Something that keeping a regular journal has done for me is show me just how useful having solid routines can be. Rather than blundering through and hoping to get everything done (hello, student Kat), I know exactly what is happening and when and, crucially, I don’t have to make so many decisions about how to spend my time. This is incredibly helpful on a day where my energy and concentration are limited – I can use that precious brain-power to do something interesting or creative.
And by ‘routine’, I don’t mean ‘inflexible timetable’, or that ever-elusive ‘mindful morning routine’. No-one is asking you to get up at 5am to drink lemon water here (although, if that’s your bag, I salute you). The vibe is more of a gentle structure, the bones off of which to hang the fabric of your day. It’s a brilliant way to get both your head and your day in order and have you feeling on top of things.
However, as I’m sure you’ve discovered, routines slip – and that’s okay. Life happens, energy levels dip, time gets short. It’s often only a week or so after I start to duck out of routine that I realise what is actually happening. As tough as it can feel, the moment you notice you’re out of it is the best time to get yourself back into it. Be firm and gentle – get clear on why you need to get back to it without beating yourself up about it.
If you’re struggling, maybe take a look at why you slipped out of routine in the first place. Perhaps you’ve been low on time, or your mental or physical health isn’t great, or you were simply bored. Check in with yourself and adjust. Often, when life events are difficult, routine can be incredibly helpful for a bit of stability. Make it work for you, not the other way around.
A few tips for when your routines have slipped:
Start gently, start small
The temptation here is to rush right back in, but I’d highly advise beginning with one small task and gradually building the routine back up from there. This isn’t a race; a few tasks increased over several weeks is better than loads over a couple of days before you drop it all again. We’re creating a habit here, not running a sprint.
Tack it onto something existing
It can be helpful to start with something you already do – think brushing your teeth or walking the dog. You’re already up and going so begin your routine right after. This gives it something to flow from – you’re not starting cold.
Make it enjoyable
Put music on. Journal. Set up your day with a cup of fresh coffee. However you like to treat yourself, add some of that into the plan and treat it as importantly as you would any other part. Heck, if some days you can only get these nice bits done, then well-bloody-done, you did your routine. It isn’t here to whip you into shape, it’s here to get you to actually to complete it. Make it interesting.
Give that s**t some recognition
Treat yourself when you hit the mark! Day to day this can be a note in your daily log, or a dedicated tracker. Over longer periods you might want to add in some incentives like a long bath or three episodes of your favourite series. Make it feel celebratory, not obligatory.
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