- Make a commitment to have regular routines.
Routines make life work without undue pressure, stress, disappointment and costly mistakes. Without them the necessary maintenance tasks of life slip through the cracks, pile up and become overwhelming sources of stress, lowered self-esteem, depression, anxiety, complication and avoidable problems. Having them is actually a form of self-respect and self-care. So commit to establishing regular routines a dependable part of each day because you and your life matter.
- Stay Motivated
Since routines often involve repetitive, mundane or disagreeable tasks we’d just as soon ignore or let someone else handle, having a strong motivation to turn these tasks into routines is important especially until they become well-established habits we do without thinking much about whether to do them. To keep motivated, start with the ones that are most important to you. As you resist, ask yourself what happens if I don’t do this regularly? What will me life be like? Is that what you want?
- Start with the Basic Necessary Ones.
Below are the routines we need in order to maintain basic health and well-being. They are the ones that must be a top priority in order to maintain our sanity. They serve as the structure or `skeleton for the day around which we can undertake the other aspects of our life unencumbered. They are the ones we must be vigilant about maintaining boundaries for at standard times so we can avoid missing them or throwing ourselves off track.
If doing these things on a regular schedule is new to you, start with one at a time if you wish. Begin with the one that is most important to you. You’ll find that as you add them after a few weeks each becomes a habit and they won’t require concerted attention to maintain them. That is the goal of routines: to make the spine of your day hang together seamlessly.
- Waking at a customary time
- Getting bathed, brushing your teeth and other self-care for the day
- Getting dressed
- Breakfast for yourself and any others (incl. pets)
- Exercise – one of your choice (incl. pets)
- Meditation or spiritual activities – if you are practicing one (recommended)
- Dinner for yourself and others (incl. pets)
- Night-time self-care
- Bedtime – allowing for 7-8 hours of sleep
- Add Other Needed Routines
In order keep other important tasks in your life from piling up, it is recommended that you link them when possible to the essential tasks above. Examples appear below but they should be linked to what works best for you:
- Taking medications at time prescribed, i.e. automatically right before or after meals
- Housecleaning – minimal daily, thorough weekly, i.e. after breakfast or lunch when you will already be cleaning up after meals, before work, on a designated day of the week.
- Processing, sorting and handling issues that come in the mail – daily, i.e. right after the mail arrives or before or after meals.
- Filing receipts and records such as taxes, bank statement, insurance policies, medical
records, etc., i.e. right after they arrive or before the end of the day. If you don’t set them down, but put them in their proper place at once, you’ll never have piles, drawers or boxes to sort through.
- E-mail, text and instant messages, i.e. as they come in or at a set time of day such as between other activities.
- Bill-paying by due dates, i.e. linked to the time of day you handle the mail
- Doing the laundry – i.e. right after getting dressed in the morning on a regular day of the week.
- Grocery and other shopping, i.e. on a regular day of the week
You undoubtedly have other more individualized tasks that need to be routinized, i.e. doctor appointments, medication refills, veterinarian appointments.
- Get a Clean Start
Having a backlog of too many things undone is the most common difficulty people have with starting and keeping regular routines, particularly if they live alone.
If any of the skeletal tasks have piled up for some time from not having routines for them or from being unable to keep up your routines due to illness, travel, houseguests, etc., this backlog can get in the way of setting up good routines. If the kitchen is full of dirty dishes, if unsorted and filed receipts fill up a big drawer or box under the bed or if baskets of undone laundry await, doing anything about routines can seem terribly daunting. You’ll need to clear the deck, so to speak, before you’ll have time or space to set up new routines.
If your backlog is so overwhelming that you feel stuck, get some help. Enlist other family members in the home, especially if they are not pulling their weight. Build chores for them into your routines and do as much clearing together as you can. If you live alone, enlist family outside the home or friends. Fellow church or other organization members may be willing to help. Offer to reciprocate when you can if they need some help with their backlog.
If you have the funds, consider hiring an organizer or cleaning service to help you catch up. You can locate those nearest to you on the internet. If necessary you can take on catching up
yourself by starting with one of the tasks (i.e. dishes, files, laundry) and clearing out a little each day.
5. Keeping Your Routines as Pleasant as Possible
The less miserable you are while doing a routine, the better. Don’t set them up at times that deprive you from doing something else you enjoy. That is a set up for failure. They shouldn’t be about sacrifice. Make doing them as easy as possible. Have materials, etc., you need to do them handy and nearby. Perhaps you can do them while listening to music or motivational programs, singing to yourself, imaging how good you will feel having completed them. Find ways to be creative, i.e. with meal planning, cooking or your wardrobe choices. If you like a challenge, compete with yourself in how quickly or well you can get them done. Reward yourself in little ways when they’re done.
6. Include Some Fun Ones
All of life’s routines don’t all have to be mundane, boring or unpleasant. Add some ones you can look forward to, i.e. having a favorite breakfast food or beverage to wake up to; watching favorite shows at night; enjoying a movie night, a game night, a craft or workshop time; a special meal on a certain night of the week, a regular outdoor activity; taking a stimulating class or going to a regular social or spiritual gathering. Building such activities in you routines is an excellent way to make sure fun will never be something you don’t get around to.
7.Customize and Adjust
The secret is to find times and places for your routines that work for you. Routines need not be set in stone. If you can’t follow them, they aren’t working, so adjust until you find a time and place for them that does. Assess why the plan you had doesn’t work. Ask what would work better. Adjust until you find a nice fit for what needs to be done. Switch around when needed, but don’t stop.
8. Be OK with the Unexpected
Since routines are the means by which we keep our life from getting bogged down, commit to them as a priority, yes, but don’t expect perfection. Any day can bring something unexpected to skew your plans and get routines off track. Such interruptions can be another of the hardest parts of maintaining them. If for some reason you have to skip a routine, don’t beat yourself up.
fsBe OK with it, reset, bounce back, catch up and re-set your routines as soon as you can. But don’t let circumstances or your environment dictate your priorities for long. Take control and figure out what’s negotiable and what isn’t. That can mean saying “No, I’m sorry, I can’t do that.” You need give no excuses for choosing not to let your life get out of hand.
9. Give yourself an occasional break
Keeping up routines does take up time, energy and self-discipline. But they are here to free us, not enslave us. So after a routine becomes a secure habit you can count on doing and it is not
Essential, you don’t always need to do it exactly as planned. Give yourself some leeway and an occasional, short break from it, i.e. on holidays or vacations. But always get back on schedule right away. Getting a routine started again gets harder with neglect, though, so don’t do this too soon, too long or too often. Some routines are best never skipped, of course, like taking your meds.
10. Keep Stress Low
When we’re overly stressed routines can feel like punishment and make us want forget the whole idea. Use relaxation and stress reduction techniques like coherent breathing and mindfulness regularly to prevent stress from building up. Don’t limit such stress reducers to “when you have time.” You won’t have. Integrate them as part of your entire day. Recognize early signs of stress building and stop, breathe, slow down and think before you proceed.
If you just can’t get yourself to take care of the routine matters of your life in a dependable way, it’s possible that chronic depression, anxiety, fatigue, unrealistic demands, pain, physical illness or problems with focus and follow-through may be the cause. Don’t get down on yourself. Consult with your doctor and work with a counselor to clear away these challenges. With help they are solvable.
If you are interested in starting a program of Clinical Hypnosis, please contact me.