Do you have a set of daily routines?
That’s kind of a trick question, because chances are, you do. Even if you don’t realize it.
Whether you roll out of bed and rush straight to work because you’re perpetually late, or wake up with plenty of time to shower, do your hair, and have breakfast before you go to work, chances are you have some kind of a morning routine (and if it is a dysfunctional one, check that link!)
If you find yourself doing the same things in the same order, around the same time, those processes form your daily routines. However, most of us haven’t put a lot of thought into ours… and aren’t getting everything we can out of it.
I’ll be talking later this week on how to form positive and productive daily routines, but for now let’s go over why you should consider this. There’s multiple benefits of having productive daily routines, including…
1. Routines Free Up Mental Space
You’re probably familiar with Steve Job’s outfit. He gained notoriety for wearing the same things every day, no matter what: A black turtleneck, blue jeans and white New Balance sneakers.
Did you know this is a conscious tactic used by powerhouses like Albert Enstein, Mark Zuckerberg, and Barack Obama as well?
The practice comes from the concept of decision fatigue – the idea that the more decisions you make in the course of a day, the less thorough your decision-making ability becomes. By removing small, irrelevant decisions like what to wear each day, or what to eat for breakfast, you’re freeing up mental space and energy that can be devoted to the bigger decisions – like how to run a billion-dollar company or an entire country more efficiently.
By creating your own daily routines that you can slip into each day, you’re utilizing this same concept – I’m not saying you have to wear nothing but jeans and a grey t-shirt every day! But that by already knowing what you’re going to do when you get home from work, or already knowing when the housework is getting done, you’re freeing up your mental energy to focus on more important decisions.
2. Daily Routines Get Everything Done – Efficiently
For me, dishes were the first thing that came to mind when I first starting trying to build daily routines.
With 4-5 people in the house, the dishes pile up fast. Our ancient dishwasher needed to be rolled over to the sink and hooked up, so doing the dishes was always a hassle that shut the entire kitchen down for an hour. It felt like my kitchen was never clean. There were dishes in the sink, piled on the counter. The dishwasher was always half-loaded or -unloaded. Dishes were a daily war, and I was losing.
It was always a mess because there was no system – I had no idea when the dishes were getting done. It was a different time every day. We had a “do it when you get the chance” kind of system and it Was. Not. Working.
So I implemented a routine: The dishwasher gets hooked up every night after the kids go to bed. I unload the dishwasher and put it all away every morning, while the kids eat breakfast. Each person in the house is responsible for putting their own dishes in the washer (we’re still working on this part), and by the end of the day, the dishwasher is ready to run again.
It was such a simple, small shift – but it made a big difference. No more dishes on my counter! No more sink piled high with dishes. But most importantly, no more having to find the time to get the dishes done.
Once you have a routine to tackle the things that have to be done every single day, those things fit seamlessly into the day and you don’t have to even think about them. What used to be a huge chore that took forever and got procrastinated, turned into two 10-minute chunks of time each day that I don’t even notice.
3. Routines Help You Prioritize
If someone told you that checking the mail was more important to them than spending time with their kids, you probably wouldn’t believe them.
That sounds crazy, right? No way.
But when you know you check the mail every day when you get home from work, but you don’t know whether or not you’ll be able to find time to hang out with your family that day… that’s the message you’re sending.
What’s the difference?
Obviously you don’t actually care more about the mail than your kids. The difference is checking the mail is part of your “getting home” routine. You don’t even think about it, you just do it. Every day.
Once you consciously form daily routines, you’ll be able to make sure you prioritize doing the things that are important to you.
4. Routines Give You Structure
If you’re a parent, you probably already know how important it is to have a routine for your kids.
Every parenting resource tells you that children need structure in their lives in order to feel safe. Kids don’t have a lot of control over their lives, so being able to predict what happens next is comforting to them. Yeah, you might not be able to decide whether you go to the park or get dragged along to the grocery store, but you know that when you get home from school there’s a snack waiting for you, and you know that bedtime is at 8pm. It helps them start to make sense of the world.
