The online world seems to be abuzz these days with talk of routines. Morning routines, evening routines, self-care routines, cleaning routines, just to name a few.
How do you feel about routines? Do you love them? Hate them? Wish you could stick to one?
Many people find routines essential. They find comfort and peace in following a routine. Others rail against them – they associate routines with being boring or restrictive. Or they feel that routines stifle spontaneity.
What exactly is a routine?
The Oxford English dictionary defines routine as “a sequence of actions regularly followed”
I see routines as being:
a series of actions or tasks, completed regularly, that will make your life better
Do you resist creating routines?
I completely understand how, at first glance, following a routine might seem to be boring or stifling (after all, another word for routine is mundane…).
But believe me, it doesn’t have to be that way. Routines don’t have to be rigid, and they don’t need to squash spontaneity. They don’t mean you’re not a fun or creative person. Routines free you up to be the person you want to be.
Routines will set you free rather than tie you down. Here’s why.
Routines help you to live intentionally
Routines allow you to be intentional with your time, rather than reactive. This means that YOU get to decide how to spend your time.
When you are intentional with your time you prioritize the important things in your life. Routines ensure that these important things, including those things that make you feel good and contribute to your well-being (such as self-care), get done.
Routines help you keep on top of tasks – and be spontaneous!
A routine is essentially a way of organizing your time – and the more organized you are, the more spontaneous you can be. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s true.
When you feel on top of things, when you are not constantly playing catch-up, when you know that the things that need to be done are done, you can set yourself free to do other things (without feeling guilty).
So you can respond to those last minute invitations for coffee or dinner. Or decide to go hiking or head to the beach for the afternoon. You can be spontaneous without that nagging feeling of “Isn’t there something else I should be doing…”
Routines help you stay focused
Routines create structure and boundaries in your day, and this will help you stay focused.
A routine will help you get started when you don’t really feel like it, and it will help you to build the momentum to keep going.
Having a routine helps combat decision fatigue. You free your brain from thinking “what do I have to do now?” and “what should I do next?” You don’t have to negotiate with yourself or make decisions about what’s next. When you have a routine you know exactly what to do.
So you don’t need to battle with yourself about doing it now or doing it later, or try and find motivation. If it’s important, it gets done. Full stop.
Routines help your life feel calmer
With routines, your days feel smoother and more productive.
When you know exactly what you are going to dedicate your time to, the important things get done.
When you have a routine you are more efficient with your time. Routines prevent you from getting distracted by non-essential things, so you won’t be jumping around from one thing to the next – the things that eat up your time and leave you rushing to complete the task you forgot to do.
And when you feel calmer, everything else seems so much more manageable.
Routines won’t make your life perfect or ensure that nothing unexpected ever happens. But they will help you free up mental space to deal with those unexpected things when they do crop up. Because they inevitably will – that’s life!
How to Create a Routine that works for you
It can be fascinating to read all about the daily routines of the rich and famous, and it can be very tempting to try and adopt the exact routines that have led to success for other people.
However, there is no one, perfect routine. Everyone is different, and everyone needs different routines to work for them.
1. Know yourself
To create a successful routine it’s important to know yourself and your preferences. Are you an early bird or a night-owl? When are you most energic? When are you most productive?
We all have times of the day when our energy is at it’s highest – so design your routines to take advantage of that.
For example, if you are a night-owl and you want to create a morning routine, don’t try to go against your natural tendency. Minimize the activities in the morning that are demanding or require a lot of brain-power. Reduce decision fatigue by making your decisions the night before when you have your highest energy. Have everything ready for the morning. Clothes out, lunches made, bag packed etc. Do anything you can do in the evening to allow you to get as much sleep as possible in the morning and as little decision-making as possible.
2. Know what you want to achieve
What are your goals and priorities? What needs to be done?
Write a list of all the activities you want to do, or the tasks you want to complete. Think about the time it takes to do them. Can you chunk some tasks together?
Group your tasks into the time of day when you have the most energy to deal with them (morning, afternoon or evening).
3. Allow some flexibility
Routines don’t always have to be timed, so don’t feel the need to schedule every last minute. If you do like to time them, build in a buffer for flexibility.
Remember, routines are a sequence of activities. Some days you might spend longer doing some things, and other days they take less time.
Having trouble sticking to a routine?
Don’t beat yourself up about it.
While you shouldn’t force yourself to go against your tendencies, be open to trying new things. Reflect on why it might not be working for you. Try tweaking or arranging the order of tasks or activities.
It can take a bit of trial and error. Don’t throw in the towel too soon!
It may be that you need to create different routines for different days of the week, or different routines for different places. For example, if you travel for work, you can create a routine for being away from home.
There will be days when something happens to derail your routine. Cars break down, children get sick. If something unexpected happens don’t throw your whole routine out. Yes, some things might not get done. But others will.
Remember, a routine is a series of actions, not just one action. Keep following the sequence, but if things have to change it’s not a disaster. If things are missed or skipped, they can be picked up again tomorrow.
So, to recap…
Creating routines will improve your life!
As well as helping you live intentionally and get important things done, routines will also free up both mental energy and time – allowing you to be more creative, and more spontaneous.
The key is to create routines that work for you!