For most people, the word “routine” typically conjures up an image of a boring, repetitive life, with every moment controlled and managed, and no room for spontaneity. Routines and rituals, however, can actually help increase spontaneity and fun in your life. Because routine tasks are already planned for, you have more energy to spend on the tasks that will bring you closer to your goals and bring more joy to your life.
What is a Routine?
The Random House Dictionary defines a routine as, “any practice, or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner.”
In fact, you can build any type of routine in three easy steps.
- Identify the Task. Let’s say you want to build an exercise routine.
- Identify the Time and/or Trigger. For example, perhaps you normally exercise right after work.
- Identify the Sub-Tasks. For you, perhaps your routine involves going to the gym, getting changed, stretching, doing 45 minutes on the treadmill, performing three reps of weights, and doing a lap around the pool to finish things off. Then, you shower and go home.
Remember, a routine shouldn’t be set in stone. Once you establish a routine, it can be modified at any point in time, depending on what works for you. With our exercise example, you could easily decide to exercise before work or even at lunch and still use the basic task and sub-tasks.
Sleep, meals, and exercise form the building blocks of our lives. Without this stable foundation, other personal productivity efforts won’t be as successful. Here are some ideas.
- Sleep: Establish a routine for half an hour before you sleep. This might include creating a to-do list for the next day, enjoying a cup of tea, taking a warm bath, and or performing some stretches. All of these activities will help you wind down and sleep better. It is best to try to go to bed at around the same time every night, too.
- Meals: Take a half hour each weekend to plan meals for the next week, including lunches and suppers. Then, make a grocery list and get everything you will need. Appliances like slow cookers and delayed-start ovens can also help you make sure supper is ready when you are.
- Exercise: Try to exercise for one hour three times a week, or half an hour each day. One easy way is to go for a brisk walk at lunch, or do yoga in the morning before work.
Here are some routines that many people find helpful in maximizing their time in the office:
- Instead of checking e-mail, news, and Web sites throughout the day, set aside one or several periods (for example, morning, noon, and at the end of the day). Then, batch and sequence your activities (for example, e-mail, news, and industry journals). You can batch many types of tasks in this way for maximum efficiency.
- Set up a system for maintaining your task tracking system. This can be as simple as five minutes in the morning to update the day’s list, five minutes at noon to update what you have done already, and five minutes at day’s end to evaluate today and create a starting list for tomorrow.
- In the morning, perform your tasks in an organized, routine manner. You can also lay out your clothes and prepare your lunch the night before for maximum efficiency.
Six Easy Ways to Simplify Your Life
With some creative thinking, you can reduce the number of items on your to-do list. Here are our top six suggestions.
- Pay someone else to do it. Evaluate the time you spend on household chores and decide whether it is worth it to pay someone else to do it. A service near my home will wash, dry, sort, and fold a load of laundry for only five dollars! We also pay a neighborhood kid ten dollars a week to mow our lawn.
- Use electronic banking. Today, nearly all banks offer automatic bill payments. If you have bills that are the same amount and due at the same time at regular intervals, set up automatic payments so you don’t have to pay it yourself. Just make sure that you have the money in your account at the required time.
- Keep everyone organized. If you share your household with roommates, a spouse, or children, keep a calendar in a central location (such as on the fridge) so that everyone can record important dates and appointments. Advance notice means better planning and improved efficiency.
- Plan your meals. Planning meals in advance (both lunches and suppers) will save you time, money, and energy. Try making soups, chili, or casseroles on the weekend and freezing them for use during the week.
- Take advantage of shortcuts. Our world is filled with shortcuts: everything from speed dial, to ready-made salad kits, to automatic television recording, can save you a few seconds here and there. It all adds up!
- Save the difference. The motto of the super-sized Duggar family is, “Buy used and save the difference.” You can do the same thing with newfound minutes: save them up during the day and use them to work towards one of your goals.