The Power of Routines

Alright, have to be honest and say that I’m writing this while entirely out of my routine. I was doing so well and then I went to see my family and my routine went all to heck. I’m still trying to recover and am currently using the jet lag as an excuse. Also, I’ve recently discovered embroidery and have been dedicating a lot of my free time to learning more about that. It is relaxing, absolutely, but my style has never been to do anything gradually and now I find myself diving headfirst into it and not making time for anything else. I think the dopamine high I get from learning something new and fun just overwhelms me and I just stop doing anything else.

I’ve also purchased a sewing machine which should be here tomorrow and I want to make masks and bags. I’m going to be doing an entirely handmade Christmas this year and am starting to get prepared early.

But all this aside, I want to explain to you today why you need a routine, even a very simple one, especially if you have a demanding job and lots of hobbies.

First off – what, exactly, IS a routine?

A routine is a method of doing things in the same order every single time.

You probably already have a morning routine or an evening routine. My personal morning routine consists of flossing my teeth, brushing my teeth, using mouthwash, washing my face, putting my contacts in, moisturizing my face, taking a shower, getting dressed, putting my watch or other accessories on, getting my lunch ready and walking out the door. I do this routine in the same order every morning and it takes me almost exactly forty minutes.

I trust this routine because it contains every step I need to get ready in the morning and be off to work. It doesn’t include makeup because heck no, I’m not wearing makeup to work. If I feel the need to wear makeup I just schedule fifteen more minutes into the routine because I have a makeup routine that I have memorized and it takes a little less than fifteen minutes. I schedule some extra time in there in case something gets messed up.

You probably have a laundry routine, a cleaning routine, a dinner routine, whatever. You might not realize you have these routines but if you think about it, there are definitely some things in your life that you do the same way every time you do them because it makes doing whatever it is more efficient.

Now take all of that efficiency and imagine if you could run your whole day on a routine? You would never have to guess what you are doing next because you would just KNOW. You would get so much done because you are always doing SOMETHING.

I know this makes it sound as if you are constantly going to be working and achieving things with no downtime but that’s the beauty of a routine. You can schedule downtime into it.

Think about how much time you waste playing games or watching TV every day. Now, imagine if you set aside thirty minutes in your routine to do whatever it is you want to do and once it was done, you moved to the next thing? Instead of accidentally watching two hours of Netflix you can instead watch just one show and then move on. You’ll feel better about yourself and you’ll stay up to date on your shows.

Alternatively, you could have your routine end at say, 7:30 each evening and after that you are free to do whatever you want.

You can even create different routines for different days of the week or, as in my case, the different shifts you are working.

So how do you create these routines? Pretty much in the same way as you created the little routines you are already running – by figuring out what works best for you and doing that. There’s a reason your morning routine is organized the way it is. Maybe you like to shower first. Maybe you pick your clothes out the night before so you don’t have to think about it in the morning. Whatever. The point is that over time you’ve realized how you operate and you’ve programmed this knowledge into your little routines. Now take all of the small routines, organize them, and plug them into your big daily routine.

You might need to sit down and think about this a little bit. Write it down, whatever. Personally I’ve found that the best way of going about doing this is having some main routines – morning routine (as seen above), food routine (I do tend to eat the same thing every day and prepare it the same way, I know this sounds hideous but man, has it made my life and my nutrition so much easier. I acknowledge that this is definitely not for everyone and I don’t care what you think about it) and work routine. These three things are a major part of my day (particularly the work routine) and once I have them plugged in I usually only have two or three hours to fill in. So I add in the exercise routine which takes 1-2 hours depending on the day and then a cleaning routine and my day is pretty much full. Any other fun activities can be placed after the rest of these things are done or in downtime before going to the gym. To be fair, the gym is a fun activity for me so I don’t feel as if I’m only ever working. Sometimes TV watching is thrown into the background of whatever activity I’m doing (eating, cleaning, working out sometimes, etc) so I still feel as if I watch too much of it.

I don’t do things in the same order every day. Sometimes I have to run or workout in the morning before going to work at three p.m. Sometimes I get off at three p.m. and go running right after work. Any of the little routines can be swapped around to make sure that everything gets done. And if something comes up and I have forced overtime (happens a lot) I can usually move the cleaning routine and sometimes the shopping routine to another day. I’ve also managed to find a lot of 24 hour options in the area so I can go shopping or workout after eleven p.m.

Other things I like to fit into my routine are:

  1. Meditation
  2. Date nights
  3. Hanging out with friends
  4. Piano lessons/practice
  5. Writing this blog
  6. Reading
  7. Sewing

This little plug and play system means I can get everything done that I want to get done while still allowing flexibility. It does take a little bit of advanced planning in the beginning but after awhile you get used to it and you start to learn how long it is going to take you to do some things so that you can figure out how long you have for more leisurely activities.

This plan definitely goes hand in hand with last week’s post about getting stuff done and staying on top of things. I will regularly put all of these activities into the calendar on my phone (work, overtime, planned runs/workouts/climbing, hangouts, etc) and look at the calendar at least two or three times a day.

I know it seems ridiculous and over the top to plan things out like this but when I don’t plan things out and when I fall off my routine (as I have right now) I get barely anything done, I feel aimless and end up sitting on the couch for a large part of the day. I also don’t eat right, end up drinking more alcohol than I would like and start feeling very gross about myself.

So. That being said, I need to get back into my routine and I’m going to end this here. If you have any questions, please drop them below! I love talking about the ways people get things done, especially if your schedule is particularly hectic. If you’ve got tips and tricks for accomplishing life, I’d love to hear them!

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