We all have routines (whether conscious or not) that help us get through our to-do lists and days with relative ease and predictability. Our routines, if developed with thought and purpose, can contribute to our productivity and help us to make more time for what matters most. This week I discuss how having effective routines can benefit us in our daily life, and share a bit about my own routines as well.
The value of routines in building a productive life
What is a routine?
To begin with, let’s establish what a routine is. The dictionary I consulted defines routine as “a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program”. So basically a routine is a set of habits performed at a regular time and/or place. We all have them, mostly developed unintentionally, such as what time we get up in the morning and what we do first. Routines can be lots of different kinds — morning, evening, daily/weekly/monthly, health-related (fitness), social, work-related, etc.
How do routines help?
How can routines help improve productivity? To begin with, routines promote efficiency; anything we do repeatedly, we can do more quickly.
Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent.
Routines also help minimize decision fatigue. If we follow a sequence of actions we’ve chosen ahead of time, we don’t have to decide what to do next.
They allow our brains to go on autopilot, freeing up brain power for creative thinking and problem-solving. If you have something you do the same way over and over again (maybe at work or in your kitchen), you have a routine and can allow your mind to wander and think about something else–maybe a problem that needs to be solved.
One article I read stated that “Research has consistently shown that routines can play an important role in mental health”. One study, for example, found that routines could help people better manage stress and anxiety. Having a regular routine can help you:
- Lower stress levels
- Form good daily habits
- Take better care of your health
- Feel more productive
- Feel more focused
That same article notes how important routines can be during stressful times of our life, saying, “Even if you don’t typically thrive on a strict schedule, having a routine can be helpful in times of unpredictability, uncertainty, and stress.”
How do we create a productive routine?
- Awareness — notice the routines you already have in place and then observe and evaluate them. What’s working, what’s missing, what would you like to change (and why)?
- Intentionality — What do you want to accomplish? Serenity? Order? Accomplishment? What’s an area of your life that could benefit from a new or changed routine? For example, Do you want mornings before school/work to be more peaceful? Do you want to set yourself up for productive work mornings by establishing a daily shut-down routine?
It’s not about simply adding more stuff into your day, but being strategic about what you routinely do.
Incremental changes are better than attempting a massive overhaul. Start simple, add and adjust as you go.
Give yourself time for the changes to turn into habitual routines. They should be personal to you and serve your life.
Examples of routines
I’m sharing a couple of my own routines, not because they’re perfect, but simply as examples. These reflect the fact that I work from home, my kids are grown and gone, it’s just Mike and me. They also reflect to some extent the fact that I value order, peacefulness, and downtime, even over getting lots of stuff done.
Morning routine (weekdays)
- I’m usually up by 6:30 a.m. I fold back the bedding to let the sheets air out while I take my thyroid meds and dress in my workout clothes.
- I do a few household things as I’m waking up: Open the shutters; empty the dishwasher; vacuum the laundry room (easy because I have a cordless stick vacuum hanging nearby); make the bed.
- I make lemon water and trudge upstairs to the workout room, where I spend about 40 minutes on the treadmill. I enjoy watching YouTube videos or TV series on Netflix.
- Shower and (most days) light makeup and get dressed.
- I make tea, then head to my office usually by around 9 a.m. to start legal work.
- I try to avoid scheduling calls/meetings in the morning because I’m most able to focus on thought-intensive work in the morning.
- Lunch break around 1 p.m.
- I try to finish work between 5 and 6 p.m. and enter my time before I shut my computer down. When I can, I pause around 3:30-ish to start dinner.
Weekly routines–tasks that need to happen once a week or so
- Tuesdays: finish podcast show notes and prep for episode publication. I schedule the show to publish very early Wednesday morning.
- Weekends: I try to sleep in a bit and usually do the main housework on Saturdays (sometimes Sunday if something’s happening on Saturday). I also speak with podcast guests or run errands with Mike.
- Strip the bed when I get up; let it air out while I’m doing other things
- Clean bathrooms
- Dust and vacuum
- Mop floors
- Remake the bed
What’s missing for me?
I’m not as consistent as I want to be in journaling and inspirational/motivational reading in the morning, so I’m working on adjusting my routines to fit that in more consistently. I also need to make more time for writing. I know I could create this by changing the routine I’ve developed of watching TV in the evenings.
What do you think? Questions? Comments
Have you given any thought to the routines you follow and whether they’re serving you? Share your thoughts in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or send me an email.
Resources and Links
- The 21 Daily Routines and Habits of Highly Productive Founders and Creatives | Planio
- What Is a Routine? 9 Ways to Define a Routine That Works
- How routines can boost your productivity
- The Importance of Keeping a Routine During Stressful Times
- 22 Power Routines That Will Boost Your Productivity
Help Spread the Word!
Tell a friend about The Productive Woman podcast. Share an episode using the social sharing buttons at the top of this post, and consider leaving a review in Apple Podcasts.
Click here to discover my favorite apps!
I would love to have your help!
Royse City, Texas