In early 2015, I wrote a short post on how I’ve been doing a plank daily after reading a book called Mini Habits. And then I never talked about it again. What happened?

Unfortunately, I only managed to do the plank daily for another month or so, before I stopped.

Fortunately, I stopped because I managed to build a habit around exercising. Since February last year, almost every single week of mine has been more or less as follows:

  • Monday: Workout
  • Tuesday: Badminton
  • Wednesday: Workout
  • Thursday: Workout
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday/Sunday: Usually one day would be rest and another would be light workout

How did this happen? How did I progress from doing a short 2 min plank daily, to exercising at least 30 minutes for at least 4 times a week? Looking back, I think the two main things were routine and convenience.

1. Routine

I joined LinkedIn towards the end of February (23 February to be exact), and one of the perks is that we have a gym within the office. Other than the gym, we also have a trainer who is there every day, and he conducts numerous 30-minute sessions daily. I signed up for a couple of lessons, and very soon, I was going at least 3 to 4 times a week. In a way, this routine replaced my daily plank, and I believe it helped me build the exercise habit.

2. Convenience

The gym is located right in the office. In addition, there are shower facilities and even clothes are provided. In other words, I can never use the excuse “I didn’t bring my gym clothes.”

Side note: I consider myself very fortunate to work in a company that understands the importance of employee health and fitness, and perhaps even more interesting and rewarding was that my then-manager not only supports it, he even joins me in some of the sessions. We also had weekly runs to boot :)!

Once the habit is in place, the routine portion takes a backseat (since the habit is already formed). Today, I still go to the office gym almost every weekday, but sometimes I’d be doing my own exercises instead of taking part in the training sessions. In a way, having a scheduled session no longer drives me to workout. If there’s no scheduled session, or if I can’t make it for the scheduled sessions, I set some time aside on my own to exercise.

Convenience is always a good thing. However, it too takes a backseat once the habit is formed. Even when I’m not in the office (on leave, holiday, weekends, etc.), I’d still find the time to head down to the neighbourhood fitness corner or just hit the track for a quick run.

This lesson has affected many other areas of my life too. Whenever I want to learn a new skill or form a new good habit (for some reason bad habits form effortlessly :P), I’d make sure to have some form of routine and convenience to it. Recently I wanted to learn to be more mindful. I’ve previously embarked on this journey before, and never really succeeded with it. This time round, I started by making sure that I had a routine to it, and also tried to make it as convenient as possible.

1. Routine

A simple rule I have is to meditate when I wake up, before I leave for the office. If I can’t make it, then I’d do it before I sleep. One of the apps, Buddhify, has specific guides for when you’re doing something, such as travelling, eating, walking in the city, etc. Sometimes I use them, especially when I’m waiting for the bus.

2. Convenience

There are a lot of apps to guide you on this. Granted, some of the apps may not be good, and there’re many folks who feel that meditation should ultimately be about yourself (and not guided). With that said, guided meditations helped me a lot more than unguided ones (probably because I’m a newbie). For the apps, I did a lot of searching and found Headspace, Calm and Buddhify to stand out the most, among others. There’re also paid and free options, and there’re many people who are against “paid meditation”, but that’s another topic for another day.

So there you have it. I felt somewhat guilty and obligated to at least write an update on it, even though I don’t exactly have a lot of readers :P. Also, I really recommend reading Mini Habits if you’re interested in forming good habits. I wrote a post about it here.

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