Remember being a kid and having a predictable schedule every day. It may have been simple, but you knew that you’d wake up, eat breakfast, go to school, do homework, play with friends, eat dinner, watch a little tv maybe and start your bedtime routine. Routines are anchors when we are children. No matter what goes on during the day knowing what comes next is comforting.
As an adult even if you don’t typically thrive on a strict schedule, having a routine can be helpful. This is especially true in times of unpredictability, uncertainty, and stress. When you are powerless about what’s going on in the world implementing a structure to your day can give you a sense of control. It can also help you focus, organize, and be more productive. This is true in both your day to day job and home responsibilities. And routine can make it easier to have regular time for self-care.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of a daily schedule.
Efficiency – Are you that person who walks into a room and forgets why they went there? Us too sometimes! Having a daily routine may not eliminate that problem, but it might help. A daily routine eliminates a lot of the decision making in the day. If you know what you’ve got to complete and when you can move through your day with intention. You may still forget where you put your keys, but you’ll be able to narrow down where they are.
Structure – it’s not just for buildings! We already know that structure is good for kids. They need to know what to expect and when. The same is true for adults. If you’ve got an established schedule you can get used to the flow and feel comfortable with how our days ought to unfold.
Planning is already done – Once you establish a daily schedule the bulk of your planning is done. You can start your day without wondering what’s on your plate? You know what you’ve got to accomplish and what time you’ve got set aside for it. You also know that you’ve got time built in for the things you want to do. Maybe that lunchtime yoga class or a coffee break with a friend will be easier to fit in and look forward to if the rest of your day is planned well.
Time Savings — We all have the same number of minutes in the day, but how we use them differs greatly. Having a routine will free up the time you normally spend planning, decision making, and preparing daily.
Create some healthy habits — Malcolm Gladwell famously says in his book The Tipping Point,
“…researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.”
This is true in mastering a skill, forming a habit, or creating a routine. At about 10,000 hours it becomes a natural part of how you work. Start now! The habits formed by a routine that includes efficient work and time for self-care will help your overall wellbeing. And maybe you’ll break a few of those bad habits you’ve been making resolutions about for years too! So long procrastination, hello healthy meal planning.
Prioritization — The beauty of designing a set routine is that it forces us to prioritize and decide what is important to us. Rather than make these decisions daily, we already know what we need to do and in what order because we have carefully planned it. If you know that getting your work done for the day efficiently allows you time for your personal priorities, you’ll be more likely to stick to your schedule for both work and play. If the reward for completing your to-do list is a guilt-free evening with friends that time spent scheduling is well worth it.
Sleep — One of the things that having a regular routine can really help with, is sleep. Studies show that getting enough sleep is vital for our mental and physical health. Going to bed and waking up at a similar time most days allows our body to get used to our sleep-wake cycle and sets our sleep-wake clock accordingly. This means that by having a regular sleep routine, especially if we build in some time to wind down before we go to bed each day, we should begin to find that we find it easier to get to sleep and sleep better once we are asleep.
Diet – We all have those days when at 6:30 we’re really hungry for dinner, but have no idea what we can pull together for a meal. In times of stress, it’s even harder to plan, cook, and eat a balanced diet. At the same time, we know that nutrition plays a big role in our physical health and mental well-being. Balance is the key. If you’ve got a good schedule in place, chances are you’ll be able to block out some time to cook, eat and clean up regularly. We know that having the time built-in doesn’t mean we’ll always do it – don’t delete the food delivery app from your phone just yet. Having the time built-in does mean that when you do have the time and energy to cook, you’ll be able to.
Exercise – No, you don’t have to train for a marathon! But, some form of regularly scheduled exercise, besides helping to maintain good physical health, also works as an effective regimen to boost mood during times of stress. It could be as simple as taking a walk around the block or doing some yoga in your living room. There’s a smartphone app for just about everything. Starting and maintaining a physically active schedule is easier than ever and with gamification apps, it’s even a little bit more fun. Find a buddy to work out with virtually or in-person to make it even more motivating and fun. Get moving for 30 minutes as part of your new schedule.
Schedules are going to look different for each of us.
Some people do best blocking out specific times of day for specific tasks. Others will do best with a daily or weekly to-do list, and still, others will find their own unique way of creating a routine. You may use an electronic calendar and phone reminders, or you may use a paper calendar and a bullet journal. Whatever method works best for you is the right one! It may take trying out a few different methods before you figure out what you’re scheduling sweet spot is.
With time, you can develop your own habits, learn some new skills, and maybe even phase out some bad habits. In the end, you may learn a few new things about yourself and what you’re capable of.
Give it a try. Spend a morning creating a schedule for the next week and then stick to it. See what happens. You might find it’s the motivation you’ve been looking for to take your career and personal goals to the next level.