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The Importance of Routines

Your name and a short bio / info about you

I’m Mike Schmitz, a full-time creator with a YouTube channel, multiple podcasts (Bookworm & Focused), and a frequent contributor here at The Sweet Setup. My main project currently is Obsidian University where I help make more of their notes and ideas in Obsidian, and I live in Wisconsin with my wife and have 5 crazy kids.

Yeah, I’ve got a lot going on. And habits are key to making it all work.

Do you use a habit tracking app or have a way of tracking your habits? If so, what?

I do! And as you may have guessed, it involved Obsidian.

For many years, I used an iOS app to track my habits. When doing research and testing for our pick on the best iOS habit tracking app, I discovered Streaks and never really looked back for several years.

But as I used Obsidian more, I built slowly habit tracking into my daily notes. Currently I have a few habits I’m trying to establish as check boxes inside of a callout on my Daily Note like so:

When I check the boxes, it marks those tasks as complete for the day. And I also use a Canvas in Obsidian to track the streaks for these habits over the last 90 days:

Notice I don’t track ALL of my habits here. There are several habits that are firmly engrained in my morning and evening routines that I no longer need to track. For example, I no longer need to track whether I read my Bible in the morning – I do it every single day. These habits on my Daily Notes are the ones I’m still working on.

What are some of your specific habits and routines?

I’ve found great success by combing my habits into morning and evening routines. Most of my habits that have stuck over the years do so because they are an integral part of one of these routines.

My morning routine start immediately after I get up between 6:30-7:00 am. The first thing I do when I get up is read my Bible. I do this on my phone because I have a shared reading plan with some guys at my church, but it’s taken years but build up the discipline required to read my Bible this way without first opening social media or email. I wouldn’t recommend reaching for your phone first thing in general. One of the things I’ve done to help condition me is curated the apps that appear on my Home Screen. Here’s what my iPhone looks like:

By forcing myself to swipe to another screen to get to anything else on my phone, I have an extra second to catch myself before I follow the twitch and just go somewhere I don’t really want to go.

The next thing I do is spend some time in prayer, which is the second app on my Home Screen. The same group of guys I do the reading plan with I also share a prayer list with in Echo. I like this app because it sends notifications when people in the group pray for you, which I always find encouraging.

After that, I do stretches that my physical therapist gave me a couple of years ago when I hurt myself while running. After that, I shower and get ready for my day, make some fancy coffee, and then head downstairs to start work.

In the evening, I plan my day for tomorrow using time blocking. This allows me to hit the ground running when I start work. Here’s an example of what a time blocked day looks like for me:

I also set out my clothes for the next day in the bathroom so I don’t have to think about it in the morning. Lastly, I’ll journal in Obsidian using my [Daily Questions](https://thesweetsetup.com/journaling-using-daily-questions-in-obsidian/).

Another important habit I’ve formed is to exercise every day. During COVID, I made sure that I got outside by either running or biking every single day and it was a huge boost to my mental state so I’ve tried to keep that up. This isn’t always possible depending on the weather here in Wisconsin, but I don’t miss it very often. I always feel better when I do get outside for some exercise, which makes it easier to stick with it.

My wife and I have also created a habit of having a weekly date night. This isn’t always easy, but it’s important so we make sure to make it work. We also have a ritual during our date night of checking in with each other, talking through the things we need to make decisions on, and finish by expressing gratitude to each for something specific the other has done. Some people think it’s kind of formal, but it really works for us.

The last habit I’ve created over the last couple of years is to learn Spanish via Duolingo. I always had trouble with Spanish in high school, but it’s always been a skill I wished I had. When I went to Costa Rica on a missions trip, I wished I had been able to speak it while we were there. So i decided to learn when I got back, and Duolingo has a streaks feature built in to help keep you motivated, and I’ve now done it for over 4 years in a row :)

What challenges do you face when it comes to maintaining your habits?

With 5 kids at home, our biggest challenge is always time. Seems like we’re always running somewhere, so anytime I try to add a habit that takes more than a couple of minutes it ends up not lasting very long. It doesn’t matter how much I want to do the thing, there’s only so much time in the day. And the longer the new habit takes, the greater the chance I just can’t squeeze it in.

Interestingly, I’ve found that once a habit is established, I usually have no trouble lengthening it. It’s the creation stage where I have trouble being consistent.

When building a new habit, what are some things you’ve done that help?

The one thing that is vital for me when building a new habit is to keep it small. If I’m trying to start a new habit, I try to keep it under 5 minutes if possible. That way I can always find time to squeeze it in, even if it’s at the end of the day when I’m planning for tomorrow and I realize, “oh yeah, I forgot to do X!”

The other thing for me is to only develop a single habit at a time. If my focus is split, game over. There’s an old saying that “if you chase two rabbits, you will lose them both.” That is 100% true for me when building habits.

Do you have any habits or routines that seem to have a disproportionately positive impact on your life?

There have been a couple.

Several years ago, I had the idea to write a book. I’ve never been a morning person, but I started getting up at 5am every morning to write for an hour before heading into the office and 8 months later I have self-published my first book. The process of writing that book also led to me getting connected with Shawn and opened the doors for everything I do online. It is not an exaggeration to say that my work life has completely changed because of that writing habit.

The example of getting a full night’s sleep is also interesting to me… I don’t consider this a habit anymore, but this is extremely important for me personally.

When I was 18, I had a seizure while standing in line at a McDonald’s. I don’t remember anything from the event, but when I came to in the hospital I was told I had epilepsy (inherited from my grandma) and I would just have to learn to live with it.

I’m fortunate in that my quality of life is not diminished. But since a lack of sleep is one of the things that can trigger a seizure, I am extremely careful to maximize the quantity (and quality) of the sleep that I get.

It is not an overstatement to say that my entire life falls apart without a good night’s rest.

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