It’s easy to understand why some people avoid routine. Choosing to do the same tasks at the same time day after day might remove some of the spontaneity that keeps life interesting. Most aren’t too keen on self-imposed boredom.
However, creating routines for yourself can drastically improve your life. While going with the flow might seem like the better route in theory, knowing what you need to do and when can actually help you be more productive, decrease stress, and reach your goals.
Below, I’ve shared some research on how daily routines can be beneficial. Then I’ve discussed some ideas for what to include in your schedule, and how to work writing (or other creative pursuits) into your day-to-day. Let’s get started!
Why You Need a Daily Routine (5 Key Benefits)
Even experts agree that setting routines for yourself has significant benefits for your lifestyle, productivity, and overall health. Here are five reasons to start sticking to a schedule.
1. It Minimizes Decision Fatigue
Have you ever made it to Friday night and realized that, even though you’re so ready to have a fun-filled evening after a long work week, you can’t make the simplest decisions? Where to grab dinner, what movie to see, or which shoes to wear suddenly become exhausting questions to answer.
One reason simple choices that should be enjoyable may feel difficult is decision fatigue. This term refers to the feeling we experience when our minds are worn out from making choices all day long. By the time evening rolls around, decisions become more difficult, and you’re more likely to make bad ones.
When you have a set routine that you follow every day, you don’t have to make as many decisions. Choices such as when you’re going to tackle the laundry or when you’ll get to the gym are taken care of. That means you can save your mental energy for more important things, such as how to complete a big project at work or what you’ll do for fun over the weekend.
2. Routine Reduces Stress
On a similar note, cutting down on the amount of decision-making in your daily life can reduce your stress levels. Plus, you can get unpleasant and anxiety-inducing tasks – such as paying bills, exercising, or whatever other responsibilities fill you with dread – out of the way in small chunks at a time so that they’re less likely to pile up and overwhelm you.
In addition to helping with generalized stress, routines can also improve mental health overall, even for those with disorders that interfere with their daily lives. When you know what to expect on a day-to-day basis, doing the work to manage your mental health is easier.
3. There’s Less Opportunity for Procrastination
I’ve been procrastinating regularly since high school. Although I’m now pretty good at finding things I “must” do before I can work on whatever project or assignment I need to finish, I can’t say this particular habit has ever benefited me.
Having a daily routine is a simple way to drastically cut down on the amount of time you waste procrastinating. Assuming you stick to the schedule your set for yourself, there’s much less opportunity to for you to come up with alternative tasks for yourself when you should be writing/cleaning/exercising/etc.
Whether you put certain tasks off because they’re unpleasant or because you find them intimidating, a routine can provide the push you need to grit your teeth and get down to it.
4. It Helps You Build Healthy Habits
It’s easy to have good intentions when it comes to your health. Following through with them – not so much. Whatever habits you’re trying to create to improve your wellbeing, adding them into a routine can help you push past mental obstacles and actually implement them.
For instance, if you’re trying to take up running, pick a specific time to go out every day. You can also choose a fitness class at your local gym to attend on the same day each week.
A routine can even help you revise your diet. Instead of scrambling to choose a takeout place every night, regularly scheduled grocery shopping gives you the chance to stock up on healthier options. Planned mealtimes can help reduce your snacking, too.
5. An Evening Routine Can Improve Your Sleep
A lack of good sleep can keep you from achieving your goals. You’re less likely to feel creative, and more likely to feel stressed when you’re not well-rested. Building rituals into the end of your daily routine to prepare for bed can help you get better sleep.
Whether you end your day with a shower or a chapter from the book you’re currently reading, your evening routine lets your brain and body know it’s time to turn in. That way, you’re not fighting against them after you crawl under the covers.
What to Include In Your Daily Routine (And How to Structure It)
No routine is one size fits all. In order to find one you’ll actually stick to, you’ll need to customize it to fit your preferences, personality, and responsibilities.
With that in mind, here are some very generalized ideas of what you might include in your daily routine:
- Your job. Most of us spend between 20 and 40 hours per week working. It makes sense, then, that your day job will likely be the centerpiece of your weekday routine. Make sure to budget in time for your commute, unless you work from home.
- Household tasks. This may include cleaning, cooking, walking your dog, doing your laundry, paying bills, or any other tasks you need to complete regularly to keep your house and its inhabitants in tip-top shape.
- “Me Time”. If you’re anything like me, it’s not difficult to pressure yourself into constantly running around until you’re burned out. Try adding downtime to your routine to counteract this. I recently blocked out the first hour of my morning to read and drink a cup of coffee. It’s been life changing.
- Meals and exercise. You can avoid snacking throughout the day and going without a workout because you never made it to the gym by designating specific mealtimes and writing exercise into your routine.
Once you figure out what to include in your routine, you’ll need to determine when to include it. Some responsibilities – such as your job – may not give you much choice in the matter.
When it comes to the things you do have control over, consider when you’re most productive and schedule more demanding tasks for those time slots.
How to Work Writing Into Your Daily Routine
Especially if you’re also juggling a day job and/or family responsibilities, finding time in your routine for your creative pursuits can be tricky. A professor gave me some advice that shifted my approach to this conundrum.
If you haven’t already, start by writing (or drawing or playing your instrument or whatever) at various times throughout the day. Try it first thing after you wake up. After your lunch break. Right before bed.
Once you have a good sampling of how you work during different times of day, make note of three specific periods:
- A: The time when you feel most excited and energized about your work. (For me it’s between 8:00 and 10:00 AM, when I’m fully awake but not worn out from the rest of the day yet).
- B: The time when you’re still pretty productive, but maybe not as inspired as you feel during your “A” time. You’ll still get work done during this period, just maybe not as much.
- C: The time when you’re moderately productive. You may have to push yourself to be productive during this time slot, but you’re not completely wiped. If you’re just staring at a blank screen, that’s not your “C” time.
Ideally, you’ll want to make your “A” time your writing (painting/sound editing/etc.) time. Then, work the rest of your schedule around that time slot. Your craft takes priority. In the event that you absolutely cannot work on your passion project during your “A” time, use your “B” time instead, and so on.
Protecting your writing time is key. If you find that your “A”, “B”, and “C” times are unavailable, you may need to zoom out and take a look at the bigger picture. What’s getting in the way of your writing? Why is it getting in the way? Is there anything you can do to change that?
Routines may seem boring, but they can go a long way to help improve your life. From increasing your productivity to helping you establish healthier habits, your set schedule plays an important role in helping you achieve your goals.
When creating your own daily routine, remember to consider setting aside time for:
- Your job.
- Household tasks.
- “Me time.”
- Meals and exercise.
Have questions about creating a daily routine? Let me know in the comments section, and make sure to subscribe to my email list for more tips!
Featured Image Credit: Pexels.