Having a daily routine doesn't mean being stuck in a rut. Yes, schedules have a lot of predictability baked into them, but that's because humans are wired to create order in a world that can often be overwhelming.
Routines have mental and physical benefits and help you thrive—healthy ones improve your focus and productivity without leading to burnout. And during stressful times, a routine can provide a sense of control and comfort. If you're looking to add structure to your days, we have a few ideas to get you started.
Use a paper planner or a note app and write down everything you typically do, from the moment you open your eyes and make your bed to when you tidy up and settle in at the end of the day. As you make your way through a particular day, jot down whatever you missed. Is there a gap between what you habitually do and what you want to do? Can you tailor a new schedule to reflect your aspirations?
It's different strokes for different folks. Gwyneth Paltrow has an extensive dental routine and probably schedules time to steam her entire body. Jeff Bezos makes big decisions at 10:30 am after he's had a chance to sleep on them.
Sleep is a constant, and sleep hygiene is underrated. It starts with getting enough sleep to feel refreshed and keeping a fixed bedtime and wake-up time, give or take half an hour. Ideally, this should extend into the weekend.
Consistent sleep schedules reinforce the circadian rhythm and help your body function efficiently. And you might want to schedule that 30-minute afternoon power nap—it can reinvigorate you for the rest of the day.
Food is another non-negotiable. While you dream about a personal chef, get meal prepping. It's more affordable than eating out frequently, and it's healthier too.
Do what works for you. Plan your meals for the week and do a grocery haul on the weekend, or keep your cooking spontaneous. Carve out time for fixing nutritious snacks, packing lunches, defrosting food, or batch cooking. And, obviously, stay hydrated, amigos!
Movement should be a constant feature in our lives, but it's often neglected. Whether you're a gym regular or consider playing FIFA a workout, try and add one or two moderate to vigorous workouts to your week before building up to more frequent exercise.
Multitask. Do leg-ups and sit-ups while you're still in bed, watch the news or play word games while you're on the treadmill (like Stephen King does!), or copy psychotherapist Esther Perel and chat to clients while hiking. If you work from home, you can shower whenever you like, so don't limit yourself to morning and evening fitness excursions; find what actually works for you.
Feeling socially connected is crucial for your health, but it's another category that often gets short shrift. Craft your daily and weekly routines to prioritize your relationships and strengthen the ties that bind.
Try and make time for one-on-one sessions with your partner or kids, calling your parents, or catching up with your pals. Regular community service is always a good idea.
Take time to nourish your spirit, whether by using the paradigm of prayer, employing mindfulness tools, or being creative in some capacity.
Journal just a sentence a day or jot down a three-item daily gratitude list and you'll notice progress over time. Deep breathing exercises and your favorite slow music in the background are a fantastic combo.
Start with the unavoidable tasks around which other activities hinge. Do you have to drive to work or drop kids off at school? And if you work from home, when do you function best? Morning people can schedule their cerebral activities for the beginning of the day, and night owls can do their deep thinking when the neighborhood gets that little bit quieter.
Assess your schedule changes after a month to see what's working and what isn't.
Build flexibility into your routine by labeling items on your to-do list as urgent or not-urgent. Dopamine spikes when you're close to achieving your goals, but did you know that it increases when you set them, too?
Put aside 30 minutes on the weekend to jot down weekly goals and logistics, and 10 minutes every day to organize your thoughts and to-do list for the upcoming day. You can hit the proverbial road running, and wake up knowing how to manage your time efficiently.
Commit to group activities so it's easier to build new habits and collectively stay accountable. Rope in roommates or your family to take the load off you, especially on busy days with multiple commitments.
Perhaps you can introduce schedule changes with a carpool, or share dog-walking and dish-washing duties with other household members. Parents teach children about the value of good habits. You can use incentive jars to motivate your kids, if relevant, or apply the concept to yourself. If you're reward-driven (and who isn't?), after you check a few items on your to-do list, pat yourself on the back with a hard-earned treat.
Set yourself up for success with small wins to boost your mood and confidence. You're not always going to feel okay, and that's okay—learn to practice acceptance. Don't buy into hustle culture and overschedule yourself. And don't be hard on yourself if your day doesn't go as planned.
Schedule time for self-care; it can be as simple as clipping your nails and applying moisturizer or watching the sun rise on your balcony, preferred beverage in hand.