My birthday is coming up, and it’s also the end of the year. This is when I start reflecting on what I’ve done over the last year and note any progress I’ve made. Mostly, I just think about how much more I would like to grow and improve in the year to come.

Like most of us, I used to go on a New Year’s resolution odyssey, mapping out goals, changes and routines that would make the military seem like a cakewalk. In hindsight, this was totally unrealistic. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with layering good habits and building on solid routines. No more aggressively mapping out a timetable or creating daunting due dates. That has never worked for me. Instead, I’ve noted a few things that I know would vastly improve each day if I did them without fail. Right now, I’ve been working on waking up at 5:00 and immediately walking on the treadmill just to get some energy flowing. When I do this, the quality of my day is immediately boosted. My morning with my kids goes more smoothly, I have more energy, and I end up being more productive all day long. Admittedly I’ve gotten out of bed at 5:30 here, not hit the treadmill until 8:30 there, but I’ve committed to doing it no matter what. I’ve also added meditating and writing every single day. My progress is spotty, but I won’t add more until I’ve shown real consistency and these things have become automatic.

Layering in good habits and tweaks to your routine can help you build toward a more sustainable day to day that serves you instead of living day to day flying by the seat of your pants. A more relaxed approach allows you to do so without the usual guilt and tendency to quit that untended resolutions seem to inspire. Just get going, keep going, and start again if you slip.