I have a little dachshund named April who LOVES mornings. You've never met anyone so excited to wake up every day in your life. Her favorite part of getting up is, of course, eating breakfast. :) I always enjoy waking up and racing her down the stairs to her food bowl every morning.
One Sunday, I watched April go through her morning activities. She had her morning kibble. She frolicked in the grass outside. She completed a perimeter sweep and chased the neighbor cat out of the yard. As I sipped my coffee, she came inside and hopped into her watchtower position in the living room window. And then it hit me, I had seen her go through this series events before. This dog has a routine!
More importantly, April's routine brings a happy rhythm to her life. She has an order in which she accomplishes her daily tasks and everything runs as it should. I realized I had stuff that had to get done every morning and evening but I didn't have a system. I had never established a routine for myself. At that moment, I grabbed a piece of paper. I started mapping out my morning and evening responsibilities.
MAP YOUR LIFE ROUTINES FOR SUCCESS
In 30 minutes, I had mentally rewritten the bookends of my day. I created a little check list for each section (morning and night) and began tackling it that evening. Let me tell you, these routines have been a life changer! Having a well thought out system has created a positive momentum in our lives each day. Everything we need to get done to make it through the day happens when it needs to. Our routines also helped us pursue more focused living around our priorities and life goals.
And, as an extra bonus, my husband helps me with my routines! Once he started picking up the pattern, he began helping me with some of the tasks he anticipated I would be doing. #winning
Here's how the routines break down:
In real time, this morning routine takes 40 minutes. Within that time frame, I am getting so much done!
- Making breakfast for myself and my husband
- Preparing lunch and snacks for the day
- Journal, meditation, and practicing gratitude
- Taking care of the dogs' morning needs.
- Dispensing vitamins and medications
- Light house-cleaning
- Getting dressed and ready for the day.
I have to tack on an extra 15 minutes if I need to flat-iron my hair and put on a full face of make up. That brings me to a max of 55 minutes to get out the door.
Not a bad start to my day!
I wasn't expecting this, but I ended up with TWO Evening Routines. One for when I get home from work and one for before bed. It's weird, but it works.
AFTER WORK ROUTINE:
After work, the focus is on feeding everyone and setting us up for success the next morning.
- Cook & Serve Dinner
- Feed the Dogs
- Do Dishes
- Set up the Coffee Pot
- Pack Tomorrow's Lunch
- Weekly Cleaning Tasks
Before I start evening work, I also complete a digital maintenance task (more on that coming in a future post).
Some tasks I do in the same place and I can multitask there. For example, if I have a cassoulet baking in the oven, that's a good time for me to knock out dishes, set the coffeepot, etc.
Depending on the cleaning and digital tasks, my after work routine can take between 1.5 and 2 hours. Does that seem like a lot to you? It's justified because the time I spend here allows me to provide the home life that we desire most. My husband has a home-cooked meal (almost) every night. Don't forget to light some candles! I am also maintaining our home by cleaning something every evening. And I'm setting up our mornings to be smooth and stress-free. It's an investment in our quality of life.
If you're looking to save time here: do not underestimate the power of your dishwasher. If you're lucky enough to have one, use it. Don't waste hours a week scrubbing dishes by hand. I find that the busier I get, the more liberal I am about what I put in the dishwasher. At this point, almost everything (except items I think might melt) goes in. I feel no guilt about this.
BEFORE BED ROUTINE:
I close each day with some light housekeeping and a focus on preparing myself for the day ahead. I journal and assess how well my day went. My calories, expenses, and receipts get scanned and recorded. I plan a random act of kindness for my husband. My planner gets filled in the night before and I make sure I have time allotted for all the next day's tasks.
These little things add up to smooth mornings and focused living. It's how I check in with myself that I'm making what's important a priority.
My Before Bed Routine takes about 25-30 minutes. And really, my Roomba does most of the heavy lifting.
Did you notice something missing from my routine?
Oh right, exercise. Let me explain.
SCHEDULE VS ROUTINE
Exercise does not belong on the routines check lists. It goes on my schedule for the day. There is a distinct difference between my schedule for the day and my routines. The schedule is mandatory. If it's on the schedule, it has to get done.
Routines don't have a time assigned to them, but that doesn't make them less important. It's still key to go through each routine each day. As you complete them over a period of time, these routines become habits. Soon, you will not even need the checklists, your routines will become a natural flow of your day.
Who did the math and realized I spend over 3 hours on my routines? I can hear the "Ain't nobody got time for that" protests streaming in. Let's discuss.
First, no one said your routine has to be a solo venture. As I noted above, my husband helps me. He knows how to put away dishes and turn on a Roomba. If I'm stuck at work, he can locate the nearest Chipotle to get some dinner. Your housemates are probably capable humans and I am a strong proponent of "teamwork makes the dream work." When I have help, it shaves time off my routines.
Second, do not let chores and responsibilities pile up. It will take you exponentially longer to tackle them than if you chip away at them daily. This applies to almost every household chore: mail, dishes, vacuuming, tidying.
All humans have learned this the hard way. Who here has ever spent an entire day trying to catch up on 3 months of budget tracking? What about when you don't do laundry for 4 weeks because you're too busy? Yep. Life math. It will take you at least another 2 weeks to dig yourself out.
If you stay on top of household responsibilities, they never get out of control. That discipline is the secret. It's the main difference between a clean house and one that looks like a Picasso painting.
MAKE IT PERSONAL
I design my routines around my priorities and goals. If you want to achieve something, you have to plan your days around it. It's an investment in yourself. Your routines might be different from mine in every way. You should design the routines that are best for your life. Instead of an after-work routine, you could have a lunch routine. If you hate cooking dinner, your focus could be trying new restaurants in your area. If your children are in sports, you may have a pre-game prep checklist. The point is to keep your life routines personal and in service of your goals.
ROUTINES ARE NOT IMMUNE TO ENTROPY
As the name of this blog suggests, life happens. There is only so much we can actually control in the world. If a major event happens, tasks may start to pile up. And that is okay. It happens to the best of us. You may go a few weeks or months unable to check every box. There's no shame in it. Your routines will be there for you when you're ready to return to your normal life. They will give you the confidence and knowledge to dig yourself out. Routines are one of life's secret weapons!
Do you have a daily routine you love? Share it on our Facebook Page!
Have a great week!