Developing personal routines was a sanity saver for me. I used to cringe inwardly when I heard the word routine. To me, a routine was confining and boring. That is not what I wanted in my life. I wanted more joy and peace in my life. I was tired of feeling frazzled and feeling that my life was controlling me rather than being the one controlling my life.
At the time, our kids were little. They needed me a lot. How would a routine help me in my life? Every day, every hour, or even every minute, was usually different from the one before. Life was not predictable. However, time and again, my searching for a solution kept pointing to the same thing: routines. In my desperation, I finally decided to give them a try.
Here I share with you the steps I used to set up routines that worked for me, routines that I used to create more order and thus more joy and peace in my life and the life of our family.
What is a routine?
A routine is a plan of action that we follow to get the results we want. It is that simple.
1. What results do I want to achieve? Identify them and write them down.
Ask yourself: What is my ultimate goal? My big goal was to get my act together personally and in our home. That sounded like a great plan, but what would that look like in reality? In order for the routines to be of help and serve my purposes, I needed to know what getting my act together would look like. To me, it looked like:
- not getting up too late in the morning
- being dressed by 10 am
- getting errands done in the morning (instead of in the afternoon, when the kids would need a nap)
- eating dinner at a reasonable time so the kids weren’t up too late
- getting the kids to bed at a reasonable time each night
2. How can I implement routines to help me accomplish my goals? Make a plan.
I broke up my goals into smaller action steps. Then I decided what time of day was best to do them. Taking a piece of paper, I divided it into four sections. I labeled each one with a different time of day. My categories were morning, afternoon, evening, and bedtime.
Create your first goal.
My first goals were to not get up too late in the morning and to be dressed by 10 am. I thought of what time my kids woke up and knew from experience that my day went better when I was up around the same time they were, or earlier. If I wasn’t, I felt like I was playing catch-up all day long. This meant I needed to get out of bed by 7. I wrote that down in the morning section. Did I want to get dressed at that time or feed the kids and myself breakfast first? To avoid grouchy people (myself included!) I decided to start with breakfast. This meant I would need to get dressed right after I cleaned up the breakfast dishes or else my day could easily get away from me. I wrote these actions down on my paper.
If I had any errands to run or appointments to go to, I knew my morning went more smoothly and I was less frazzled if I got things ready the day before. Was my grocery list ready? Did I write down all of my questions for the doctor? I didn’t want to do these things in the evening the day before, so I put errand preparation in the afternoon section.
Add another goal.
The next goal I looked at was having a consistent bedtime for our kids. Ideally, I wanted them in bed between 7:30 and 8:00. I decided all I wanted to accomplish with them before bedtime: picking up toys and games that had been left out, baths, brushing teeth, evening family prayers, and bedtime stories. Next, I estimated that this would take about an hour (depending on the day!) for all these things to be done. This meant starting their bedtime routine by 6:30, which meant dinner and clean up needed to be done before that. Dinner and clean up would take about an hour, so we should sit down to eat by 5:30. I wrote these things down and their times in the evening section.
Add any more goals you want to have as part of your day.
Getting my own act together was another one of my goals. I focused on creating a bedtime routine for myself. Each morning as I decided what to wear, I usually ended up tossing the rejected clothes on the bed. This resulted in a messy looking room that faced me every time I walked into it, and I felt down about myself. Sometimes I left an item out to wear the next day. This saved me time the next morning, especially if I had to go out in the morning. I added picking out my clothes for the next day to my bedtime routine section.
How do I put it all together?
3. Evaluate your list and add any needed actions.
I looked at what I had written in the sections on my page. I added some more items to the different sections, like laundry and dinner preparation. Now I had a consistent plan I could follow.
4. Decide the order of your action items.
I decided the order in which I wanted to complete my action items and numbered them. For example, I put a load of laundry in the washing machine before breakfast since I walked by it on my way to the kitchen. It was easy to start a load then. I also put laundry after breakfast so I could switch the load to the drier as I walked back to our bedroom to get dressed.
I unloaded the dishwasher before breakfast since we ran in during the night.
5. Rewrite each routine on its own sheet of paper.
I labeled four separate pieces of paper with the sections headings from my planning page. I wrote out my new routines, one sheet per routine. For each routine, I listed the actions in the order I wanted to follow them. I could make adjustments later as necessary.
6. Put routines into action consistently.
I felt happy and excited having some plans in place to meet my goals. But, having them on paper would not help me reach my goals. Now I needed to put them into action consistently. They would not work by themselves; I had to make them work.
7. Enjoy the results.
This is a crucial step. Imagine what my life would be like if I followed these routines? I now had a written guide for my day, so I felt less like I was pulled in various directions at one time. I wasn’t preoccupied during the day about getting certain things done (like the laundry) since it was written down and I had a designated space in my day for it.
Do you have routines for yourself, or do you run in the opposite direction when you hear the word routine? Just follow these simple steps to make routines that will work for you. Remember, we are not bound to follow our routines as if they are our bosses. We create our routines to work for us, to serve us, so we can get things done to reach our goals.
Quick recap on building routines
- Determine the results you want to achieve. What are your goals?
- Divide a piece of paper into sections and label them with different times of the day. Break up your goals into smaller action steps and decide what time of day you want to do them. Write them down on your paper.
- Add any other items you want to get done in each of the sections.
- Decide the order in which you want to complete your action steps.
- Rewrite each routine on its own sheet of paper. (Make adjustments in the future as necessary.)
- Put your routines into action consistently.
- Enjoy the results.
Yes. Start small. You can create routines that have only one or two action items. Remember that your routines are to suit you and your needs. When I saw the positive results of my routines, I started to add more items. And more items. However, I became overwhelmed and frustrated. I was grouchy with my husband and our kids. I knew then that I needed to scale back.
Start with a small routine, get it running smoothly, celebrate your success, and if you want to add more, do so gradually. Change and delete what needs to be altered to suit your needs and the needs of your family.
Remember, the purpose of your routines is for them to serve you and your family and help you accomplish your goals. Now, go tackle those goals! You can do it.