Towards the end of the summer, I hear many of my clients telling me that they are looking forward to more routine again.
I also heard a lot of my clients asking me to leave the next appointment until September when they have more structure and routine again.
So, what’s it about having a routine?
Well, first of all, I want to look at why “routine” can have a negative connotation. The same old same, getting up at the same time, eating the same food, taking the same train or bus to work, sitting at the same office, doing the same old things day in and out – yes, that does sound boring. Yes, that is what we want to escape when on holidays.
But when we don’t have it for a while, we tend to miss it.
Because, as humans, we like to feel safe, and there is a certain safety element in having a routine.
We also know that often when people retire from work or are made redundant, people can fall into a “hole” because they miss the structure of a daily routine. Many experienced it during the first lockdown.
Before I share my top 10 tips to get back into a routine, I like to share why having a good daily routine is good for your health and wellbeing.
- Having to make a decision actually is always a slight stressor in your life, as you are not sure if you are making the “right” one. So, having a set routine in place where you don’t need to make a decision can reduce your overall stress load.
- Having a routine means that you are better prepared, i.e. you are less likely to make “unhealthy” ad-hoc decisions.
- You feel you’ve achieved more. As you are sticking to certain rules and your routine, at the end of the day you can “tick off” the boxes of all the things you have done. This makes you feel good.
- You feel safe – and again, this helps you relax and reduces your overall stress load. As humans, we generally don’t like the unexpected and unknown. This comes from our times as hunter-gatherers and is still very much part of our “survival” brain.
- Following a healthy eating regime and regular exercise regime is much easier when you fit these into your daily life as part of your daily routines. They are more likely to become a habit that you can follow without having to think about it.
- Following a certain routine before bedtime helps you sleep better.
- When you don’t need to waste your energy on small decisions each day, you have more brain space and energy to make important big decisions in your life.
We all know that reducing stress, practising relaxation, good sleep, healthy eating and regular movement are the keys to good health and wellbeing – and all of these are easily addressed by following a daily routine.
So, let’s get started with my 10 easy tips to get back into a routine:
- I suggest you write down your daily routine in a notebook or even better in your diary. Once it’s written down, you are 90% more likely to stick to it.
- Create your own rules – and write these down. (As with routine, as humans we actually love rules, as they give us a sense of safety – we have rules, commandments, laws, regulations, constitutions etc in every part where humans live together).
- There is no rule as to what “rules” you create for yourself, and they need to fit your lifestyle so that you will stick to them. Obviously, ideally, these rules should be health-promoting. Most of us already have “rules” in our heads anyway, such as “I never leave the house without having had a shower”. “I don’t eat xxx without yyy” “I would never eat xxx for breakfast”. Vegetarians have very clear rules, i.e. they don’t eat meat and fish.
- Start your day off right. Figure out what time you need to leave the house each morning and set your alarm so you have plenty of time to accomplish your at-home tasks before you hit the road. Rather than jumping from task to task, create a set routine and stick with it —you’ll waste less physical energy and brain space.
Are there things you can prepare in the morning that will help you prepare your lunch quicker?
Are there things that you can already prepare in the evenings to make it easier for you in the morning, such as choosing the clothes you are wearing?
- Complete daily tasks at the same time each day.If there is a task you must do daily (helping the kids with homework, sending a client report, doing the dishes), complete it at the same time each day. You’ll carve out enough time to finish the task and won’t have to wonder about how to fit it onto your growing to-do list.
- Set aside a time and day of the week at which you write your meal plan for the week. A meal plan does not have to be anything fancy or consist of lots of complicated recipes. What’s important before writing a meal plan is to write out all the fixed appointments in your week. Then think about when you have time for shopping, when is it realistic that you have time for cooking? When you don’t have time for cooking, you need to plan when you prepare your meals. Batch cook for the week. Some people used to have the same foods on the same day of the week. Monday is Bolognaise day, Friday is fish day, etc. There’s nothing wrong with having roughly the same meals each week, as long as you bring in variety with your vegetables.
- Set aside time for movement. If you go to regular classes in the gym or to yoga classes, you already appreciate the routine. Knowing that every Tuesday evening (for example) from 7-8pm you are away from home in the Pilates class, makes you more likely to attend that class. However, if you need to tell yourself every morning to go for that walk or do those strength or rehab exercises that your physio recommended, can be very hard. Before you know it, the day is gone, you might feel hungry (and don’t want to eat beforehand) or you might be tired – and that’s how you find an “excuse” and say “tomorrow, I’ll definitely do it”. However, if you schedule your walk, your strength training or your online yoga class into your diary, and make it a non-negotiable appointment, you are much more likely to stick to it.
- Find out your time-wasting moments in your day: Most of us have moments in our days where we are “wasting time” or rather spending time on things that are not good for us. In order to find out what these are for you, create a spreadsheet with each hour of the day in the first column, i.e. 6-7am, 7-8am, etc, and write into each column behind what you’ve been doing. You’ll be surprised at some things for example, that you’ve just spent a whole hour scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it can often eat into your day and at the end you say “I just haven’t had any time!” Ask yourself, how important is that activity to you really – and if it is, schedule it in at a fixed time of the day and at a fixed length. I.e. After lunch from 2-3pm, I will go through my social media feeds.
- Prioritise what is really important to you. Creating this list will also show you what is really important to you and what is actually helping your health. In order to know what is really important, it might be a good idea to have a vision or a goal in mind. If you say, you want to get more energy, lose weight, tackle your sugar cravings, want to be fitter for your grandchildren, etc – you know your “why”. And knowing your “why”, you know what you want to prioritise, or what is important to prioritise to reach that goal or achieve that vision.
- We know that creating a new habit is easier when you attach it to an already existing habit. It is the same with a routine. You might already have a routine of when you brush your teeth in the morning. Could attach some new habit to that routine that helps you be more organised in the mornings?
Most important as with all new habits and goals that we achieve – celebrate the wins!
Assuming, you have written down your new routine schedule, I suggest that you tick off everything you have actually done on that day. This will give you a sense of achievement and you will be proud to have stuck to your routine. It will make it easier and more likely that you will stick to it the following day(s). And do focus only on the things you’ve done – ignore, what you didn’t get around to and aim to do more the following day.
I would love to hear how you are getting on with your routines, and with creating routines. What routines have you created that helped you get healthier and fitter? Please send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org