6 Steps to Creating a Daily Routine That Works for You
I admit, I’m a person who loves routines. I’m the one with a to-do list, even on the weekends, because it gives me a sense of order in what otherwise may feel like chaos. But even I, as much as I like structure, didn’t always have a daily routine. My journey toward a routine started after feeling totally overwhelmed by my schedule and responsibilities at work. I finally surrendered. I knew I couldn’t continue attending back-to-back meetings, skipping lunch, and working until the evening hours. I was exhausted and felt unprepared to do my best work. Does this sound familiar?
I came across an article that spoke to me. It was all about how to organize my office and my workday. I followed the instructions to the letter and shared it with my assistant. I asked her to help me implement the changes.
The article included everything from how to start my day, to carving out blocks of time for lunch, reading and professional development, meetings, networking, and planning time. This worked so well for me, and I practiced it religiously. I immediately felt the results. I was better prepared for meetings, had time to connect with coworkers, ate lunch away from my desk, and I felt accomplished at the end of the day.
While my workday routine had improved significantly, my home life was not as productive. I didn’t have a regular time for household responsibilities, for exercise and self-care, or for personal goals. Over time, I realized I needed to establish a daily routine that encompassed both work and home life.
Here are six steps to creating a daily routine that worked for me, and I’m confident they will work for you too.
Step 1: Schedule time to plan.
I recommend carving out a few hours over a weekend and go to where you will not be distracted. Bring with you, paper, pencils, and a calendar. You’ll need access to your work and personal calendars. Here is a free My Daily Routine template, if you do not have one.
Step 2: Take time for reflection.
It is important to reflect on your current routine and identify what’s working well and what needs to be improved. This is also the time to establish your Why. Here are some questions that may help you during your reflection:
- How am I currently spending my time?
- What’s working well and what’s not working well?
- What are my biggest distractions and how will I solve for them?
- What part of my day is most busy?
- When am I at my peak in terms of energy and productivity?
- What matters most to me?
- What are non-negotiables – things I can’t change?
- What do I wish I had more time to do?
- How will my life improve with a daily routine?
- What is my vision of a successful day?
Step 3: Make a list.
This is the time to list all of your current commitments and responsibilities. Get everything down on paper that takes time and energy. Consider all areas of your life. Be sure to allow for those activities we tend to leave out of our schedules, but that create balance and wellbeing. The My Daily Routine template includes a list that may be helpful to this part of the process. Once you have everything in front of you, prioritize the list. Identify those things that must or should be done daily versus activities that can be done fewer times during the week.
Step 4: Organize the list and assign times.
For each activity that you have identified for your daily schedule, estimate the time it takes to complete the activity and the time of day it is either required or you strongly prefer based on your peak energy time. Organize the activities under morning, afternoon, or evening. If one activity needs to be done more than once a day (e.g., walk the dog), then list it under the proper headings. If the activity is done once weekly or monthly, then place it on the week’s calendar when it is to be done.
Step 5: Add the details.
This is where most people start to cringe. I’ve even heard people say, “I don’t want to be a slave to my routine,” or “My day owns me instead of me owning my day.” I get it. Some of us don’t like to get into the specifics. But trust me, when you are starting something new, details matter. I suggest you write the specific times and try sticking to them as closely as you can for 30 days. After that time, you will be accustomed to your daily routine such that you won’t need to follow the schedule so tightly. Begin with setting your bedtime and wake-up time, giving yourself a minimum of 7 hours of sleep time.
Step 6: Go for it.
It’s time to put your routine into practice. Some days may go smoothly and other days not so much. Either way, keep going. And no, you don’t need an assistant, but it is helpful to ask a family member or friend to keep you accountable. It could be that they will agree to ask you at the end of your week how it’s going. Celebrate your wins daily. After a few weeks, make adjustments as needed.
James Clear wrote in his bestseller, Atomic Habits:
“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”
I’m wishing you tremendous success in owning your day and living a more balanced, productive, and intentional life.
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