Having a daily routine for all of your activities can set you up for good health and mental well-being. Unfortunately, there is no easy path to finding the right daily routine that works for you. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all type of program. However, if you are feeling like your current routine isn’t working for you anymore, it’s out with the old and in with the new. Let’s take a look at a few simple steps you can take to create the perfect daily routine.
Make a List of What You Want to Accomplish
The first and most important step is to determine what it is you want to accomplish each day. Start by grabbing a pen and paper (or make use of note-taking apps) and start writing down everything you want to do each day. Allow this moment to be a brain dump and not a to-do list. This is not for items like picking up the laundry or cleaning the house.
Sit down and write out everything you are currently doing each day and the things you should be getting done each day. For example, write out that you want to spend more time exercising or make time each night to watch at least one television show with your significant other.
One of the most important things to consider is that this list can cross personal and professional boundaries. Add in an item about leaving your work at your place of business and not taking it home. Try not to focus on the details. Instead, look at what you want to get done each day and allow the thoughts to flow onto the paper. Make sure you include items that cross-pollinate in your life. There should be details for family, social, household, hobbies, self-care and more.
Structure the Day
Breaking each day into different buckets might just be the best thing you can do for yourself. As you start down this path, you need to decide whether or not you want to be a morning person or a night owl. A morning person feels more effective before lunchtime. A night owl may often feel like their best work comes with bursts of energy in the evening. Which one are you? The answer to this question will help structure your day so you have the best chance of completing each task you set for yourself.
If you are a morning person, make the morning about getting up, dressed and out the door. If you are working remotely, make it about getting everything you need to be done and out of the way before you sit at your desk. This could be tasks like getting your children up and ready for school, walking the dog, unloading the dishwasher or setting up to make dinner later.
Once you have these basic tasks out of the way, think of your morning as a time to tackle any task that requires a lot of critical thinking. Get the most important tasks out of the way first so they do not hang over your head the rest of the day.
Lunchtime or midday is a little more tricky. Your morning energy is likely starting to deplete as is the caffeine rush from the morning coffee. This is a good time to take on some more monotonous tasks that allow your mind a little bit of a break. Use this as an opportunity to set aside time to answer emails, run any errands that you can or set up appointments for the coming days. If you are working from home, get up and walk away from the computer and do something around the house. Empty the dishwasher, walk the dog, put laundry away, etc. Allow your mind to separate itself from the work you have been doing for the past few hours.
The evenings are a little more prescriptive, or at least they can be. Use this time to get ready for tomorrow. Pick out your outfit or your workout clothes for the following day. Do a quick runthrough of your house, apartment or condo and quickly clean up. If you have children, use this time to read them a story, watch a TV show together, and get them in bed by 8 or 9 p.m.
It’s important to note that no two days are the same, so make sure time is set aside each evening to decompress. Reading a book is a great way to achieve some mindfulness.
Putting It All Together
Establishing a healthy daily routine is one of the best ways to keep your body and your mind functioning at a high level. With that in mind and having already set up a loose structure of your day in the paragraphs above, it’s time to think about how to put it all together. The most efficient and organized way to do this is to keep a schedule. It sounds like extra work and potentially extra stress, but if the schedule is put together in a way that makes sense for your needs, it can be a huge asset.
One critical thing is to not put time limitations on anything. Don’t make a schedule so rigid that you have 15-minute intervals between task A and task B. That’s a fast and easy way to fail. Instead, set up some loose order and allow yourself the opportunity to tweak it as each day progresses.
- Wake up at 6 a.m. to get some exercise
- Eat breakfast with friends/family
- Head to work/move to in-home office
- Thirty minutes before lunch, take time to look at afternoon schedule, catch up on email
- Leave office or in-home office for lunch and/or time to catch up on errands
- In the afternoon, take meetings and catch up on emails
- Head home for dinner/exit in-home office and begin dinner preparations
- Eat dinner with friends/family
- Enjoy evening activity with friends/family (TV, movie, boardgames, etc.)
- Get ready for bed
- Read book in bed and allow your mind to decompress
What do you notice about this routine? It’s not rigid and no two days ever have to be the same. What if you want to work out in the evening? That’s absolutely fine. Do you need thirty minutes every day to catch up on email? Of course not and some days you might need more time than that. What’s important is that you can take this loose structure and break it into chunks for yourself. Whatever changes you want to make, it’s a good suggestion to not make the list longer than 10-15 items. This is not a step-by-step outline for your day. It’s just a sense of direction. This should be “normal” but by no means set in stone. If you don’t have children and eat by yourself, that’s fine too. Adjust the schedule as necessary. Your after-dinner activity could be video games or reading.
Ultimately, it’s incredibly important to remember there is no one-size-fits-all daily routine. There are plenty of different ways to create a daily routine. Some will remind you that it’s important to have a meal plan, an exercise plan, a meditation plan or to write three pages every morning. The bullet-point list above is a fantastic guideline for how to set up a daily routine that works, allowing you to be your own boss when working from home. Sticking with it is completely up to you. How do you make a daily routine work?