Getting stuff done can be hard. Especially boring or intimidating grown up crap. For me, I find it hard because I often struggle with remembering what all should be done and with prioritizing tasks. This is especially true whenever my brain is wonky.
Having a simple daily and weekly routine which incorporates important chores as well as activities I enjoy but seem to never get around to has been a total game-changer. It helps me keep my life a little more together and cuts down my stress. A lot.
Before instilling a morning and weekend routine, I would constantly find myself in a nightmare of a messy house, running out of clean clothes, and throwing out dead plants I hadn’t watered. (Before I was married, it was even worse because I didn’t have anyone to split the chores with!) I would put off exercising which would result in feeling anxious because I had too much energy. I would stress over what to eat because I still hadn’t gone to the grocery store; then, having no food I would find myself eating cereal out of a large cooking pot (because I had no clean bowls) or going out, once again, for fast food. I would take forever to respond to texts and it was pretty damn rude (okay, I’m still working on this one).
All of this was in large part because I had no structure to my day or week. Therefore, I would put entertaining, mindless, or less urgent things before what really needed to be done. Or I would forget to do them all together. Or I would feel paralyzed by the daunting task of deciding what to do with my time.
A routine changed that. Instead of having to use self-disciple to assess a long list of to-do’s and decide somehow which to do and then do it every single instance I had time to get things done, I’m now able to go through my habits every day on auto-pilot, knowing I’ve already done the hard work of deciding what’s important and when I’m going to do it (for example, tidying for 5 minutes every morning, going to the grocery store every weekend, etc.). When I’m done with my routine, I can use the brain power I saved for creative projects or fun with loved ones.
I’ve slowly built, and am constantly tweaking, the routine I currently use, and I’ve learned some lessons along the way which might help you if you’re in the market for such a thing.
ONE: KEEP IT SIMPLE
Start with one habit you want to build, like taking a walk every Saturday or reading one chapter of a book every day. I know it’s hard to narrow it down, but starting small can help prevent burn out. You can keep a list of everything you’d like to add one day off to the side for future reference.
TWO: BUILD SLOWLY
Any time you add a new habit, attach it, if you can, to one you already have established so the transition is smoother and easier to remember. For example, once I got good at practicing my French and Arabic every morning, I added 5 minutes of decluttering stuff (pictures, texts, etc.) on my phone immediately after. Only add a new habit to your routine once you’re doing the previous one regularly.
THREE: TAP INTO YOUR NATURAL ENERGY CYCLES
Pay attention to when you have the most energy during the day, week, or month. Put the most important parts of your routine then. I’m a morning person, so most of daily to-dos are early in the day. For others’ it’s late at night. Around my period, I have less mental stamina and physical energy, so I lower my expectations for myself and simplify my routine during that time.
FOUR: USE REWARDS
I’ve found that I am most motivated by immediate gratification. A reward for completing a week’s or month’s (or more’s) worth of tasks isn’t strong enough to keep me going. However, rewarding myself for completing my goals for the day or weekend is. When I’ve checked off what I need to do, I allow myself a certain amount of time on social media. Social media works as a good reward for me, because it’s a fun positive thing in my life in moderation. But when I have no limits to when and how often I use it, it becomes draining and distracting. It’s a win-win. I get my routine done and curb my social media use.
FIVE: BE FLEXIBLE
Life happens. Tweak your routine temporarily when you need to, like during the holidays or big life changes such as moving. Be mindful of what is and isn’t working so you can make permanent changes as you see fit. Remember the routine is there to serve you, not the other way around. If you’re consistently having a hard time with an aspect of your routine, you might not be ready for it yet. Or, you might need to completely rethink how you’re approaching it.
SIX: BE GRACIOUS
Some days, events or brain hiccups will send your plans out the window. Other times, emotional or stressful days/seasons do. Be aware of trends you see in case you can try a new approach (maybe Wednesdays are always a mess for you and you need to give yourself a break on that day). But also allow yourself to fail without giving up completely. A routine is a most-of-the-time thing, not an all-or-nothing one.
SEVEN: GIVE YOURSELF TIME OFF
Schedule guilt-free, to-do-free time. Let yourself do whatever you want to do! It could be one day every week, one week every month, or one day every two weeks. You do you. But give yourself time without expectations so you don’t come to resent the structure you’ve built.
I’m not trying to convince you to become some sort of do-it-all person. I’m far from and don’t idealize that lifestyle at all. But, if you’re consistently struggling with how to spend your time, falling behind in tasks that need to get done, or neglecting things you care about, I highly suggest constructing a routine that fits you and your life. Like I said, having things you do consistently every day/week/month allows for some auto-pilot time for your brain, because you don’t have to constantly make decisions about your time. You can use that mental power for other, more important or fun things. Like a creative project, self-care, or taking over the world!
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CATCH UP –> My last post is called five tactics for nagging thoughts. Give it a read!