How To Create And Stick To A Routine: A Simple 5-Step Process

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A routine is a powerful tool for accomplishing your goals. It’s a commitment to doing a particular thing, or set of things, in a consistent way that will benefit you over a long period of time.

A routine is such a helpful thing to have when we are constantly distracted by so many things in life.

Life’s responsibilities are always making demands on our time, whether it’s the family wanting fed or your job expecting you to meet a deadline.

Routines can help you organize your life in a way that is productive and healthy because you’re deciding what it is you want to accomplish, forming a plan to accomplish it, and then following through on that plan.

Some people find great comfort in routine because they know when and what’s going to happen. A routine lightens the mental load because you don’t have to think so hard about what you do and when you do it – it’s virtually automatic.

Granted, things don’t always go according to plan. There are times when the routine will be interrupted. But even adhering to it a majority of the time can provide massive benefits.

Let’s explore the types of routines you might wish to get into and then look at the process of actually creating a routine and sticking to it.

What kind of routines can I develop?

Establishing routines can be challenging if you have an unpredictable life. A job that calls on you randomly or kids that need random attention can disrupt routines and interrupt your progress.

You will want to consider these unpredictable things as you try to set a routine that works for you.

Trying to schedule out every minute of every day in a routine is not likely to work, but there are small iterations of routine that you can use.

The Morning Routine

The morning routine is what you do when you first wake up in the morning. You may want to get up, check the news, check email, exercise, have a cup of coffee, take a shower, make the bed, or journal.

You can also build positive habits like meditating or listening to something inspirational to help give your day a boost.

A morning routine works best with a regular sleep schedule. If you know the kids are going to be up at 6 A.M., you may want to get up at 5 A.M. so you have an hour to yourself for your routine.

The Evening Routine

It seems like the evening routine has fallen out of favor for a lot of people. But it’s good to sit down and start winding down your day before going to bed.

Finish eating and drinking by 8 P.M. so your body has time to adjust for bed. Stop staring at electronic devices an hour or so before bedtime, or use blue light blocking software or hardware to help your eyes and brain relax.

A little quiet time to relax before bed may also help you sleep better. Perhaps you could read in bed for half an hour or listen to a relaxing audio track to help clear unwanted thoughts from your mind.

Longer Routines

Everyone has regular responsibilities that they need to take care of every week or month. They can be much easier to accomplish by creating a routine for them.

Do your grocery shopping on Sunday morning when the shops aren’t as crowded. Pick one a day month to pay your bills and it’s much harder to forget what you still need to pay. Choose one day at the beginning of each quarter to organize your calendar and plan in events such as birthday parties or days out.

Work Routines

Work is a little trickier for routines because it depends on what kind of job you have and how your boss operates.

It’s really easy to get mired down in emails if there is a lot of activity going on, so it might be best to check them only at the beginning and end of your day if it interferes with your productivity.

On the other hand, you may not be able to do that if you are working on time sensitive material that requires regular input from other people.

To help you establish a routine for some of your work duties, ask these questions:

What responsibilities do you have to fulfill regularly? Is there any way you can make that a structured activity so you can just get it done and out of the way? When is the earliest possible time you can get it done?

How do I develop a routine?

Developing your routine isn’t a complicated process. There are really only a few steps!

1. Decide on the goal that you want to accomplish.

What is it that you’re trying to accomplish with your routine? Do you want to be healthier? Exercise more? Make sure your bills are paid on time? Get the grocery shopping or laundry done? Have more personal time for yourself? Do you want just one less thing to worry about because this routine is meant to be a habit?

2. Break the bigger goal up into smaller goals.

Big goals happen by accomplishing all of the small goals that lead to success. Routines are no different.

Are you trying to build a large routine? Break it down into smaller pieces and schedule them out.

Let’s say you want to establish a routine for your work day. The schedule may look something like this:

8:00 – 8:30: Check and respond to email.
8:30 – 10:00 : Productivity time for work.
10:00 – 10:15 : A short break.
10:15 – 12:00 : Productivity time for work.
12:00 – 1:00 : A lunch break.
1:00 – 2:45 : Productivity time for work.
2:45 – 3:00 : A short break.
3:00 – 4:30 : Productivity time for work.
4:30 – 5:00 : Check and respond to email.

And there you have a work day routine all lined up!

The productivity times can even be detailed out further if you have specific goals that need to happen regularly at work. Maybe you need to prepare a particular report every week, so you dedicate the last productivity window every Friday to creating that report.

3. Be consistent with your routine.

Consistency is what builds and reinforces your routine. Try to perform your activities at the appropriate scheduled time as often as you can.

It might be easier for you to get up and exercise or read in the morning before you get your day started, for instance.

Make room in your life for your new routine. You might need to adjust your schedule and change your current routine.

Many people fall into a routine unintentionally. They are pushed into it by the responsibilities of their life. If you are one of those people, you will have to add to or change up your routines.

4. Track your progress.

Keep a record of your progress with your routine. When were you able to stick to your routine? When couldn’t you? Why couldn’t you? How can you change it up so that you can stick to your routine going forward?

There’s a good chance that you won’t be able to perfectly stick to your routine – and that’s okay! Don’t let perfect be the enemy of progress.

5. Reward yourself!

Incorporate a reward for completing your routine. This will also help associate the feel-good chemicals of receiving a gift or reward with the act of completing the routine. This doesn’t work as well with long-term routines because the brain needs a more immediate association.

But it does help to reinforce short-term routines and gives you something to look forward to while you’re trying to make your routine a habit.

Do be kind with yourself as you work to establish a new routine. The process is simple, but it certainly isn’t easy.

Be patient, too, because as with any change in behavior, it can take time for it to become automatic. You may have to think about each step in your routine at first, but eventually the contents and order of your routine will become second nature.

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About The Author

Jack Nollan is a person who has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years now. Jack is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspective from the side of the mental health consumer. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.