At 4:01am EST my alarm goes off. It’s one of those annoying electronic alarm clocks that has an obnoxious buzzer that unfailingly rips you straight out of the dream land you were in just mere seconds ago. It’s as plain as can be, with red electronic numbers and only a couple of settings.
Every single morning I get up, tell my alarm clock to fuck off, and slowly unwrap myself from my cocoon of blankets. The room is black as ink, and always 67 degrees. I slowly pull myself out of bed and start to get moving. I’m always met with the creaking and groaning of my hardwood floors. Floors that talk back to you as only 50-year-old hardwood can.
I feel my way into the kitchen and pound a 32oz Nalgene water bottle and take my dogs outside so they can check and see what new smells might’ve shown up overnight.
Once they’ve sniffed everything a dozen times over, we head back inside, where I lazily pour eight ounces of fat-free milk into a shaker, dig through a tub of protein and rustle up two scoops of chocolate protein, and then mix it up with a half-hearted shake. Because at that hour mixing up your protein powder with vigorous enthusiasm isn’t possible.
Once I’ve downed my protein, which takes about four and a half gulps, I start boiling water for coffee. Then I toast a bagel and pull out some grape jelly and slather on a heaping tablespoon.
Once I’ve eaten my bagel and the water has come to a boil I sit down on my couch, prop my feet up on my wooden coffee table that’s seen its fair share of abuse, and read for 30-45 minutes while I drink an entire French Press full of black gold.
This is my morning routine every single day. The only thing that changes is that I get up a little later on the weekends. It doesn’t matter if I’m fighting a hangover; feeling like I drank a vial of Felix Felicis, or it’s just a normal day.
I know exactly how my morning is going to start, and that routine is invaluable to me. Those routines are magic. They’re the secret ingredient that goes into the stew that is my day. Without them, the entire flavor of the day is off.
Does this mean my mornings are redundant? Of course. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. In fact, redundancy is the puzzle piece to training, dieting, and crushing life that you’ve been missing.
The definition of redundancy, according to Merriam-Webster: the act of using a word, phrase, etc., that repeats something else and is, therefore, unnecessary.
Which means, in this case, a few synonyms for redundancy in our day to day life could be words like automation, ritualization, or habit. And while in this case useful, it’s not the only definition of redundancy we’re concerned with.
You see, according to Merriam-Webster there’s another definition: a part in a machine, system, etc., that has the same function as another part and that exists so that the entire machine, system, etc., will not fail if the main part fails.
The word redundant has taken on a slightly negative connotation in our modern interpretation. We use it describe dullards who unnecessarily repeat themselves over and over, offering nothing of value to the workplace or the world.
Unfortunately, this is a gross misrepresentation of redundancy.
In the tech world, for example, there are redundancies in the form of generators that are put in place to ensure that if a sudden loss of power occurs things don’t go completely haywire.
The same goes for the military or any security agency for that matter. There are a number of redundant processes in place to ensure that if a level of security is breached, a backup exists to prevent total catastrophe.
One of the biggest challenges in helping people drop fat, build muscle, get stronger, or any variation of the three is helping them understand just how important repetition is.
I’ve got a client that’s in the middle of a serious fat loss journey. We’re looking at dropping somewhere in the neighborhood of 30lbs of body fat. That’s no small task, and as such it’s going to take a lot of work, and a lot of redundancy.
Dropping fat isn’t easy, especially if you’ve got a long way to go. Your entire world is conspiring against you thanks to years of ingrained habits and routines that are built in roadblocks preventing you from traveling down the road you’ve chosen to take.
One of the easiest ways to stay the course, and in turn to get results, is to build redundancy into your life by eating the same exact meals at the exact same time, day in and day out.
Is that sexy? Not really. Does it get results? Absolutely.
And this goes for anything in life. No matter what it is you’re looking to accomplish, building redundancy into your life is one of the surest ways to increase your rate of success at a given task.
Here’s the kicker: we already know that, so why can’t we do it?
Depending on the source, the average person in the United States is going to spend anywhere between 4.5 to 9 hours today checking social media on their phone. It’s probably exactly how you found this article.
All of those quick hits of social media provide thousands upon thousands of new and exciting shots of social tequila straight to the dome, in turn leading to people feeling drunk on the novelty they’ve encountered on their screen.
So when it comes time to going through the boring and dull routine of daily life, it just doesn’t hold up. It doesn’t compare to the feeling of being drunk on the newness that social media shots provide, which in turn sabotages our every hope of getting better by embracing redundancy.
Exactly how does it sabotage us, you ask?
Those quick shots of social media, short video clips, and bite-sized chunks of information impair our ability to get into deep work. They propagate the idea that we can multitask, moving from status update to comment to video all the while retaining everything we see. Which unfortunately just isn’t the case.
And whether we’re aware of it or not, this carries over into other aspects of our life. Eating our same meals over and over becomes boring because they pale in comparison to the videos that Tasty is filling your Facebook feed with.
Or you might have a lifting program that you’re following, but then you log onto Instagram and see some Instagram famous model showing off her new workout, and you love her body, so you think the right move is to ditch the program you’re following and give that a try. Even though you’ve only been on your program for two weeks.
