For many, following a daily routine may seem depressing and a bit too J. Alfred Prufrock. Even the less spontaneous among us don’t want to measure out our lives with coffee spoons, but, weirdly enough, the mundanity of following a routine can actually improve a person’s quality of life. It comes down to one thing: choice.
Reducing the amount of instances in which you have to make a choice frees up mental energy. You mean I should limit my options?! Sort of. Making choices takes mental energy, and on a given day, we’re likely to have to make several choices, many of them small, the kind we forget in a day. For example, as soon as we get up in the morning, we must decide what we’re going to eat, what we’re going to wear, and whether or not we need to pack a lunch or snack. By the end of the day, we’ve gone through so many choices (among other energy-demanding thought activities) it’s easy to feel mentally wiped and, sometimes, unable to face another choice. I don’t know what I want to watch on TV, okay?
Naturally, we want to save our energy for the choices that we really value: How will I spend my free time? What delicious thing will I cook for dinner? Do I want to apply to this job? Should I enroll in this yoga class–or that one? Other choices, however, like the order in which we get ready in the morning can be predetermined (by you, of course!) to streamline your daily tasks and free up mental energy for things that matter more than deciding whether to get dressed before or after making breakfast.
5 Ways to Build a Healthy Routine
1. Pick a time or part of your day that seems unnecessarily (and stressfully) chaotic. Determine how much time you normally have to do the task you’d like to complete during that time. For example, when I get up, have about 1 ½ hour to do a bit of yoga, eat breakfast, get dressed, packed a snack, make coffee, put on makeup, and head out the door.
Determine the best order to do the tasks and then stick to your schedule until it feels like second nature and you no longer have to give it much thought.
2. If necessary, set reminders on your phone or write down your routine somewhere that’s easily visible. For months, I’d wanted to check in with my finances/budget every Friday, but I didn’t start getting into the routine of doing so until I set a little alarm on my phone to remind me! Now that I’ve learned the habit, I no longer need the alarm.
3. Turn your routine into ritual. If the idea of following a routine still sounds dreadful, try changing your mindset. Instead of a mere series of rote tasks, your routine can become a welcome part of your day if you practice mindfulness and gratitude while you perform your tasks. Funnily enough, I enjoy measuring out my coffee beans each morning. The familiar little coffee spoon is just one of many comforts of the morning, and the process of making coffee provides a little reflection time before I jump into my day and encounter all of the things I don’t have control over.
4. Incentivize yourself with small rewards. If getting into a routine is something you aspire to but struggle with, try incentivizing yourself with something to look forward to if you follow the routine for a week or month—or 66 days, the amount of time it takes to cement a new habit.
5. Along those lines, celebrate your progress by looking back and acknowledging how much your routine has helped you free up a bit of space in your head and reduce the stressors of getting reading, staying on top of your financial life, or managing a household.
What routines make your life a little easier?
Related: 7 Post-Work Rituals to Help You Unwind
How to Create Daily Rituals for Productivity
5 Easy Habits for Better Home Organization
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Photo: Dustin Lee via Unsplash