Sometimes life has a way of derailing our daily routines. When you’re ready to get back to it, try these proven tips on how to get into a routine.
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- How to Start a New Routine
- What Is the Perfect Daily Routine?
How to Start a New Routine
Routines are one of life’s best hacks: They help us build habits and achieve our goals one day at a time. So as long as we’re starting over (or new), we might as well create a routine you can stick to. That means knowing why you want to create a routine.
Step 1: Establish Priorities
If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t get into a routine, it might be because it was built around someone else’s routine, or based on what media tells us we should value. A solid daily routine starts with your values and priorities.
So take some time to answer a few questions:
What are my goals?
How do I want to spend my time?
What is most important to me?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you determine your why. It’s the why that keeps us motivated even when we don’t feel like making the bed, exercising, or getting dressed.
Keep in mind, priorties shift based on the seasons and our stage of life, so if there’s been a change in your life since you first created your daily routines, it’s a good idea to reevaluate your goals.
Step 2: Evaluate How You’re Currently Spending Your Time
So often, how we’re spending our time doesn’t align with what matters most to us. To remedy that, filter any activities, appointments, and commitments that fill your day through these questions:
- Does it align with the vision I have for my everyday life?
- Do I have any non negotiables to add to my routine? Non negotiables are the things that your soul needs in order to thrive. Your quality of life depends on it.
If you answered no to either question you have a couple of options:
- Remove the agenda item from your routine – it can be incredibly hard to let go of the familiar, even if it isn’t serving you. Keeping your life vision and goals in mind will help you do the hard thing.
- Dig a little deeper to identify obstacles – Maybe the time of day doesn’t fit with your personality. Perhaps you’d enjoy a different form of exercise. It’s possible learning to accommodate the way your brain works would help. (I’m learning to do that with ADHD.) Or you may need to backtrack to the habit that is causing you to stumble.
- For example, two of my non negotiables are outdoor time and movement or exercise. But, they weren’t happening. (Unfortunately, doing yoga in my mind doesn’t count. And looking out my windshield as I run errands isn’t considered an outdoor activity.) So I asked myself why I wasn’t getting outside or fitting in exercise.
- The answer is my sleep routine. I have a bad habit of staying up til the wee hours of the morning and sleeping late. So, before I can even consider exercising or spending time outdoors I need the time and energy for it.
- Once you know your reason, you can do something about it.
Step 3: Track Your Habits as You’re Starting a Routine
Routines support habit building. So when you’re getting started with a new routine, it’s a good ideas to track your habits. Tracking your habits just means making a note of how you did each day. You can do this the old fashioned way with pen and paper, or use a habit tracking app.
In my case, I picked a realistic bedtime and drew a habit tracking chart in my bullet journal. Every night before bed, I’d fill out the tracker with a check or an x. Now, it can be really tempting to give up when you mess up. But don’t. Use this opportunity to learn why you got off track.
Many times that happens when we try to make too many changes at once. The key to creating a daily routine you can stick to is to start slowly and build or change one habit at a time.
Steps 4&5: 2 Tips for Planning Your Day
Research shows multitasking reduces productivity and negatively affects your brain. It’s probably why you feel so busy. Fortunately, There are two time management strategies that are a much more productive way to organize your schedule.
Time blocking is blocking off sections of your calendar to accomplish certain tasks. This method reduces decision fatigue and helps keep you focused.
It’s important to fill these blocks with your priorities. I divide my day into four blocks:
- Morning routine
- Work and movement
- Household chores and dinner
- Bedtime routine
My morning and evening routines are pretty standard. Within the work and household blocks, I refer to my daily chore routine and keep a running list of work to-dos, focusing on one main goal at a time.
Time batching is grouping like tasks together and doing them in one sitting. For example, I organize daily tasks into themes.
- Mondays are for planning. I plan my week, our menu, write my shopping and grocery lists, and schedule appointments.
- Tuesdays are for shopping, errands and appointments. That way I’m only running around town once a week instead of all week long. If you have kids, you might have to leave the house more than once a week. But, you can use that time to run errands nearby, meet with a friend, or exercise.
- On Wednesdays I write blog posts.
And so on. You might batch all your meal prep for one morning or afternoon a week. Or pick one day to clean, and another to do administrative work. Make batching work for you.
Step 6: How to Structure Your Day
Now that you have determined your goals and what habits you need to build or change, you can create a daily routine. As you look at each day on the calendar, plug in appointments, meetings, after school activities, and family activities.
Then, schedule your time blocks and time batching tasks around those appointments.
Step 7: How to Create a Daily Routine
With extracurricular activities, sports, and other commitments, it’s likely no two days will look exactly alike. However, you can try to follow a predictable order to your day. Order has a way of making us feel swaddled in a warm blanket. That’s worth the price of admission!
A Sample Routine
- Morning Routine – wake, dress, breakfast. Be sure to allow time for yourself in this window. Even if it’s taking a few minutes when you wake up to breath a few deep breaths. It’s alsp okay to resume your personal morning routine after the kids are at school. Not even Wonder Woman can fit in all the traditional morning routine things before then.
- Work/School – Everyone goes there separate ways for the day.
- After School/Work – Let’s be honest. No one enjoys this time of day. But there are ways to calm the chaos. First, just by realizing everyone needs to decompress after a long day at work or school. That may look different for everyone. An after-school routine can provide set you and your family up for success as you each settle in.
- Set up the pantry so that everyone can easily get their own after school snack.
- Allow for down time or playing before doing homework.
- Establish a drop zone for backpacks, coats and shoes.
- Set up a self sufficient homework/study area.
- Ask for outside help if you need to. In my neighborhood Facebook group, several moms have offered to hire teenagers or college kids for after school help. If you have a teenager, let them drive younger kids to after school activities.
- Set realistic expectations of yourself and what you have the capacity for during this transition time. So often this becomes the bewitching hour because our attention is split between what we didn’t get finished, whether that’s work, chores, or tending to our own needs, and our kids. This is a good reason to start your day with the most important things, and to make sure your non negotiables are accomplished before duty calls. That’s definitely something I’d do differently if I had to do it all over again.
- Dinner & Evening Routine – Of course, menu planning simplifies dinner time. You can also let kids help with dinner. They can set out ingredients, unload and load the dishwasher, or set the table. After dinner, have everyone spend about fifteen minutes tidying up from the day. The clean slate will make for a more restful bedtime routine and more peaceful start to the next day.
- Bedtime routine – Start dimming lights and turning off electronics a half hour to hour before bed. After the kids are in bed, do something that helps you wind down like reading or bedtime yoga.
Expect it take at least two months to really get yourself into a routine.
Whatever your routine looks like, it will go a long way in helping you feel like you’re getting your life on track. Just remember, not everyday will go according to plan. That’s okay. You’re doing the best you can. That is enough.
What Is the Perfect Daily Routine?
It’s important to note there isn’t a perfect routine. If we hold on too tightly to an ideal day, we’re setting ourselves not only for disappointment, but for missing out on the beauty each day brings.
To use an example from my teaching days, I used to love lesson planning. I pored my soul into and got so excited about teaching the lessons. But, if you’ve spent even one day in an elementary classroom, you know anything can happen.
Kids ask off topic questions.
The weather changes outside the window.
A bug crawls into the classroom.
If I didn’t switch gears, I would have missed some of the best lessons I never planned. And sometimes I did miss out.
In college, I learned the term for a teacher who can adapt and follow the student’s interests is “go with it ness,” or something like that. Routines are a lot like that; less about rigidity and more about rhythm. You can do both; have a routine and allow for flow.
For more help getting into a routine, read: