You may have heard the saying that pilots are creatures of habit. In part our habits are our protection. Routines we do every time we fly to ensure the safety of our flight.
Preflight, for instance, before every flight we examine the plane and ensure it is airworthy. My preflight of my chosen craft is always the same. I always review the items appropriate to the plane. If I don't consciously remember getting every single item in the preflight, I do it all again. It may annoy some people, but it's my butt on the line and I'm not willing to give it up for the sake of speed or convenience. The 10 minutes it takes is worth it. Even better, the preflight process clears my mind from the cares and distractions of the day. Walking out to the plane my mind switches to the task at hand... simply.. unconsciously... it happens and I am fully present, just me and the plane.
Cross country flight planning... its not just your route of flight, its building a complete picture of the route. Altitudes, air spaces, alternates, aircraft performance, weight and balance, fuel and winds. Winds, weather, clouds, hazardous conditions. Will the runway be open when you get there? Will there be fuel? Checking weather data online days in advance sometimes, calling for a weather briefing before the flight. I have a little ritual for that process that I follow every time. Sometimes its expanded for longer or more unfamiliar routes, unusual passenger loading, etc, but there is a bare minimum I do every time.
I've got a new ritual now that I'm learning flying under Instrument Flight Rules. Every two weeks I get the paper updates to the Jeppesen Airway Manual for California. I go through the updated plates, one and a time, and review the chart information. It gives me a chance to get somewhat familiar with new airports and their approaches. Then I swap out the old charts as needed, insert the new and in the process I learn a bit more. I look forward to the new charts every two weeks and this little ritual. Some day the information I'm absorbing will be very useful to me. And in the mean time I'm learning.
One of my favorite things about being a pilot... a good pilot is always learning. It seems like every flight I learn or experience something new. And every day I try to absorb another piece of knowledge that will keep me flying for years to come.