the power of routines
Updated: Dec 17, 2020
It has been studied that children function better when their lives are centered around routines, but did you know the same is true for adults? A daily, weekly and/or monthly routine can guide us in what we do and how productive we can be. Research shows us that completing tasks in the same order repeatedly builds brain power and mental muscle. There are no limits to the benefits of setting up and following regular routines.
If you’ve read previous Neat Little Nest blog posts or have seen some of my social media, you may have guessed that I love routines! Routines help us feel comfortable in an ever-changing, fast-paced, complex world. While each day is different because the tasks, action items, and events vary, having a routine provides a solid framework of sequence.
When we have a familiar flow to our day, it can save us time, make us more efficient and gets us firing on all cylinders rather than spinning our proverbial wheels.
I know the above holds true for me. My power routines are my morning and day-planning routines. Those routines propel my day’s actions and get my mind and body working together. When I build in time daily to check off family to-dos, plan for Neat Little Nest client projects and block time to manage longer range strategic work, I am able to get what I need to accomplish done way more efficiently. I also know what happens when I decide to skip those steps, which is a more jumbled and brain-hectic day.
Let me share a few of my favorite routines and how they can play a larger role in helping you stay organized and on top of things.
Sometimes the best way to have a productive morning is to get a head start on it the night before. A few simple items done before you head to bed can provide you with more time in the morning when you are most in need of it, especially if you have kids.
How you begin your day, whether cool as a cucumber or frazzled typically sets the tone for the rest of it. Your morning routine should be your daily constant. Mornings need not be rushed or chaotic if you have a routine you follow that includes all the necessary things (including a realistic amount of time!) to get you out the door. While there isn’t an ideal morning routine for everyone, there is an ideal one for you.
Here are four Neat Little Nest suggestions for fine tuning your morning routine.
#1 Get Up Earlier
For most people, morning routines are relatively static as they consist of similar necessary tasks each day so these routines are actually the easiest ones to follow. However, if you have children (need I say more) or are finding yourself scrambling once you wake, try getting up 15-20 minutes earlier. You'll be amazed how much more you can accomplish in that seemingly short amount of time and how that time can act as a buffer so you can actually enjoy your cup of java (or tea). I cherish my quiet alone time in the early hours of the morning.
#2 Move That Body
Studies show that exercising in the morning boosts your metabolism for the rest of the day. This could be a walk/jog, a trip to the gym, yoga or even dancing around with your kids. You do not have to work out hard, a simple morning stretch routine is enough to get your blood pumping.
#3 Stay Unplugged
If you can, stay unplugged the first hour after you wake up (hard for me too!). Checking social media and your inbox can start your day off on the wrong foot. Wait until your brain has truly been able to click into ready mode before you bombard it with online mind clutter. Your morning will be far easier to manage if you aren’t distracted by the unexpected ask that came in from your boss or the never-ending group text thread.
#4 Everything In Its Place
When you begin the day with tidy and organized spaces, it helps cut down on hurriedly trying to find the car keys, gloves, umbrellas, shoes, and backpacks. Establishing a dedicated place (basket, bin, shelf) for your breakfast pantry items, lunchboxes, jackets, all the grab-n-go things that mornings typically require, limits time spent trying to find them and keeps anxiety and stress at a minimum. Give yourself an extra 5 minutes in the morning to do a quick sweep of the house as this will make your after work/school arrival home so much more pleasant.
The close of each day is just as important as its beginning. By implementing evening routines, you can optimize for the next morning. If you feel prepared for the next day before you go to sleep, that enables you to actually relax and recharge. It can be a challenge to get a restful night’s sleep if you are ticking off what is left to be done or if you are already spinning tomorrow’s to-dos in your head.
Here are my top three Neat Little Nest suggestions for honing your evening routine.
#1 Tidy Up
Add a brief nightly tidy up session to your evening routine, this might be as little as five minutes. Much like the suggestion of waking 15-20 minutes earlier in the morning to give you a spot of extra time, allocate 5-15 minutes in the evening to tame the day’s clutter including sorting mail and checking off a couple household chores. Doing a little bit every day cuts down on weekend time managing cumulative chaos.
#2 Look ahead
Taking time at the end of a day to think ahead to tomorrow’s schedule and activities and what is needed can mitigate a floodgate in the morning. You can set the coffee maker, write out your morning schedule and check food prep. Be sure to have kids engage, age appropriately, and be a part of owning tasks that affect them, like making breakfast, unpacking backpacks, finding library books that are due, filling water bottles and picking out their clothes.
#3 Wind Down + Prepare for Zzzs
Your pre-sleep routine consists of those activities you do each night to prepare for bed. These items both consciously and unconsciously aid your mind + body to recognize that it is just about time to get your Zzzs. Brushing your teeth, washing your face, closing your curtains/blinds and putting on pajamas (or whatever you snooze in) are the most common, but we all uniquely have our own list and order. Give yourself 30 to 60 minutes to decelerate at the end of your day and limit electronics use. Instead, spend time reading, listening to music, meditation, or taking a warm bath/shower. Those are all helpful ways to slow your breathing and heart rate and kick start your body’s natural circadian rhythm into gear. There are a host of relaxation apps for winding down you can try to get you more Zzzs so you can wake up refreshed.
Creating weekly routines sets time aside for particular tasks that don’t need attention every day, but need to be attended to weekly. For our family, our weekly routine is a weekly reset that takes place on Sundays. It is a full family sport with my kids, my husband and I.
The first thing we do is look at our daily activities/schedules for the week ahead (so everyone knows who has what going on) and plan out our a calendar of meals (and a shopping list to match) using the Neat Little Nest weekly planner. Then, we spend a focused amount of time, usually between 15 minutes and one hour, putting anything away that is out of its designated home and any special cleaning tasks to tackle (a necessity in a busy home).
Carving out time to jot down meals/recipes (and what ingredients you need to pick up) for the week ahead can make it easier to hit the grocery store one time a week versus many. If you know you have days/nights where you have a more flexible schedule, those are the days you assign to more time-consuming tasks (changing bedding, cleaning bathrooms, deep clean etc.) while on more time constricted days/nights, you might just do a simple counter wipe down from the days crumbs.
Celebrate what you can get done and don’t place focus on getting it ALL checked off. Practice a "Progress over perfection" mindset. The key with establishing a weekly routine is to regularly stick with whatever plan you come up with that makes the most sense for you and your family. Have an initial family meeting to see what ideas your family members might have around establishing routines. When they feel they contribute to the reset plan rather than just being told what to do, it makes all the difference.
routines help reign in chaos
There will always be things in our lives that require us to be flexible. Routines are helpful tools to help you manage the ups and downs of life. Routines innately take the guesswork out of what needs to be done, thereby reducing stress levels, because we do not have to think as much. They are a tool to put us in better control of our lives rather than life’s circumstances controlling us. If you haven't yet given routine's a chance, go ahead and start - the details inside of it are up to you. Have fun with it!