It’s easy to look around and see the benefits that come from having a routine. A routine so deeply ingrained in you that it becomes a habit. You can see the benefits brought by creating and sticking to a routine.
Which leaves you wondering…
How do you teach yourself the habits you know you want but just can’t seem to make happen?
How do you create a routine you won’t hate? One that will work for you?
Perhaps you’ve tried to establish a morning routine or an evening routine and you just can’t seem to get it right. Or perhaps you’ve never tried to intentionally create a routine for yourself. Or perhaps you have a wonderful routine going and you want to add some things in, but you just can’t seem to make them stick.
No matter where you are on this spectrum, you need to know something: You can create your own routines! You can make them stick! You can turn your routines into habits!
In fact, here are 10 elements that are essential to building a successful routine – no matter what time of day it might be!
Element #1 :: Your Routine is Yours
When it comes to creating routines, there is something very important you need to understand: You routine is yours! Your routine will not look identical to anyone else’s.
Now, it’s easy to say this and easy to acknowledge this, but it’s a completely different thing to embrace it. And yet, not only understanding this principle but taking it to heart is the key to creating you routine.
You are a unique individual with a unique personality. Your routine will not look identical to anyone else’s because your routine will be unique to you.. Don’t try to copy anyone else’s routine point for point. Take inspiration from others, yes. Glean ideas from what they do, yes. But you have to figure out what works for you in order for your routine to work and become a lifelong habit.
Element #2 :: Recognize Your Current Routine
Did you realize you already have routines you follow? Oh, you may not call it a routine, but it’s there.
Think for a minute about what you do when you first wake up. Things you do that are so automatic you don’t consciously think about doing them. It may be putting your slippers on, brushing your teeth, or walking to your kitchen to turn the coffee on. What are those things you do without realizing it? Take a few minutes and notice what those things are. What about as you’re getting ready for bed? What do you do?
What do you do when you’re about to leave the house to run errands? Do you make sure all the doors are locked? Do you have certain things you get? Maybe your purse, your keys, your phone?
What routines doe you already have in place? Before you attempt to build a new routine or build on to your current routine, you need to know your starting place. Start by identifying your current routines. If it helps, you can even write them down so you can physically see your starting place.
Element #3 :: Don’t Start from Scratch
The thought of starting a new routine can be exciting. The though of putting a plan into place to finally create that morning routing you’ve been wanting to create for years can invigorate you. But have you ever tried to create a brand new routine? And not only create it in your head, but turn it into reality?
What happens? Well, you might do all right for a few days, but after some time you’ll start to find yourself slipping back into your old routine and forgetting your new one. It feels too hard to keep going. To keep pushing. To keep forcing yourself to do this new routine even if you desperately want the end result you feel this new routine will bring you.
And what started out as a grand idea to make big, sweeping changes in your life ends up failing and leaving you right in the routine you were in before. Only now you have this huge sense of guilt and failure because you couldn’t seem to create a new routine.
Can I let you in on a secret? It’s extremely hard to create a brand new routine from scratch. It’s even harder to force yourself to do all the pieces of this new routine and stick with it.
However, there is good news! When you start with the routine you already have, it’s much easier to change or add one thing at a time. It’s the difference between starting something completely new and building on the foundation you already have.
If you want to create a new routine that will turn into a habit, there is nothing like connecting what you want to do with a current habit. For example, if you want to get into the habit of making your bed every morning and you already have a habit of sitting on your bed to put your shoes on, connect those two habits. Don’t allow yourself to sit on your bed to put your shoes on until your bed is made.
In connecting a new element you want to add to your routine with an existing element of your routine (a habit), you reduce the amount of energy and effort you need to motivate yourself to do the new thing. And in time, this new thing, this new element becomes a part of your existing habit.
Element #4 :: Find Your Starting Point
So where do you even start? Well, you’ve identified what you’re already doing. Now, the next step is to identify what you want to build on to your current routine.
You may already know what you want to add to your current routine. But if you don’t, try sitting down and writing down some thing you wish were habits. Your list could have one or two things on it or it could be much longer. The length of the list doesn’t matter. The key here is to pinpoint what new elements you want to add to your routine to make it a habit.
A word to the wise: Don’t try to add everything into your routine all at once! If you make this too hard on yourself you’ll give up and be back where you started before the end of the week! Try choosing only one or two elements to add or adjust in your current routine at a time.
And don’t stop at identifying what you want to add in, think through where you want to add them in your current routine! For example, if you want to add washing your face into your morning routine, you might choose to add it in right after brushing your teeth and right before getting dressed. Make this as specific as you can.
Element #5 :: Be Prepared for a Challenge
Creating a new routine is tough. Adding to or altering an existing routine is hard. Let’s face it: This is a challenge! Remember, you’re teaching yourself a new way of doing things. And no matter who you are, learning new things can feel very challenging and very difficult at times.
As you create or adjust your routine, know that you’ll hit a point where it will get tough. Where you’ll have to force yourself to do this new element of your routine you want to make a habit. When you hit this point, don’t give up! Remember, you are retraining yourself and teaching yourself new routines that turn into habits. Keep your eyes on the end goal of turning this new piece, this new routine into a habit and keep going.
Don’t forget, many times it will not get easier until it first gets harder! Don’t give up!
Element #6 :: It’s Not Just About Morning
Morning routines get a lot of press, don’t they? It seems like everywhere you turn you’re bombarded with advice about how you need to create a perfect morning routine. About how the success of your day is fully dependent on your morning routine.
