Routines don’t have to be something you feel “stuck in.” When it comes to using your time wisely, tackling important tasks, and boosting your confidence, many experts say there’s nothing more effective than following a regimented daily routine.
As Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Routines, defined as “sequences of actions that are regularly followed,” are formed from habits, which are things we do “on autopilot” that our brains don’t need to think too much about. By following a structured, repetitive routine, we give our minds a break from making constant decisions, saving us mental energy and willpower to put toward challenging projects, learning new things, self-care, and other obligations.
When you’re striving to be more productive, it’s not necessarily your exact schedule or sleep-wake cycle that matters so much. It’s possible to establish an effective daily routine whether you tend to fall asleep late or wake up early (in other words, if you’re a “night owl” or “early riser”). What makes all the difference is aligning your actions with your goals, being consistent, and following through with your plan, which sets your day up for success by limiting distractions.
In this article, discover the advantages of having a daily routine, plus tips for implementing one.
- Harvard Business Review found that 92% of highly productive people follow planned morning routines, explaining, “Being productive is not about doing more, but about doing things in an efficient manner.”
- Having a daily routine and schedule establishes structure in your life, leading to less stress, greater concentration, improved work-life balance, and more confidence about your progress and abilities to reach your personal goals.
- One study even found that being routined makes people feel like their lives have more meaning.
- On the other hand, not having a routine can contribute to feelings of overwhelm, procrastination, forgetfulness, and wasted time.
The Benefits of Creating a Daily Routine
“Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.”James Clear
Many books have been written about the power of habit formation and routines. Most of them reveal this: One of the greatest benefits of having a routine is that it reinforces habits, which make it easier to get more accomplished each day because they require less decision-making and willpower. As Charles Duhigg explains in The Power Of Habit, “Willpower isn’t just a skill. It’s a muscle, like the muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left over for other things.”
One beneficial habit will commonly lead to another, creating a positive feedback loop and an overall empowering routine. Duhigg recalls, “As people strengthened their willpower muscles in one part of their lives—in the gym, or a money management program—that strength spilled over into what they ate or how hard they worked. Once willpower became stronger, it touched everything.”
Numerous well-known leaders, professional athletes, authors, and successful people in various fields have relied on routines to advance their careers. For example, Arianna Huffington, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Jack Dorsey, Steve Jobs, and Michele Obama have all reported that their daily routines—which include habits like waking up early, exercising, writing, self-reflection, and meditating—have been critical components of their success.
Adhering to a daily routine can be helpful for a number of reasons, such as:
- Increased productivity: When you have a routine, you’re more likely to get things done efficiently and effectively. By establishing a regular schedule for your day, you can prioritize tasks more easily, manage your time better, and accomplish more in less time.
- Fewer distractions: A common tip when establishing a routine is to focus on only two or three of the most important tasks for the day before potentially moving on to others. This keeps your focus on what’s most essential and stops you from being sidetracked by interruptions.
- Reduced stress and anxiety: When you know what to expect from your day, you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed or uncertain about what’s coming next. For both children and adults, routines reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, give people a greater sense of control over their lives, and make them feel more secure, safe, capable, and comfortable.
- Improved sleep: A regular sleep-wake schedule helps regulate your body’s circadian rhythm, which functions like your “internal clock.” Routines make it easier for your body to produce neurochemicals at the appropriate times, so you fall asleep at night more easily and wake up feeling rested.
- Better overall health: Daily routines that include healthy habits like exercise, eating balanced meals, and self-care practices such as meditation can contribute to general health and well-being, both physically and mentally. One major reason this is true is that routines help regulate your body’s production of hormones and neurotransmitters (such as cortisol, serotonin, and melatonin), which govern your appetite, sleep, blood sugar levels, moods, energy levels, and digestion. For example, exercising each day can increase levels of dopamine and serotonin, which are associated with feelings of pleasure, reward, calmness, and generally more positive moods. Adequate sleep and a balanced diet support normal cortisol levels, which boosts your ability to handle stress.
Example of a Healthy Daily Routine
“Either you run the day or the day runs you.”Jim Rohn
Here’s what a daily routine might look like for someone who’s focused on being healthy, happy, and successful:
- Ideally, start your morning routine by waking up after you’ve had about 7 to 9 hours of sleep. After a while, you shouldn’t need an alarm clock to wake up at the right time, as your body should adjust. Many successful people intentionally wake up early, sometimes at 4 or 5 a.m., to work while undistracted.
- Drink some water to get hydrated. Consider taking supplements geared toward your goals, such as matcha tea powder or probiotics.
- Take a few minutes to identify what’s most important that day to complete. Focus on only two or three urgent or significant tasks. You can even assign your day a “theme,” as Jack Dorsey, former CEO of Twitter, does (he has days that are themed “marketing,” “communication,” or “management”).
- Add in activities for your physical health, like stretching, going for a walk, or doing yoga.
- If possible, try to expose yourself to sunlight by going outdoors, which can wake you up and regulate your circadian rhythm.
- If time allows, gain focus and clarity by meditating, reading, or journaling. Repeating affirmations and practicing visualization are also powerful ways to boost your confidence.
- Whatever time you choose to eat breakfast, make it a healthy, balanced meal by focusing on foods with antioxidants, protein, and healthy fats, which help fuel the start of your day.
- Follow your to-do list and use your energy when it’s strongest to complete the most difficult projects first.
- Take regular breaks to recharge your energy and focus. This can include taking a short walk outside or practicing mindfulness.
- Engage in some form of physical activity, such as going for a walk, doing yoga, or going to the gym.
