Most people already keep a daily routine – often, it is shaped around their work hours, and when they naturally get hungry, or tired. While these are not unhealthy impulses (after all, it’s good to go to sleep when you’re tired; to eat when you’re hungry), but by actively reassessing your daily routine and restructuring it around your daily priorities, tasks and life goals, you maximize your waking hours, save time, eliminate nasty habits, sleep better, and often reach your highest dreams.
To help you determine how to best create a daily routine that works for you, first let’s look at how it can improve your life, and how to best proceed.
Reduce Wasted Time/Energy Making Unnecessary Decisions
For the same reason Mark Zuckerberg owns 20 identical faded grey T-shirts, keeping a daily routine helps you save time and energy by not sweating the small stuff, like what to have for breakfast, or what time you’d like to be out the door, or, like Zuck, what you’re going to wear that day.
A day can be utterly consumed by these small, insignificant decisions, especially if you work from home: should I go to the gym now, or later? What should I make for lunch? By hardcoding these decisions into your routine and automating your daily activities to the point where you don’t even think about it, you eliminate the dreaded “transitional time” that becomes habitual between tasks (otherwise known as “procrastination”) and you save a good amount of time, too.
Some of the greatest men and women in history have kept impeccably scheduled routines: everyone from Benjamin Franklin to Jack Dorsey; writers like Gay Talese and Maya Angelou. In fact, the most prolific thinkers all seem to have kept extremely early hours: Angelou, Franklin, and others like Beethoven, French designer Le Corbusier and poet W. H Auden would wake up at the crack of dawn.
While re-adjusting your sleep schedule seems like a daunting challenge, it’s a simple and effective way of training your mind to work productively, while maximizing the amount of daylight hours available. Experts recommend scaling back your wake-up time by 15 minute increments (because obviously it’ll be harder to force yourself to wake up at 6:30 if you normally wake up at 10), ditching the snooze button, and dimming the lights later at night.
Not only do you save time by not simplifiying decisions, you can decide once and for all which habits you want to keep and which hold you back. It often takes a change of routine to eliminate nasty habits, like kicking that morning cigarette; and it requires structured planning to integrate a daily workout or some personal quiet time to your day.
By making a concerted effort to refine your habits and setting yourself on a challenge to keep your routine, then you are only making yourself available to a better, healthier life. To get all you want out of your day (and get rid of what you don’t), schedule every task and activity for your first few weeks, and reward yourself with a treat after a successful week.
Whether or not you feel it as you go on in the day, your body has a million different routine processes that cycle throughout the day, including growth hormones, digestive hormones, insulin, blood glucose, and cortisol. Paired with a natural sleep cycle, these cycles determine how you feel around the day: when you should eat, when you mentally peak, when your blood vessels are most dilated.
By following your body’s routine (otherwise called your circadian rhythm), your body will work better for you, telling you when you’ll be at your most productive, physically most resilient, or when sleep quality will be best.
Reach Your Goals
If you’ve been meaning to quit smoking, lose weight, redecorate your home, or even to write a novel, you needn’t view these ambitions as insurmountable challenges. All it takes is breaking down your goals into small, actionable steps, and work on them in incremental amounts every day.
For example, rather than start binge dieting, try to integrate healthier meals and snacks into your daily diet one meal at a time, and add new and more nutritious recipes into your repertoire weekly. Rather than quitting cold turkey, see if you can smoke one less cigarette every week or two. If your dream is to publish a novel, see if you can devote 20 minutes to writing, or idea-mapping, every day. By tackling these ambitions incrementally, you’re more likely to sustain a healthy routine, and less likely to burn out.
Having a consistent schedule is a simple way to get more out of your time each and every day. What methods do you use to be more effective? Share your tips in the comments section!