We all start our days the same. We wake up, we get ready, we get our family out the door, and we come back later to eat and go back to bed. The next day it starts all over again. You can choose to live each day in a robotic fashion. Or you can choose to give each day a purpose. The latter gives you more to look forward to. And in order to do that successfully, you need to establish solid routines.
Routines can make or break your day. If you don’t have some kind of routine, your mornings can become a stress-filled tornado. Does everyone have what they need? Did you forget anything? Nine times out of ten something is left behind. Even a minor routine can save you a ton of hassle and headaches.
Today, I’m sharing six tips on how to best build solid routines that will make your mornings and evenings smooth.
Before you can start building solid routines, you need to first learn what is causing you stress each day. Is it your inability to find your keys? Is your kitchen set up a nightmare and you can never find anything? Are your kids always losing their homework?
Once you nail down the one — or few — things that are causing you stress each morning, you’ll be in a better position to fix it.
You can solve this by doing a simple exercise. Every morning for the next 3-5 days, pay close attention to your stress levels. Note when they are at their highest. Create a list, either on your phone or on paper, and write down everything that is causing it to spike.
After 3-5 days, look it over and determine what you can fix on that list quickly. If you always lose your keys, install a hook next to the door to hang them. If your kids are always losing homework, give them a paper tray where they can keep it. Sometimes simple solutions are all you need to fix stressful situations.
Many people who use routines will have both a morning and an evening routine. But these are people who have trialed and errored their way to their ideal routine. If you’re new to routines, it’s best to just pick either a morning or evening routine.
You can always add on the other one later. Learn to build one before giving yourself too much to handle.
How can you determine which one is better for you? Easy. If you can’t seem to leave your house each morning without a high dose of stress, a morning routine is for you. If you can’t fall asleep without a thousand thoughts running through your head, an evening routine is for you.
Are suffering from both? Pick which one is worse and start there. As I said before, you can always add on the other one later. Once you get comfortable with a morning or evening routine, you’ll have more confidence in building the other one. You’ll also learn what works and what doesn’t so you can better create the other one with less trial and error.
Now that you know what type of routine you want to create, it’s time to brainstorm. Solid routines vary from person to person, family to family. No two routines are the same. However, you can look to others for inspiration.
Google “morning routine” or “evening routine” and you’ll get swarmed by blog posts and YouTube videos. While you’ll get endless examples, it can overwhelm you. To keep things simple and to give you a starting point here are two I recommend:
You’ll find a ton more resources, but don’t fall into a rabbit hole of research. Once you have a list of ideas, stop researching. You can always search more down the road.
One of the best tips you can do when it comes to building solid routines is to start small. During your research phase, you might find people doing 5-10 tasks in their morning and/or evening routine. Don’t feel pressured to do the same.
In fact, it’s best to start small when building routines. You don’t know yet what’s going to work for you and your family. You may not have time for five tasks. You might only have time for three.
So when you have a list of ideas written down, choose three for your morning routine and three for your evening routine. That’s it! You might not think it’s a lot, but depending on your timeframe and bandwidth, three could be your magic number.
Be mindful of your time. If you’re in crunch mode from the minute you wake up to the minute you’re out the door, you won’t have time to read for 15 minutes. Make sure you choose tasks that work for your timeframe. And if you need to adjust your wake-up time to accommodate for a task you really want to do, start getting up earlier.
Once you grow comfortable with the routine and you find you have more time, only then can you add on another task. Just one!
Many people who have solid routines recommend no more than 5-7 tasks max. This is to ensure you don’t overwhelm yourself. It also gives you flexibility. So if there’s a morning where you’re running late, you can skip a less important task and be fine with that.
And you will have mornings or evenings where the day gets away from you and you’ll have to adjust. Don’t think of this as a failure. If you have to skip one or two tasks one morning, it doesn’t mean you’re falling off the wagon. Simply pick things back up the next day and keep going.
Finally, it’s important to review your progress every few months. Solid routines can serve you well for a certain length of time, but there will come a time when they need to be adjusted.
Maybe you moved to a different home. As your kids get older, you’ll need to adjust your morning routine for them. You can even encourage them to create their own. It’s a great way to hold them accountable.
Other reasons might be a new job, a change in your schedule, or an illness. The minute your current routine no longer works is the time to sit down and reevaluate it. Sometimes all it takes is switching things around. But you might have to create an entirely new routine.
Don’t let this discourage you. Change is good. Even if you don’t have any immediate changes to your life, it’s still a good idea to review your routine every few months. If a task isn’t serving you well anymore, remove it. Do whatever you have to make sure your routine works best for you.
Building and maintaining solid routines will take time. Patience is vital because there will be mornings when you wake up and don’t feel motivated to do anything. Don’t think that being unmotivated will ruin your day. You can always create a shorter routine for those days. This way you still feel some semblance of control.
No matter what kind of routine you build, it’s important to give each day a purpose. Part of what I do with my clients is help them create customized systems that will make their mornings and evenings more streamlined and stress-free. If you want to learn more, check out my services page and contact me with any questions.
Photo: Drew Coffman
March 4, 2022