Onalee Erickson, Administration Intern, Southwest Health
Do you ever feel like the day gets away from you?
While it’s true that everyone has the same 24 hours every day, priorities differ for every person. While some may prioritize sleep, cooking elaborate meals, exercising, or relaxing, having an established routine is the best way to optimize your schedule, no matter your priorities.
Creating a routine that you can lean on and follow daily can positively affect your mental and physical well-being, helping you have a positive mindset and be better prepared for the day.
What should be built into your routine?
According to most doctors’ recommendations, you should factor in getting at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Add your work hours, commute time, and any other specific time-bound responsibilities like picking your kids up from daycare or school. You’re left with time to do everything else like cooking, cleaning, exercising, eating, etc.
If you’ve ever felt like the day just happens without you getting what you need done, it might be time for you to reevaluate how you spend your time. If you’ve never time-blocked or leaned on a daily routine, below is a basic outline to help you get started.
Step 1: Evaluate your basic needs that have to happen every day. This does not include things you’d like to accomplish but absolutely necessary tasks, like eating breakfast or dinner.
Step 2: Establish activities that bring you joy. The key to a sustainable routine is to make it enjoyable and something you can see yourself doing every day. If you create time to do what makes you happy, you’re more likely to stick to it. Not sure what this might look like?
- Read your new book for 20 minutes
- Walk your dog around the neighborhood during sunset
- Drink your coffee in silence in the morning
- Listen to your favorite music or podcast without multitasking
Step 3: Set small goals that you would like to accomplish. This will look different for everyone, but for some, it could mean waking up on a consistent schedule, working out a few times a week, or preparing healthy meals to enjoy throughout the week.
Step 4: Attach a time to each activity you have listed above. For example, if your goal is to have your house picked up every day, add that to your schedule for 30 minutes before bedtime rather than picking up throughout the day. Using this model, you have an allotted set time to finish this task, and you’re not spending too much time focused on one thing.
Step 5: Layout out a plan and write it down. If you’ve never been a routine person, this new plan may feel foreign for the first couple of days or even a week! But if you write down your plan and stick to it for a while, it will begin to feel more natural.
When scheduling time, be as accurate as possible with the time it will take to complete each task. Stick to the schedule! Once something is scheduled, do not change it to the best of your ability. This allows you to keep intentionally acting toward your goals.
It’s important to remember that every day has different celebrations and dilemmas. Making sure to intentionally schedule time to bring joy and happiness into your own life can increase positivity and patience.
Research has consistently shown that routines can play an essential role in mental health, helping people better manage stress and anxiety. Having a regular routine can help you:
- Lower stress levels
- Form good daily habits
- Take better care of your health
- Feel more productive and focused
You may have noticed a considerable shift happening. The focus on the day is moving from the traditional “9 to 5” to a balanced work/life. Remember to choose happiness over completion as the school year is quickly approaching with even more responsibilities and shorter days.
One path towards creating intentional joy is treating it like your other tasks. If you have a long to-do list with items you’re not particularly looking forward to completing, add a few tasks that make you happy.
- If you have a long list at the grocery store, add flowers or your favorite drink to that list.
- If you need to walk the dog, choose a path with pretty landscaping so you can enjoy the view.
- If you need to wake up extra early, set your alarm to be your all-time favorite song.
Reframing your mindset from “these are tasks that I have to complete”; “this is something I get to do”, can help you find more joy in the day-to-day.
Stopping to smell the roses is an excellent practice to take a break from an overwhelming everyday life. During times of great stress, however, maintaining structure and routine can help you feel more organized and in control. Having a routine can be helpful at any time, particularly if you are trying to establish healthy habits, but these routines can be particularly important when aspects of your life feel uncertain. The disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and changing economy have dramatically altered many people’s normal routines, which makes it that much harder to cope with the stress that people are feeling.