Now, this is not to say that social media itself is bad, or the bane of our existence. It’s just a mere example in this instance. There are a number of other things that could take its place.
What it is to say is that there is value in understanding where things harm our ability to embrace redundancy and routine, and in turn make actual progress, because we’re constantly searching out something new, whether we realize it or not.
This is especially prevalent in the fitness world where we’re constantly bombarded with new diets to try, new programs to follow, and new equipment to use. Thanks to our constant searching for something new and exciting we’re robbing ourselves of the magic of redundancy, and in turn preventing ourselves from building the skills necessary to make true change.
A pretty smart coach and early mentor of mine named Dick Talens rocked my world view by introducing the concept that everything in life is a skill. It was one of those things that seemed embarrassingly obvious, but only after he said it. By this line of reasoning dieting, lifting, cooking, talking to women, writing and anything else you can think of are skills.
All of these aspects of life are areas where you can see improvement because they’re skills, and the only way you can build your proficiency at a given skill is by practicing it over and over. Or put another way, submitting yourself to redundant behavior in the name of success.
Finding solace in redundancy.
At first glance redundancy is boring. Doing the same thing day in and day out without any major changes seems like it could get old fast. But this is a surface level view.
Allowing yourself to embrace redundancy frees up time and mental energy that you can devote to bigger things. One of the most famous examples of this in action is Steve Jobs famously wearing the same uniform of a black turtleneck, blue jeans, and New Balances.
Steve Jobs was onto something with this, and he wasn’t the only high achiever who saw the magic in removing the question of what to wear from his day to day life. From Mark Zuckerberg to Michael Lewis, even President Obama has openly stated he wears the same thing every day.
“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits, I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
Regardless of your politics, Obama and others are spot on here thanks to something known as decision fatigue, a phenomenon in psychology that refers to the fact that the quality of our decisions deteriorates with the more decisions we’re forced to make.
And while picking out what you’re going to wear that day may not seem as agonizing as negotiating with foreign powers, there’s no doubt that we’ve found ourselves wasting far too much time deciding what we’re going to wear.
By wearing the same clothes day in and day out, these people, who are at the top of their game, remove one decision, which in turn frees up mental energy to devote to bigger tasks.
Successful dieters do the exact same thing with their food choices.
If you know exactly what you’re going to be eating for breakfast and lunch every single day, all of the sudden adhering to a fat loss diet becomes far easier. You can count on those two meals no matter what. Temptation becomes easier to handle because you know you’ve got those two meals to count on.
Maybe you’re trying to get stronger. A process that couldn’t possibly get more basic, since the only goal is to continually use heavier weights than you did last time. But if you’re constantly jumping from program to program, you limit your ability to gauge progress, because without repeating those same workouts how can you know if you’re actually getting better at them?
However, if you adhere to one basic program for a given period of time, you can eliminate the thinking from the process. You get in, you lift the weight, and try to add more weight to the bar next time. All of the thinking is removed, and in turn, you wind up with the results you wanted in the first place.
And what we don’t understand until we’re experiencing it is just how valuable that extra mental energy is thanks to the redundant processes we’ve put in place. If you’re not forced to think about what you’re going to have for lunch, or what lifts you’re going to try and do in the gym then you suddenly have more time and energy to devote to other things that you may truly enjoy and move your life forward.
Redundancy is happiness.
I’m not here to offer the secret to living a happy life because I don’t have it. But after spending quite a bit of time in the fitness world, and seeing a number of people change their lives through fitness, I have noticed that one of the most consistent things that happens is people find happiness in redundancy.
Being able to rely on the same meal, the same program, the same daily routine provides a deeper level of happiness and satisfaction that the cult of novelty can’t provide.
Sure, trying something new every single day is fun, but it’s a surface-level fun. It’s a quick shot, and then over. Practicing routines and implementing them into your daily life allows you to achieve something deeper. You exhibit control over your life, and start experiencing success.
That feeling of success and control provides millions of people with happiness, and they got to that point thanks to redundancy.
Finding your own redundancy.
So, you’re sold on the boring routine, eh? Can’t say I blame you. I put the hard sell on for the past 1,900 words or so. But I will warn you, finding your own productive redundancy isn’t easy, but it’s entirely doable.
And here’s the good news: you’re already familiar with it. There are a number of routines you enjoy every single morning, whether you think about it or not. How you get out of bed, how you start your day, how you brush your teeth, and how you get to work are just a few examples.
The hard part is just finding the routines that align with your goals.
- If you want to drop fat then it’s going to be valuable to find meals you can consistently eat day in and day out that support your goals. You may need to experiment a bit, but once you find some tried and true go to options, stick with them.
- Want to get jacked? Then you need to find a program that is going to do that, and you need to show up every single training session and put in the work. And most importantly, you need to stick with that program long enough for it to work. Moving to a new program every 2 weeks isn’t doing you any favors.
I’m not saying that I won’t give up my routine to wake up and go get brunch with someone on the weekends, or when I’m traveling and staying with friends. I’m also not saying you won’t crave that spontaneity from time to time. You will, and that’s okay.
I fully welcome that sort of change of pace, and you should to from time to time. But I always find myself craving my morning routine, because it helps me garner a sense of control over my day, and in turn brings me happiness.