Having a routine is great for health and well-being, and does wonders for productivity. But there is no one-size-fits-all solution. What’s right for one person, won’t necessarily be right for you. But a few simple changes, though, can easily bring some order to your day.
Think back to the routine you had as a kid. Bed at the same time every night. Wake up around the same time the next day. Go to school, come home, play, eat dinner, and repeat.
Routine was a good thing then. It helped bring a sense of stability and familiarity, which made us feel safe. However, when you become an adult, a routine is harder to maintain. Life gets in the way. You go with the flow instead.
The importance of a routine gets lost.
But it never goes away.
A routine helps you get more things done and is great for well-being. Practically all successful people rely on some sort of a daily structure to get ahead.
Benjamin Franklin had a strict routine of waking up at 5 am and asking himself, “What good shall I do today?” He'd then work from 8 to 12, have lunch from noon to 2, work again till 6 and wind down to sleep till 10.
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (whose coffee shops happen to be very helpful in many daily routines) gets up at 4:30 am every morning to walk the dogs and work out, before returning home to make coffee for himself and his wife at 5:45 am.
Winston Churchill, on the other hand, woke up at around 7:30 am, but stayed in bed until 11. He’d take lunch from 1 to 3:30 and work until 5 pm before taking an hour-and-a-half nap.
Sticking to a structured daily routine is a tough ask. You can’t copy another person: their life is different; it won’t work. What you can do, though, is put some things in place that fit your lifestyle. Things that can be done every day to make you feel healthier and be more productive.
When do you do your best work?
Are mornings when your energy levels are highest and you’re able to do your best work? Or are you someone that kicks into gear later on in the day?
Figuring this bit out is going to help you better manage your tasks and time. If you’re more productive and creative in the mornings, use that time to work.
If you’re more creative at night, save important tasks until then and focus on emails, chores, and other routine things during the day. Almost everyone has a mid-afternoon slump, which could be used to take a walk, get some air, and refresh your mind for the latter part of your day.
A good way to find out when you do your best work is to track your habits. An app like Be Focused helps you track workflows over days, weeks, and months, and ultimately identify when you’re productive and when you’re procrastinating.
Going to bed and waking up around the same time every day can be a habit. A good night’s sleep sets the tone for the next day.
If going to bed at the same time is a challenge, set an alarm similar to the one that wakes you up in the morning. The National Sleep Foundation also recommends to stay away from your devices for at least an hour before going to sleep.
If you do have to use the computer within that time, add a warmer tint to your screen to counter the blue light. Use an app like HazeOver, which is also a great way to block distracting apps and browser tabs.
The last bit of advice before sleep is to write down the to-do list for the next day. An app like Noteplan will help to get everything out of your head and sleep better without these things swirling around your mind.
Have a morning routine
Doesn't matter what time you rise, just stick to it. And stick to the things that follow. A morning routine sets you up right for the day.
Stick to the morning routine on weekends too. A late night on the weekend followed by late wake-up the next day will make Monday mornings a lot harder. That said, an extra 30–60 minutes in bed on a Sunday won’t throw things too much out of sync.
Allow some flexibility
With the right sleep, a morning routine, and knowledge of when you do your best work, you have the foundations for a fully functional day.
The last important thing to keep in mind is flexibility. Every day is different. There are some things you can’t account for, and that’s alright. Don’t set yourself a routine so strict that these exceptions throw your entire week into disarray.
Manage your time and keep some flexibility in your calendar to move things around. That way, you won’t need to stress as much when something out of the ordinary comes a-knocking.