We adults like to think we’ve outgrown the need for all of that, but let’s be honest. We’re all just kids with a little more life experience.
You could be the most spontaneous, adventurous person in the world and still benefit greatly from the structure of having a system of routines.
You can’t control what the weather is like, or what the traffic is like, or what the other people we run into through the day are like. But you can control your own actions. When the weather, the traffic, and the other people all seem to be conspiring against us to ruin our day… You’ll know that there’s still a big part of your life that you have laid out, that is going to go according to plan.
At times when it feels like everything is falling apart, you can count on your routines to stay stable.
5. Daily Routines Are Great for Your Mental Health
Studies have shown that having daily routines can help people with mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. There’s even evidence to support that establishing daily routines is an effective treatment tool for people with bipolar disorder.
Part of this is that not having routines in place can be damaging. When you don’t have a set schedule for when you eat and sleep, for example, it’s much easier to fall out of sync with doing those things at healthy times. An irregular sleep schedule, or neglecting proper nutrition, can exacerbate mental illnesses in turn. It’s a vicious cycle that can be hard to break out of.
Also because of this, a well-established daily routine can be an effective tool against a depression cycle. When you’re running your systems for so long you can do it on autopilot, it takes less mental energy to convince yourself to do things like brush your teeth or take a shower. Keeping to your routines helps you stick to healthy habits that prevent depressive episodes from getting worse.
Even if you don’t have any mental health concerns, prioritizing your mental health is always a good idea.
6. Having Daily Routines Help You Find Time You Didn’t Think You Had
You know those superpower days you have once in a while? Where you think you have a lot on your to-do list, but then you finish it all by noon? I love those days. I love sitting back and thinking, “Wow. That was way easier than I expected.”
I found I had a lot more of those days once I had a series of routines down to take care of the daily stuff on autopilot.
When the dishes just get done, instead of being a struggle… when there’s a specific time of day I check emails, instead of whenever I feel like it… when my brain got used to having specific “work time” and “family time”…
I had a lot more time on my hands.
I was doing all the same things I was always doing, but it was getting done faster, earlier, and without a bunch of wasted time in between. Suddenly, my evenings were free.
It helped me find extra time in my day I didn’t know I had. I realized how much time I was wasting in between tasks, or in the process of deciding what to do next. It just makes so much more sense to do it this way.
7. Routines Give Us Freedom
You’re probably familiar with the phrase, “Can’t see the forest for the trees”.
It means you can’t see the bigger picture. You’re too bogged down with the details.
All that small stuff is crowding out the big stuff.
Forming daily routines helps with that. When you’re not worried about the day-to-day chores, it’s much easier to see – and plan – the big picture of your life.
You can ask two different people what their to-do list (even if it’s just a mental one) looks like, and get two completely different pictures.
One person says, “I have to do the vacuuming, clean the kitchen, walk the dog… and at some point, work on my goals if I have time.”
The second person hasn’t even put those first three on her list, because she knows they’re getting done. They’re part of her day already. She has a system.
She also knows how much time she has to work on her goals, because she knows how much time that other stuff takes… because she does it every day.
(To someone who doesn’t have a daily routine, that level of discipline can sound stifling at first. “I don’t want my whole day scheduled out already! I don’t want to do the same things every day!”
What she doesn’t realize, is she already does the same things every day… she’s just less organized about it, and it causes her stress. )
Long-term goals become a lot more accessible when you’re not filling your day (and your mind) with mundane daily tasks.
If you don’t have a system of daily routines, don’t stress!
We’ll be talking more on setting up and implementing daily routines on this blog in the coming weeks, so be sure to subscribe, pin this post, and check back for the how-to on setting up – and following – this powerhouse habit.
In the meantime, check out How to Create a Morning Routine to Supercharge Your Day and How to Build Self-Discipline (the lazy girl’s guide)