“These chains are all your own,
These chains are comfortable.”
How do you feel when I mention the word ‘routine’? Does that word make you feel bored? Does it feel dull? Is it a word that inspires no more than a ‘meh’ from your brain?
I LOVE routine. You might think it’s boring but for me, it’s where the magic happens. It’s where and how we get stuff done. You see, I don’t see the structure of a routine as a cage. It’s not something to be trapped in by.
For me, routine is more like a skeleton. It’s the thing that holds me up. It enables me to function. Imagine your body without a skeleton. You’d be a blob on the floor and it would take INCREDIBLE strength and effort for you to move. Having set routines and plans enables me to then add flesh to my life. It gives me something to build from. There are three major benefits to having good routines in place:
- It makes us more productive and saves time. How much time do you spend pondering what to do next? Whether it’s in business, in a job, with housework, or your self-care, so much time is wasted when you don’t know what you’re doing. By having things fixed in time, we always know what’s next. Limiting our choices reduces our procrastination as there are no arguments and no excuses!
- It reduces stress. Getting stuff done will ALWAYS reduce stress. Knowing when we are going to work on difficult tasks instantly lifts the fog of stress, giving us the space to actually get them done.
- You can plan in guilt-free fun! When we allocate certain time to doing, we can also allocate time to just being. And we can really ENJOY that chance to just be, or let our hair down. We don’t have to feel guilty because there’s something else we should be doing because there isn’t! There is NOTHING else we’re supposed to be doing at that time!
So what do I mean by a ‘routine’? A routine is a series of habits. And our habits are the things we do most of the time. Not necessarily all the time, but most of the time. A routine is a sequence of these habits which, again, we do most of the time. You’ll have morning routines, bedtime routines. Maybe meal time routines. You might have a ritual when you finish work each day. You’ll already have routines in place that you don’t even think about because they come so naturally to you.
Routines are the absolute bedrock of self-care. Self care isn’t about indulging in spa days or splurging on a shopping trip. Self care is the stuff we do every day. Yes, some would call it the boring stuff! Eating, sleeping, exercising. All the stuff that maintains a mind and body in tip-top condition so that we can use them to put our plans into action.
Honesty time now. For me, plans are a different. Plans have all the same benefits as routines, but they ramp my fear up to 1,000,000. There’s something about planning things in, the reality of it, which genuinely gives me the heebie-jeebies. But I always feel a hundred times better when I have a plan that I need to stick to in order to achieve my goals.
And that’s why Find Your Focus is such an important part of living a satisfied life. We want to achieve stuff. (Working out which stuff comes next week!). We want to live a life with meaning, with a sense of progress. Feeling stuck in life does not bring us joy. Being able to focus on getting stuff done because all of our regular habits are programmed in is a game changer.
So here’s 3 top tips on having awesome routines:
- Create an Ideal Week. I love this because it sits somewhere between routine and planning. Spend some time plotting out what your week would look like if everything went perfectly to plan. Get into the details. Put in your regular appointments – work, school, after-school classes. Then build around it the things you would ideally love to do. All your self care – exercise, meditation, personal development, sleep. Leisure activities, reading, playing music, watching TV. Make sure you leave some white space and do not forget the FUN! Plan a weekly cinema date of lunch with friends. If you do shift work you might want to create a few Ideal Days depending on which shift you are working or a 2/3 week template depending on how your shift pattern rotates.
- Change if it isn’t working. Of course you need to give yourself some time – habits can notoriously take a long time to embed. But if after a month you have NEVER done something in your daily routine, it’s obviously not right. There can be a couple of reasons for this; maybe you just aren’t allocating the right time to it, maybe you’re not allowing enough time or perhaps you’re squeezing it next to something that is incongruent. Or maybe you need to ask yourself how much you really want to do it. If you have chosen running as your exercise but you just can’t bring yourself to do it, maybe look at a different form of exercise?
- Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t always stick to it. Remember that habits are what we do MOST of the time, not ALL of the time. Life happens. Things get in the way. You are creating an IDEAL, a framework of perfection. And none of us are perfect. Keep yourself accountable – I like to print out a monthly tick list and if I’ve ticked off 70% each month, I’m pretty happy.
There’s a wonderful sense of security that comes with having good, nourishing habits embedded into daily and weekly routines. Living a satisfied life isn’t just about reaching joyous highs. It’s about spending as much as possible of every day feeling good. We all know how rubbish we feel when we drift into bad habits or routines. It’s like being a jellyfish stranded on the shore. So why not start working to put one new good habit into your life today? Build a few habits into a new routine. Build a new skeleton. And notice just how much more life and satisfaction you can get from your new, supportive structure.