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How to: create a good routine

You may roll your eyes at the idea of routines, or perhaps you consider them only necessary for young people who need discipline. Routines can often feel like you’re living your life according to some predetermined rules or expectations. We know that sticking to a routine can be difficult and feel like some sort of chore that must be attended to. But there has shown to be many benefits of having regular routines for sleep, school/work, exercise and healthy eating (Touhy & Yazdani, 2018). And, even though it might feel like the opposite, having no routine is actually more energy zapping than having one that can be relied on.

First things first, you must decide why you’re going to build a routine and how it will benefit your daily life. Some ways that routines can be beneficial are in reducing procrastination, keeping track of goals and improving meaning in life (Heintzelman & King, 2019) – but what is most important is deciding how you want your life to look. Maybe it would be easier or more comfortable for you if you called your routine by a different name – something that represents why you are sticking to a routine in the first place. This might be related to being your best self, having a positive mindset or setting yourself up for a good day. Looking at it this way, as opposed to something you have to do everyday, might change your perspective and allow you to actually enjoy the benefits of having a routine.

Once you’ve decided why, and you’re feeling more motivated to invest time and effort into starting and maintaining a routine, you’ve got to work out the how. That’s where we come in – we’ve put together some tips for building your routine and for how to continue to stick to it consistently. But remember, what works for one person won’t necessarily work for you – so it’s important to structure your routine around activities that are relevant for you at this time in your life, and that will continue to challenge you everyday.

Find some inspiration

Give yourself the time (and space) to really look at your current way of living, and deciding what you want to be different. Taking on a routine requires that you’re motivated to do so, and this can sometimes be hard to conjure up within ourselves. Reading books, listening to podcasts or speakers, talking to friends and family or being mindful are all good ways to find some inspiration for routines.

Take accountability

This means outlining exactly what it is that you do have to do each day (like study, work, family responsibilities, sleep, healthcare etc) and taking responsibility for setting time for each of these things. It might be helpful to write them all out on a weekly or monthly planner, or in a to-do list format – whatever is going to give you a clear view of the expectations you are setting for yourself (and keeping this realistic!) It could even be helpful to enlist a family member, friend or mentor to help you stay on track – the more people know about your routine, the more likely you are to stick to it.

Figure out your goals

What is it exactly that you want to achieve in your life? Or, when you look back on your life in your elderly years, what is it that you want to remember about it? You’re starting this routine for a reason (or two) so you should have a good understanding of why it is important to your life as a whole. Use this inspiration to set yourself achievable, time specific and measurable goals, both in the short and long term.

Take regular breaks

Whichever way you choose to schedule your routine, you’ve just got to make sure that you’re scheduling time for all things, which includes rest, eating, relaxation and leisure as well. Without regular breaks, our brains cannot work to their highest capacity and so it might feel like your routine is a burden on your life or isn’t really working the way you need it to. Taking a step back from the routine also helps you to keep perspective, remind you why and how you’re working on something, and to not get bogged down in the have to’s of life.

Once you’ve mastered your routine, it is important that you reflect on how it is serving you, and look at ways that you can continue to improve it as your life changes. Asking yourself whether you’re doing what you love and enjoy everyday might give you some insight into this – if the answer is no too many days in a row, it might be an indication that something isn’t working. Similarly, if you’re finding it difficult to stick to the routine you’ve made for yourself, it might also be time to change. Just because a routine is working for you at this stage of your life, doesn’t mean it will be appropriate forever. So, revising the routine – adding, changing or removing parts – is just as beneficial as starting one in the first place.

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