The world is beginning to open up again. Well, it’s trying to at least. Every country is different, their governments advising and navigating their way through the ongoing Covid fiasco. Here in Scotland, we’re enjoying so many more freedoms than we’ve been allowed for the past 18 months, though for many with a sense of caution. There are still limitations in place of course because we’re still living with Covid. But for many, myself included, we’re able to get back to some sort of normal routine. One that somewhat resembles how life looked pre-Covid. As such it has been important for me to establish a new routine. I’m no longer working from home so much, now able to teach my piano students in-person, albeit with certain Covid measures in place.
But it got me thinking about establishing routines; how so many of us struggle with them whilst others live by them. What makes a good routine? And how do we get it?
Routines need discipline
Hands up, I’m not the most disciplined of people. It’s something I really have to work at. My day can get swallowed up in frivolous nonsense if I’m not careful and I realise I’ve not got done what I had wanted to. When we don’t introduce structure into our lives and adhere to it with discipline, we begin to drift. We forget important details and life gets messy. Sometimes I get caught in a thought cycle of feeling overwhelmed by all the many things that need to be done. This can mean that little gets done because I distract my thoughts with time-wasting activities.
However, as Jim Rowan says in his quote above, the easiest of disciplines are the ones we do every day. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of all the things we have to do, we should focus on little things. We must prioritise the important tasks that must be done each day and then introduce the new ones. Then they become a matter of routine and we get into a rhythm that we can cope with. It also means that when something needs to be dropped because we’re too busy or an emergency arises, we can revert back to our basic everyday routine to keep us grounded.
So how do we establish a new routine? Here are some tips to get you started:
Lists Lists Lists
We cannot attempt to establish a new routine if we don’t know what is going to be in it. Therefore writing a list of all the things we’d like to achieve each day gives a clear picture of our daily tasks. This can be as detailed or as basic as you like. It just depends on how structured you’d like your routine to be, or how much help you need to stay on track. Write out what your daily tasks are; those disciplines I mentioned above that we do daily. Add in what you already do and add what you’d like to do in addition. This is especially good if you’re trying to incorporate a new activity or task into your day. You may find that you will amend this list over a number of weeks as you figure out what your new routine actually looks like. This is ok.
Establishing something new takes time and flexibility for it to truly work and become a habit. You might like to review your list at the beginning of each week so you can tweak it for the week ahead.
Structure it out
Once you have a list of tasks you can then decide how best to distribute them through the day and week. This is very much down to your unique life and the demands placed upon you. If you have children, for example, you will have demands on your time that those without don’t. Some people work shifts, others have responsibilities that are time-specific. You must decide when the best time is for each task that you’d like to achieve. Again, be as specific as you like either organising tasks into a list in the order you’d like them done, or map your day by time slots. Take your list and spread it out through the week so that you pace yourself and establish a new routine that you can cope with.
Flexibility is key
Once you’ve structured your tasks through your week allow yourself a good few weeks to settle into it and test it out. There will be teething problems that need addressing, tasks that you’ll move around, times that are altered. What is important is that you are ready for maneuvering. Inflexibility creates stubbornness within us. We get so bullheaded about our routine that we forget that life should be spontaneous too. Sometimes appointments will crop up, we get sick, we’re invited out with friends. Remember to enjoy life by allowing for change within your routine. Yes, you have your basic daily disciplines to fall back on, but making space for life is important too.
Establishing a new routine takes time and it takes consistency. Dedication to your routine, doing your best to follow it daily, will give you the best chance of success. They say it takes 21 days to develop a habit so allow yourself time to get into the swing of it. But be realistic! You will miss something somewhere, not get a task finished, forget to do something, sleep in, lose momentum. We are only human and so we will inevitably fall short of our own expectations at times. This is okay though. Instead of focusing on what you didn’t do, reward yourself for what you did manage and look for ways to make what failed, easier. It could be a reorganising of your day in the future, maybe doing a little less, asking for help, or just cutting yourself some slack.
There are so many reasons we don’t manage to achieve all that we plan. So we must look for ways to build ourselves up, rather than tear ourselves down.
Establish your new routine today
You don’t need to be in my situation where you’ve had a shift in how you conduct your job. My times throughout my day have changed somewhat and I’m still figuring out the best days for certain tasks. But I’ll figure out what works best for me in due course. Sometimes it’s just sorting out the everyday tasks that help us to feel more in control of our days. Often you find that by sorting your days into a more organised routine, you end up with far more free time than you anticipated. Creating a routine doesn’t mean organising the fun out of it. It means you actually create time for yourself to enjoy the activities you may be thought you had no time for before.
I’m certainly going to try and be better organised, establish a new routine, and see what amazing things I’ll be able to achieve as a result.
Do you have a routine? How detailed is it? What new things have you been able to do because you have more structure for your days?