or strengthening your friendships.

But sometimes the distance between ambitious goal and successful execution creates a chasm too wide to leap across. When you get to a place where despite your best of intentions you can't seem to regularly move forward on your goals, it's time to build a bridge on the pillars of routines.

Routines Make Success Automatic
Depending on who you are, routines may delight you, bore you, or make you want to run screaming in the opposite direction. I understand. As a time coach and the author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment, I've seen it all. But most importantly, I've seen that for everyone routines play an incredibly important role in increasing your capacity to accomplish your goals.

Here's why: At our very best, we may have the willpower to make good choices like getting up to run instead of hitting snooze for the seventh time. But most of the time, we're not at our very best and on a moment-by-moment basis we will follow the path of least resistance, regardless of whether it aligns our actions with our priorities.

That's why one of the three secrets in my book is to strengthen simple routines. Routines help us to do what we want to do even when we don't necessarily feel like doing the right thing at the time. I'll reveal an abbreviated version of my "Create Your Own Routines Template" to give you an idea of how to turn your resolutions into reality.

Routine Example: Regular Runs

Here's an example of how routines can apply to improving the consistency of your training in 2014.

Step 1: Prepare for Action
  • I will take this action: Run for one hour
  • I need this equipment and these supplies: Running shoes, warm clothes I can layer, hat and gloves.
  • My ideal environment is: My neighborhood
  • What do I need to know to do this task with confidence?: How to warm up properly and how not to get injured by overtraining
Step 2: Anticipate Everything
  • I need this much time: Two hours to account for getting ready, stretching, running and showering afterward
  • How often will I do this activity?: Four times a week
  • My start time or trigger is: I will head out the door within 30 minutes of getting out of bed.
  • How I will avoid preventable barriers: I will also set up a treadmill in my house so I can run even when it is snowy and icy outside.
  • How I will respond to unpreventable barriers: I will be gentle with myself and lower my expectations when I'm sick or injured.

Step 3: Practice the Routine
I will start practicing the routine on this day and time: Next Monday around 7 a.m.

Step 4: Review, Reward and Recalibrate
  • I will track my progress by: Posting my successes online
  • I will reward myself for reaching a larger goal by: Buying some new running gear.
  • Could I make part of the routine easier by adjusting the time or my methods?: I'm late to work if I leave the house after 7 a.m. so I really need to be sure I'm up by 6:30 a.m. and have a friend to run with me to keep my motivated.
  • Even if I can't complete the entire routine, how can I ensure I still accomplish my underlying goal?: The most important point is that I'm running on a consistent basis. So it's better for me to do a shorter run on days when I'm in a time crunch than to not run at all.

You can apply this type of approach to creating routines for everything from calling your mom more often to keeping the bathroom clean to blogging on a regular basis.

For a comprehensive, in-depth look at how to create-your-own custom routines, over 40 done-for-you routines, plus strategies on how to overcome your Inner Routine Rebel, check out The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment.