How to Organize Your Life with Routines

How to Organize Your Life with Routines

I’m no organization guru. I do my best to keep my house clean, tidy and decluttered. I’ve tried numerous ways to organize my daily tasks, and I would describe my outcomes as moderate. My house gets clean, my husband gets fed, and my work gets done. But it would be a lie to say those outcomes aren’t sometimes a struggle, and I have plenty of friends who’ve asked how I got on this track. I’ve talked a lot about discipline and habits, but one thing I’ve forgotten to mention is routines.

I’ve seen a lot of good advice about setting reasonable goals (which is why it’s become one of my targets for this year). Such articles warn against setting goals like do all the laundry because you can never finish the laundry pile. There’s always something dirty that needs to be washed, even if it’s just the clothing you’re wearing. (Unless you want to prance around naked while you’re doing the laundry, which actually sounds kind of fun.) Likewise these articles warn against setting goals that are too broad or general because they leave you directionless. I would like to add that you should avoid being too restrictive with your goals. I am going to clean the kitchen works a lot better than I am going to clean the kitchen in twenty minutes, because the task inevitably takes longer than you want it to and that failure to fit the goal into the time frame will make it feel like you failed.

It’s taken me a long time to realize I built my habits and discipline through regular routine. Routines are important. For children, they provide a sense of stability, help reduce anxiety, and allow a child to feel somewhat in control because they know what comes next. And routines don’t stop being important for adults. Just googling the importance of routines returns dozens of articles about the benefits of routines. Routines can help us establish or break habits, be more efficient, require less willpower while at the same time building self-confidence, and reduce procrastination while helping to build momentum.

The Benefits of Building a Regular Routine

I find it’s easier for me to remember what I have to accomplish if the tasks are tied to a day. For instance, Sunday has always been laundry day. I know when I wake up in the morning that I have to get through all the laundry in the hamper. Likewise, Monday has always been my blogging day, so I wake up ready to share my thoughts with you fine people.

When you stop to think about it, many aspects of our lives are already designed to be tackled routinely. You pay the bills once a month, and many jobs also pay on a monthly schedule. (I set aside one afternoon at the end of every month to balance the finances and pay all the bills). Routines are good for repetitive tasks that keep cropping up (dishes, laundry, housecleaning), and also for tasks that you want to devote time to regularly (like drawing or writing). Having a pre-established time at which you’re supposed to work on a thing makes it easy to justify (and harder to put off). For example, if everyone knows that dinner time is at 5PM, they try to avoid scheduling other tasks for that time. Likewise, if your spouse knows that you’re trying to write between the hours of 8 and 9PM, they’re more likely to make sure you’re not disturbed during that time.

Once something becomes normal, we do it without really thinking about it. Our bodies are even designed to work around routines. If you eat breakfast every morning when you wake up, eventually you’ll get hungry at that time. Your body can be trained to go to bed at the same time every night and to wake up at the same time every morning. It’s all about repeating activities until they become ingrained. Having a routine provides direction without requiring a lot of time to plan or organize, especially if you experiment to find the routine that works best for you.

The Pitfalls of Developing a Routine

But as always, developing a routine isn’t without it’s cons. For example, some people (like me) get set in their routines. I rely on my routine to keep my anxieties at bay. That means that if something upsets my routine, it can stress me out. I don’t like having to shift my tasks by a day or missing something that’s in my regular schedule. It makes me feel like I’ve lost control of some aspect of my life. Of course, this can be mitigated in any number of ways, and I usually settle for a hot cup of tea and reminder that not every day is going to be perfect. Just because you have a schedule doesn’t mean the universe is going to allow you to keep it.

Another pitfall of routines I’ve already discussed is becoming too rigid. I used to have every minute of the day accounted for, and I’d get upset if I started to fall behind. Recently, I started setting myself three big tasks for the day; one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening. Of course, I’ve got other things to fit into the day (like exercise and regular meals), but as long as I’ve finished my morning goal before lunch, all is well!

Another habit to avoid is building your entire schedule around tasks; to a certain extent, you have to be aware of the time too. If something goes wrong and you haven’t been able to finish your morning task, pushing lunch back until 2:30 isn’t the healthiest way to manage the situation. It’s better to stop and take care of yourself. I try to prioritize by assigning my most important task as my morning goal. That way it always gets finished. My evening goal is the easiest to shift to another day. Likewise, if you’ve got a plan for the week and something pops up, it’s important to be flexible to minimize stress. There’s no reason to beat yourself up over pushing something back a day.

Routines can be stifling if you take them to an extreme. The idea is to free yourself from stress, not pile more on top of your shoulders.

Routines that Work for Me

Monthly Routines: Pay the bills, balance the finances, plan writing goals (which also involves evaluating last month’s writing achievements)

Weekly Routines: Housecleaning, laundry, groceries; basically this is the stuff that keeps the house running. Also social media interactions with my readers and keeping my blog up to date.

Daily Routines: Maintaining my sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at around the same time on most days, keeping the house tidy, cooking, dishes, fulfilling writing goals, exercising and reading before bed.

What are your regular routines?

4 Replies to “How to Organize Your Life with Routines”

    1. I agree! I have tried a lot over the years to keep me on track and routines are the only things that work consistently. Looking back, I don’t know how I ever got by without them ^^;;

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