Most of us can recall the routines our parents implemented in our childhood. When we were younger, we woke up at a specific time, did our homework right after school, ate dinner at a regular hour, had playtime, took a shower and went to bed. This daily discipline offered structure and focus in our lives… So why is it so hard to continue on with such simple routines as adults?
Many adults do not have a set daily routine; rather, they wake up and “wing” their day. As a result, many people who don’t have any type of routine suffer from:
- Poor eating
- Poor physical health
- Ineffective use of time
According to a study by researchers at Tel Aviv University, predictable, repetitive routines are calming and help reduce anxiety. If you’re feeling stressed and like you’re constantly falling behind, it may be time to structure a routine that helps you stay productive and focused, feel in control and reach your full potential.
How to make routines work for you
Routines and habits are powerful, but they’re not easy to form—particularly good ones. Creating a schedule for your daily tasks and activities that you’re able to stick to will help you to form good habits and break bad ones for a more productive, happier life.
- Make a list
First, write down everything you need to get done daily, both in your home life and at work. Don’t worry about organizing the list just yet – this is just a brain dump to get everything you need to get done on paper. You can structure your “to-do” list from there.
I do one giant “brain dump” on Sunday evenings where I write out my major personal and professional goals for the week. Every night, I write my to-do list and schedule for the next day. Reading what I need to get done the next day right before bed gives me a sense that I’m already starting out the next day on the right foot.
- Structure your day
Think about when you work best, and group your tasks into the time of day that makes the most sense for when you will best complete them. Are you an early bird or a night owl? Do you get your boosts of productivity before breakfast or after dinner? Answering these questions will help you create your own routines.
If you need help getting started on breaking down your day, consider the following:
- Mornings: A good morning can set the tone for your day. Allow yourself time to be alone and wake up your mind and body. Mornings are great for journaling, exercising and accomplishing “easy” tasks, like feeding your pets and unloading the dishwasher. From there, reserve the mornings for the tasks that require the most critical thinking and troubleshooting.
- Midday: This is a tricky time of day because your energy levels have likely dissipated. However, this means you might be primed to do the “boring” tasks that don’t take a lot of brainpower. Use this time for tasks like answering emails, setting appointments and running errands. If you are based at home during the day (as so many of us now are) use this time for routine cleaning.
- Evening: Evenings work best when they’re set aside planning and preparation for the next day. Lay out your clothes, pack lunches and declutter the rooms where items tend to pile up.
- Get specific
Sometimes writing out a bulleted list of the tasks you wish to accomplish isn’t enough. While loose outlines work for some people, others need specific structures to thrive. If you prefer specificity, consider writing out your routines like so:
- 6:00 a.m.: Wake up, brush teeth
- 6:30 a.m.: Exercise
- 7:30 a.m.: Shower
- 7:45 a.m.: Make coffee and breakfast
- 8:30 a.m.: Get dressed
- 9:00 a.m.: Start the work day
And so on.
- Schedule in time for flexibility
Life is unpredictable and will inevitably derail routines here and there (if not daily). That’s why it’s important to schedule your most challenging tasks at times where your productivity is less likely to be interrupted.
Keep in mind that no person, and certainly no routine, is perfect. It’s OK to “slip up” on your routine – do your best to not stress over interruptions, and you will easily get back on track with your daily habits.
- Test out your new routine
All too often we create a routine, try it out for three days and give up. If you’re really serious about adding structure to your life, establish a routine and stick to it for a minimum of 30 days. Along the way, ask yourself: How do I feel? Did I schedule my tasks at times that make sense to me and my lifestyle? Where do I need to adjust?
Tweak your routines on a case-by-case basis, and remember that life isn’t about absolutes – it’s okay to switch things up here and there and find the routine that works best for you!