Life in the 21st Century is fast-paced and often unrelenting. We’re always connected via our devices, and that is a blessing and a challenge. With an ocean of information available to us at the push of a button, we can catch up on what’s happening halfway across the world over our breakfast cereal or morning commute. It can get a bit overwhelming, and so one of the skills that help us manage our lives is the ability to schedule and plan carefully how we use our time. Having a daily routine allows you to give time to the things that matter to you, making you more effective at reaching your goals.
Do you need a routine though? Whether you’re conscious of it or not, you have a daily routine already. Human beings are creatures of habit – we tend to settle into a way of doing things and that just becomes our life. So, the question is not whether a given person needs a routine or if they even have a routine; the real questions are if you know what your routine is, whether it allows you to do what you need to do, and if it is working for or against you.
Take a moment and think about what you do each day when you wake up or before you sleep – it’s likely that you’ll find patterns of behavior that point out what your existing routine is.
Won’t having a daily routine get boring? For some people, the thought of having a daily routine sounds constricting and repetitive. But if you already have a routine, that isn’t the issue. If you have an unconscious routine, you may balk at the idea of having a routine you’re aware of and should try to stick to.
It may seem more attractive to do certain things when the desire overtakes us, but that can make for spotty results. We typically know what we need to do and when, we simply may not feel up to it, and admitting that can be challenging. Maybe we initiate change but do not sustain the desired outcome. If you create a routine with certain objectives in mind, it may seem repetitive, but it creates accountability and helps you to accomplish your goals.
Creating your daily routine
To create your daily routine, it helps to know yourself and what you want to achieve. Our unconscious routines get things done, but the idea behind intentionally creating a healthy routine is to make the most of your time and improve your overall wellbeing. For instance, part of your bedtime routine might include streaming a show and jumping into bed.
You may not even remember when this became a thing you do, but if you think about it, it happens every night. But did you know that stimulating your brain just before you go to bed doesn’t make for the best sleep? Less than ideal sleep affects your body and your mind, your ability to concentrate, recall, think creatively, decode emotional cues, and whether you eat healthily.
If you intentionally shift your routine and shut down your devices an hour before bed, and do some stretching exercises instead, that will go a long way to helping you relax and get good sleep, with a positive outcome on other areas of your life. I like to refer to this as focusing on what is a small, specific, attainable task that demonstrates your ability. As you go about creating your routine:
Know yourself, and what your goals are. Take a moment or two to map out what your days typically look like. Perhaps you can journal for a week to pick up any patterns in how you do things.
When you have your existing routine in front of you, that gives you a suitable place to start reshaping things. When you know yourself, your proclivities, and your goals, you can begin setting out what you want to accomplish and figure out how to create a routine that is designed to help you along.
The person for whom you are creating a routine is you; you know what time constraints, financial concerns, health, and other realities you must confront, and therefore what a workable routine looks like. Enlisting the help of someone who knows you can also go a long way toward helping you create an effective routine. Is your goal better sleep, more productivity, more time spent with loved ones, or getting healthier?
When you know what areas in your life you want to address, you can shape your routine to accommodate them. Self-knowledge matters a lot in this process. If you know that you’ll find it hard to wake up at 5 am for a run, but it’ll work better at 6 am, then do what will work.
If you know you can’t wake up early to make a healthy lunch, then doing it the night before might be a better option for you. If you can’t concentrate long enough in the morning or at night to read your Bible and pray, then setting time aside during the day is more helpful. A routine is only useful if you follow it.
Use some tools. Creating and sticking to a routine can be helped by using the many tools readily available to you, including your calendar, phone, or smartwatch to keep you on task. If you need to wake up at a certain time, setting an alarm is a few quick steps awake.
If you need to take your walk at a certain time of day to stay healthy, you can set a reminder on your phone, or a smartwatch can periodically remind you of your goals. By delegating the job of remembering what you need to do and when, you can just focus on what’s in front of you. These and other tools can keep you focused and sticking to your routine.
Set healthy boundaries. When you create a routine, be aware that it can be interrupted by other people. We can’t control every facet of our lives, especially the part played by other people. If you’ve set a great routine that works well for you, you may need to set healthy boundaries to maintain that routine. In various situations you’ll have to decide for yourself when to break out of your routine for the sake of others.
People are important, no doubt, and sometimes telling them “No” while you’re meditating, for example, might be the best thing for your and their sake. In other cases, the boundaries you set may be difficult to maintain. If you’re the parent of young children, switching up your routine especially around bedtime and when you wake up could be a hard sell for the little people. Do you know when to pivot? Do you know when your boundaries are not healthy?
Having a routine that you’ve actively thought about and put into motion will help bring order to your life, provide you with some accountability, and create space for you to meet your goals. When you’ve taken time out to reflect on and create a routine that balances your needs and goals, the best place and time to start is right here and now.
It takes a while for a practice to become a set habit that you don’t have to think too hard about. When you arrive at the place where your new and improved routine is something you follow unconsciously, that’s a wonderful thing. It does help now and again to look at your routine to see if it’s still meeting your goals and adjusting it where necessary.
When you set your new routine in motion, you’ll have to deal with getting derailed, whether because you didn’t stick to the routine, etc.? Circumstances may shift, and your routine may have to shift with it. You may need to reset or recalibrate your routine as things shift in your life, and that flexibility will help you continue meeting your goals.
If you find that one aspect or another of your routine isn’t helping as much as you thought, or you’re struggling to stick to it, switching things around for a little while until you settle in goes a long way. If you have someone who can go on the journey with you, that too can help you remain accountable.
“Morning Planner”, Courtesy of Content Pixie, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Healthy Breakfast”, Courtesy of THE 5TH, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Alarm Clock”, Courtesy of Tetiana SHYSHKINA, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Healthy Breakfast”, Courtesy of Daniel Polevoy, Unsplash.com, CC0 License