- Eat healthy meals and snacks every few hours to fuel your brain and keep your mood and energy up.
- Give yourself some free time to decompress. Darren Murph from Gritlab explains, “When you have no free time on your calendar, you leave little room for yourself to have serendipitous conversations or moments of creativity and inspiration.”
- Shut down work and turn off your computer once the work day is over to give your mind a rest.
- Practice self-care by doing something relaxing or fun, such as meeting up with friends, cooking a nice meal, heading outside, or watching a show.
- Tidy up your home so that it feels calmer and more organized.
- Give yourself time to digest before going to sleep or lying down. Try not to eat at least 2–3 hours before bedtime.
- Turn off all electronic devices and reflect on your day. Now’s a great time to read, journal, or write out your schedule and tasks for the following day, which makes them easier to follow through with. One survey found that people who earned more than $66,000 were more likely to always or often prepare for their mornings the night before than those earning less. 75% of those who prepared for the morning before going to bed reported being satisfied with their work the next day.
- Unwind before bed to help you fall asleep more easily by practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing.
- Make sure you get enough sleep, about 7–9 hours each night, to help your body and brain rest and recharge.
10 Ideas for Building a Good Daily Routine
“Every day of our lives we are on the verge of making slight changes that would make all the difference.”Mignon McLaughlin
1. If You Want to Get More Organized
- Prioritize: Begin each day with a strong morning routine that involves choosing 2–3 tasks to focus on first that day.
- Plan: Use a planner or journal to structure your priorities, choosing times to focus on each task.
- Block out time: Set aside time for breaks, lunch, physical activity, and social interactions.
2. If You Want to Avoid Procrastination and Distractions
- Set clear goals: Set specific, achievable goals and break them down into smaller, manageable tasks.
- Minimize interruptions: Identify potential distractions in your environment and try to eliminate or minimize them, which has been shown to boost productivity. For example, turn off your phone or put it on silent mode while working.
- Use time management techniques: Set up reminders and a calendar to schedule your day. Work for a set amount of time and then take a short break to avoid burnout.
- Hold yourself accountable: Track your work and commit to deadlines.
- Avoid multitasking: Multitasking can actually be counterproductive and lead to more distractions.
3. If You Want to Gain More Energy
- Prioritize sleep: Choose an ideal bedtime that gives you enough sleep (at least 7 hours per night).
- Get outdoors: Expose yourself to sunlight during the day.
- Try a cold shower: A quick cold shower releases energizing endorphins.
- Exercise: Work out intentionally and be more active, such as by walking more, taking the stairs at work, and stretching at your desk.
- Eat balanced meals: Every few hours, eat something healthy that includes a mix of fiber, protein, and healthy fats, which helps regulate your blood sugar.
4. To Help Boost Your Mood and Focus
- Move more: Make exercise a priority. If possible, exercise outdoors for even more calming and energizing effects.
- Avoid sleep deprivation: Be sure to get enough sleep, which regulates levels of neurotransmitters such as cortisol and melatonin that affect your mental state.
- Go easy on stimulants: Limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol can zap your energy and disrupt your sleep, while caffeine can cause dependence and blood sugar swings.
- Eat mood-boosting foods: Consume foods rich in protein and the amino acid tryptophan, which helps increase serotonin levels in the brain, leading to a more positive mood.
5. To Help You Get Better Sleep
- Stick to a schedule: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends, to train your body’s internal clock.
- Create a sleep-conducive environment: Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Use comfortable bedding and pillows, and consider playing white noise.
- Avoid stimulating activities: Shut off electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, or laptops before bedtime, as the blue light emitted by these devices can interfere with your sleep.
- Help your mind relax: Try deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation.
6. If You Want to Be More Active
- Try something new: Experiment to find what you enjoy, such as dancing, hiking, swimming, or playing a sport.
- Set a goal: Setting a goal can help motivate you to be more active, whether it’s walking 10,000 steps per day or completing a 5K race.
- Find ways to move: Look for ways to be more active, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking or biking to work, or doing more household chores.
- Schedule your workouts: Treat your workouts like appointments and schedule them into your calendar.
- Make it social: Exercise with a friend or join a group fitness class, which helps keep you accountable.
- Track your progress: Keep track of your physical activity and celebrate your progress.
Habit Building for Optimum Success
“Your ability to discipline yourself to set clear goals, and then to work toward them every day, will do more to guarantee your success than any other single factor.”Brian Tracy
It’s not necessarily easy to form and stick to a perfect daily routine right away, so expect that some patience will be needed as you adjust and tweak your schedule. Be patient, stay consistent, and focus on progress, not perfection. After practicing a routine consistently for some time, you’ll have productive daily habits that will create new opportunities, maximize your time, and lead to greater success.
Forming new habits can be challenging, but here are some tips that can help:
- Start small: Choose a simple habit that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine, such as writing in a planner for five minutes.
- Create a supportive environment: Surround yourself with people and things that support your habit. For instance, work with an “accountability buddy” and use apps on your phone or sticky notes in your office.
- Write things down to stay accountable: Keep track of your habits using a tracker or journal. Then reward yourself when you’ve reached milestones. Try digital apps and planners such as Todoist and Habitify, or journals such as Day One, Grid Diary, or Five Minute Journal.
- Adapt and stay flexible: If you miss a day or have a setback, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, focus on getting back on track and continuing to practice your habit.
Want to learn more about productivity strategies to help you seize the day? Check out this article: 9 Time Management Skills to Increase Productivity.
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