For as long as I can remember, I’ve preferred to have pre-scheduled days, weeks, and months. Not that I don’t like the occasional surprise, but this minimizes decision fatigue, plus I feel like it helps me better notice and appreciate the little things in life. (Like, stopping to smell the roses … though not literally, since I have a pollen allergy.)
I also started habit tracking not long after I started bullet journaling, which led to the realization that it’s so much easier to maintain habits if I build them into my routines. Not an original discovery, I know, but experiencing is believing.
To be honest, a large part of why I’m writing this post is for accountability: making sure that I sat down to create and commit to routines. So that’s enough procrastination, time to actually figure these out.
First, a confession: As I write this, I’m on break from school so this is mostly a theoretical exercise that has not been put into practice quite yet. I know I should keep up routines and habits even when my days are free, but I’m still working up to that level of self-discipline. Besides, my semester starts all too soon anyway.
Also the obligatory disclaimer that this post is based on my personal experiences and lifestyle choices, what works for me may not work (or even be good) for you, et cetera.
Finally getting to business: it all starts with a fresh page in a notebook. Turning over a new leaf, y’know?
Okay, bad jokes aside, I begin more substantially by gathering information, some of it off the Internet (YouTube videos, web articles, books, Pinterest) and some of it from my own life.
- What kind(s) of routines am I trying to create? (morning, exercise, studying)
- What purpose does each routine serve? (getting ready for bed, working on a novel)
- Does each routine need to happen at a set time, or can they be easily time-blocked into my week later on?
- Do I need variations of any routines? (weekday vs weekend, running-late)
Once I have a good idea of these things, I’ll make lists of everything I need/want to include in a perfect day, dividing them up by time of day, frequency, urgency, or other qualifiers. Not everything on these lists has to end up in a routine, but it’s nice to have it all written down together. (I’ll get into more specifics in the actual routines.)
Next I consult my calendar to see how much time I have to work with, and put together a first draft of the routine. Over the next few weeks I’ll test and tweak it, then before I know it, I’ve established a new routine.
My Night Routine
It may sound somewhat counterintuitive, but I’m starting with the night routine for two main reasons:
- Having a good night routine is taking consistently good care of your future self. Cliched as it is, I’ve found that my mornings really do begin with the night before; a good night routine can set you up for a successful tomorrow with minimal morning stress or scrambling.
- That said, my night routine has been more difficult to stick to than my morning routine. So I’m making it a priority this year.
The main purpose of my night routine is also twofold: to get ready for bed and to get ready for the next day. Which means preparing things I’ll need, but also taking some time to unwind so that I’m not up all night overthinking life, the universe, and everything.
This semester I’m aiming for a 7 am wakeup, so the goal is to be in bed by 10:30 pm (for eight hours of sleep plus some time to actually fall asleep).
I also plan to allow for plenty of time to get through everything on my list; I could read or journal for longer if I feel like it, though it also doesn’t hurt to go to bed earlier. For now I’m blocking off a full hour for my night routine, so I set an alarm for 9:30 pm.
- Turn off screens, ideally 60 but at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Make sure wakeup alarm is set. (I got a new alarm clock for Christmas, so I won’t have to use my phone for this anymore!)
- Plug phone/laptop/Kindle in to charge overnight if needed.
- Fill in habit tracker for the day.
- Set up bullet journal and start to-do list for tomorrow.
- Reset to neutral: do dishes, clear off desk.
- Lay out clothes and pack bag for tomorrow.
- Shower, floss, brush teeth, wash face, etc.
- If time and energy remains, journal and/or read.
My Morning Routine
A consistent night routine will hopefully take care of some items that were originally part of my morning routine, so although I was content with the routine I followed last semester it’s also under review.
The main purpose of my morning routine is to make sure I’m ready for the day, both physically and mentally. So like my night routine, it’s a balance of productivity and mindfulness.
Although I have different start times on different days, generally I try to wake up at the same time every day. It’s up to my mood, though, whether I spend the extra time at an on-campus cafe or making a more elaborate breakfast at home or whatever.
I like to allocate an hour and a half so that I can take things slowly, and to build in some buffer in case I realize I have to find my dress shoes or run to the computer lab to print something before class. This semester, that means a 7 am wakeup time to leave the house by 8:30 am. (I like to set yet another alarm for 8:20 so that I don’t have to keep checking the clock and worrying I’ll be late.)
- DO NOT HIT SNOOZE. Or get distracted on my phone.
- Throw off the covers to air out my bed.
- Turn on my kettle so it can heat water while I’m in the bathroom.
- Brush teeth, wash face, put in contacts, get dressed, etc.
- Make a cup of tea; take meds and vitamins.
- Look over to-do list and schedule.
- Pack lunch. Double-check that I have everything I’ll need today.
- Make my bed.
- If I’m not doing intermittent fasting, make and eat breakfast.
My routines are constantly changing as my schedule and needs change. I might decide to try filling in my habit tracker on weekends, or getting up even earlier to go for a run in the mornings; there may be nights I get home late after an event or movie, so I have to abbreviate my routine.
I also have routines for studying and writing, but these shift even more frequently based on what I have going on. (For example, I spend a lot more time studying before midterm and final exams.) Maybe later on I’ll write a post or two about them? Who knows.
But in any case, I like having a base plan to adapt as needed, rather than starting from scratch every day. Having these routines helps me be more consistent and save my energy for the more interesting things I want to do.
- Do you have any kind of daily routines? Or do you prefer to just go with your mood?
- Are you an early bird or a night owl?
- What helps you fall asleep when insomnia strikes? (Asking for a friend, who is me.)