I agree that morning routines are important. I agree that your morning routine can set the tone for your day. However, I disagree that the only routine you have is in the morning!
Think about it: You have routines throughout your day without even realizing it. When you use the restroom, after you are finished you flush the toilet, wash and dry your hands and turn out the light when you leave the room. Do you think about this? No! This routine is so deeply ingrained in you that it has become a habit.
You see, morning is not the only time of day where routines come into play. You have evening routines. You have lunchtime routines. You have routines for leaving your house. You have routines for when you arrive back at your house whether from running errands or getting home from work. You have routines for what to do with the mail when you bring it in your house.
The key here is not to focus exclusively on your morning routine and attempt to pack everything into this one time frame. Rather, realize that even though morning routines are important, they are not the only routine you have!
Element #7 :: Find the Right Timing
One of the biggest keys in creating routines that work for you is to figure out what time of day works best for you to accomplish each element of your routine. Remember, this isn’t just about creating a morning routine! This is about creating routines that turn into habits that work for you. Part of this process is finding the right time of day to do each element you want to make a habit.
For example, let’s say you want to get into the routine of taking your vitamins. Some people find taking their vitamins works best first thing in the morning. In fact, they may connect taking their vitamins with getting their first cup of coffee or tea. But what if you’re not a breakfast person? What if you try taking your vitamins first thing in the morning and find that your vitamins agree with you much better if you take them with a meal? Well, taking your vitamins is important and you don’t want to give up on adding this element to your routine. So, try a new time of day. Instead of first thing in the morning, you could take your vitamins with lunch or dinner, connecting taking your vitamins with a meal you’re already in the habit of eating.
Or take working out as an example. Some people insist that first thing in the morning is the only time to work out. And there are many people who love working out first thing in the morning. But there are also people who enjoy working out in the evening. That evening time frame works for them. There are still others who find the best window of time for them to work out is late morning or early afternoon.
You see, it’s less about needing to put one element into a certain time frame and more about finding the right timing for you. You need to find the right time of day that works for you to add in this new element to your routine. Now, this may take some trial and error. It may take trying an element like taking your vitamins or working out in one part of your day and giving it some time to see if it works. It’s it’s not a good fit, try another part of your day. Give it a chance. See if it works and keep trying different things until you find the right timing for you.
Element #8 :: Your Routines Effect Each Other
It’s easy to think of each of your routines as a stand-alone item, isn’t it? You have your morning routine. You have your evening routine. You have your routine for putting your kids to bed.
But have you ever stopped to think about how your routines effect each other? They do!
Think about it: If you have an evening routine that takes 90 minutes and ends with you climbing in bed by 10pm, but you don’t finish putting your kids to bed until 9pm, your evening routine will get completely thrown off right?
Or what if you’re trying to create a morning routine that starts with you getting out of bed at 5am. If you don’t get in bed until 1am the night before, it will be exponentially harder to get out of bed at 5am the next morning!
You see, even though each routine might look like it stands on its own, your routines effect each other. Recognizing this and working with this will set you up for long term success in creating new routines or adjusting your existing ones.
Element #9 :: Don’t be Locked in by Length
With all this talk about creating routines, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking your routine needs to be a certain length. But here’s the thing: This is your routine! You know how much time you have. You know how long your routine needs to be.
Now, the amount of time you have for your routine will in part be determined by your season of life. Let’s take morning routines for example. If you have an infant who needs your immediate attention in the morning, you may only have 60 seconds for your morning routine. In that case, you routine will be extremely simple. On the other hand, you may be in a season where you can take 2 hours and have a leisurely morning routine. Or you could fall anywhere in the middle of these two extremes.
You see, the key to creating routines is not starting with a set amount of time you want your routine to take, but rather working with the time you have and creating routines and habits to help you get the things you need to accomplish done more efficiently.
Element #10 :: Routines Turn into Habits
The ultimate goal is to have your routine turn into a habit. To allow them to become so ingrained into what you do and who you are that you don’t even think about them. And yet, this is the ultimate challenge when creating a new routine.
You see, with each new day you have a specific amount of willpower. As you go throughout your day, you use up that willpower bit by bit. Yet when you stop to think about what you spend your willpower on, you realize you don’t have to use it on your habits. In fact, you barely think about going through the motions of your habits.
When you continually work at it. When you stick with it through the tough times. When you follow the same routine over and over, your routine becomes a habit. It becomes a part of you. It becomes a habit you don’t even have to think about. When it becomes a habit, it takes less willpower, which in turn leaves you more willpower to use on other things.
This is the ultimate goal of a routine: To turn your routines into habits so they become a part of you.
Don’t let the thought of creating a routine scare you. Routines don’t have to be rigid and unbending. When you create your own routine that combines elements you want to turn into habits with the best time of day for you to accomplish those elements and the amount of time you have to work with in this season of your life, routines can be your best friend.
Remember, your routine will not look exactly like anyone else’s. Your routine will be unique to you. And that’s the best kind of routine you could possibly get in the habit of!
Are you wanting to create habits, but don’t know where to start? Start here! Here are 5 simple habits you can create to be less forgetful and more organized. This quick and easy list will help you remember those essential things like where your keys are even as you work to build your morning routine!
- 5 Simple Solutions to be Less Forgetful and More Organized
- 20 Secrets to Be More Organized
- 5 Simple Steps to Take You from Scattered to Organized
- How to Deal with Piles of Paper in Your Space
- 5 Easy Steps to Pick Up Your Room Quickly
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.