Day 1, 7.30am.
You wake up, back from your holiday. You’re exhausted, dreading going back to work. You get up at 7.30, snoozing as much as possible. You don’t have time for a shower, but you make your breakfast in slow motion, groggily reaching for the closest form of caffeine. You miss your train/get in the car late, rushing into work late for your 9am meeting. Everyone stares. You wish you were back on the beach, and not sitting here, feeling tired and guilty.
Whether this is you or not, this is a realistic description of probably more than one of you when you’re out of your routine. To some of you, routine and structure may not even occur in your vocabulary; for others it might be an essential element of life. But regardless of your personality, some routine in life can truly help you be more consistent, enhance your personal effectiveness, and help you achieve both your daily and long-term goals.
So what do you do when you fall out of it? When do feel like you have ‘failed’ yourself and you don’t want to play at life anymore? Step one is acceptance. Keeping routine is not a crash diet. It’s about being consistent on average, yet accepting that you will sometimes fall out of it. So if you slip out of it, don’t think it’s ‘over’. It just means taking the steps to slip back in.
That brings us to Step two: getting back on the horse. So you’ve been on an extended holiday (or hey – just had a really tough few weeks at work or home). If on holiday – you relaxed – it was wonderful. You recharged. But this doesn’t mean that your ‘life’ goes out the window when you get back. Give yourself time, but continue to make efforts to get back on the horse. Start getting up at normal time, eating well, and progress towards being as efficient as you were before the ‘slip’ in your routine.
In Step three, recognise that your routine is yours. Although seeking inspiration from others can really help to motivate you in your routine; don’t just replicate someone else’s routine that is unrealistic for you. This is because you probably won’t do it consistently and it won’t be sustainable in the long-term. If you really aren’t a morning person and get more stuff done at night, then do that-it’s going to work better for you.
Step four: Utilise your best times for your best work. In our flexible workplaces these days, some people get up at 6am and do a few hours work at home, and then leave work at 2.30pm to pick up the kids. Some people get-in at 10am (more common in some cultures than others!) and work till 6pm or 7pm. Some students will study well into the night when their mind is most ‘abuzzed’. Although we wouldn’t recommend getting up to work at 6am or working past midnight all the time if you’re working a 9-5pm, if you’re best hours of study or work are later in the day, then if possible, make this a routine. Also if you’re working and studying, or working and running a business, think about what your priorities are and try to put your best work in the thing that is the highest priority for you.
Step five: Routine is not just about work. Having an effective routine means slotting in all the other important things in life. Time with your significant other, children; time for exercise, shopping, cooking, and me-time. If your routine is only based around work – then both you and your routine will be work-centered, and you probably won’t feel fulfilled in the long-term. So if you want to build a new kick-boxing class into your routine, then give it a go, and if you like it – go as much as you can. I you want to cook healthy food 3 times a week with left-overs for lunch, then schedule the days of the week you will do this and then shop accordingly. If you want to do a weekly ‘date night’ with your partner or ensure you see a friend once a week, try to have a consistent time when you do this. You might not do these things exactly as you would like every day or week – but remember, it’s about being consistent on average, not punishing yourself because you went out for dinner with friends the night you were supposed to cook!
Step six: Be Kind to yourself. Sometimes, the harder you can be on yourself, the harder it can be to get back into your routine – because you can think ‘well I’ve failed now, so what’s the point?’ Don’t think this. Think – ‘yes, I’ve had a bump in the road, but I’m going to be faithful to myself and keep it up’.
What your day might look like when you’re in your routine: Day 56, 6am.
You wake up at 6am and don’t even need to snooze. By 6.10am, you’re doing your exercise and feeling awake. You also spend some of this time meditating, getting ready for the day. By 7am, you’re already dressed to head to work, ready to make a healthy breakfast. You have the time to pack for work, check your diary for your daily appointments. No rush. At 8am, you’re on route to work, mentally going through your check-list for the day. At 9am, you’re at your desk, already firing out your daily emails. You have thought about what you’re going to do for dinner, and you have made the plans to do so. Gym class for tomorrow is mentally booked. You breathe, feeling rested and peaceful, yet energetic. You are on point!