You don’t need to wait for some auspicious date in the calendar to start living your best life with a tailor-made routine!
Thanks to this new world we are living in, there are more of us working from home than ever before. While we might still have to ‘clock on’ and put in regular hours – albeit in our comfiest loungewear – the sudden liberation from commuting, the school run and the other fixed-points of our lives, has left us feeling a bit…untethered.
Tips for creating a productive routine:
- Identify any fixed points during your day
- Write down your plan for each day
- Account for your working style and energy cycles
- Maintain a regular sleeping pattern
- Give yourself time to get used to your new routine
While a bit of freedom is undoubtedly good for the soul, a routine can actually help you to enjoy your freedom more. Or as Monica Geller once announced to her unruly Friends during a round of Mad-Libs, “Rules help control the fun!”
Identify your fixed points
Start off by establishing those fixed points during your day. If you still need to leave the house to work, that’s usually at a regular time. If you’re working from home, then when do you need to be at your desk?
Once you have those fixed points established, decide how detailed and strict your routine needs to be. We all thrive with different regimens. If you want to set a timer for your morning shower and allow 15 minutes exactly for breakfast, then pencil it in. On that point: what tool are you using to plan your routine? A spreadsheet? A week-to-view diary? Maybe you’re relying on a mental roadmap of the day ahead.
If you’re not one of life’s natural planners and the whole idea of a routine is alien, then writing stuff down can help. A wipe-clean, at-a-glance white board is ideal, when you’re starting out with a routine.
And ask yourself why you want – or need – a routine. Is it because you need to get more work done? Maybe you’re a natural procrastinator who needs to set micro-goals throughout the day in order to keep the forward momentum. Are you trying to achieve more – taking regular exercise for example?
Your unique ebb and flow of energy
Be conscious of your own energy flow and be mindful of any recurrent peaks and troughs. If you’re prone to a 3pm slump, then be ready for it. Meet your slump head on and schedule in 20 minutes online yoga at the time that your eyelids start to feel heavy. Or have an energy boosting, healthy snack prepared to enjoy while you do something that doesn’t require too much focus, like replying to emails or text messages.
Often, routines tend to focus on the morning. But what if you want to organise the opposite end of the day a little better? An evening routine can be as productive as a morning one, especially if you experience a natural burst of energy as the night approaches.
Build in some time for pursuing hobbies, mindfulness or meditation. Prep tomorrow’s lunch during a quiet evening. Visualise the next day: many people find a sense of preparedness calming.
A good sleep routine is paramount. The importance of getting enough sleep can’t be overstated. Nurture your inner child: give yourself a bedtime and stick to it. Leave screens and phones outside the bedroom and pick up a good book instead.
Do what you can to create a peaceful, harmonious place to sleep. A well-made, freshly laundered bed, curtains that minimise any outside light, and a quiet, calm environment are all conducive to a good night’s sleep.
The maintenance phase
So once you’ve got yourself a decent routine that works for you, how do you maintain it? Research suggests that it takes at least 21 days to form a new habit. If you feel that trying to keep going with your new daily routine is an uphill battle, give it more time.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy
After 21 days, check in with yourself. Do you want to tweak anything? Do you need more flexibility at some points during the day? Think about the positives that you might be gaining from having a routine:
- You have more time. Planning your time efficiently means that you have more of it. Knowing that you have a finite window in which to tackle a job helps you to focus, complete it and move onto the next thing.
- You save money. Being more organised about tasks such as food planning and laundry and so on, means that you have a decent chance of minimising unnecessary spending.
- You feel well-rested. A good sleep routine is a solid foundation for everything that you want to achieve the following day.
- You feel in control. Not something to be underestimated. The world is an uncertain place at the moment. Exercising as much autonomy and self-defined structure to your day can boost esteem and make you feel calmer and more capable of meeting your challenges.
- See a good routine as self-care. Some people rail against ‘routine’ as they perceive it as the enemy of freedom and creativity. It can be a leap to realise that it’s the opposite. You’re following your rules, not conforming to someone else’s. Ring-fencing time to enrich and develop your mental, emotional and physical self is an amazing way of optimising how you live.
Have a great day, every day
You don’t need to wait for some auspicious date in the calendar to start living your best life with a tailor-made routine. Grab a pen and notebook, and start shaping your days to get the most out of every single one!