Magic Monday: Routine Maintenance
“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” -Gustav Flaubert
Who has two thumbs and is so not a morning person? That would be me. I am even worse in the wintertime; I think one of my parents must have been a grizzly bear. Most people, however, think that I am generally pretty well put together and pretty “with it” at work. Routines are the secret to my success, both in development and in life.
There was a time when I thought routines would mess with my creativity. Artistic, imaginative people don’t need routines, I told myself. Routines are for stuffy corporate types with nannies and personal assistants. I am super, and amazing, and should have no problem being über competent. Then, surprise surprise, real life happened. Let’s just say I’ve seen the light and hope to never stray again.
I would assert that the first and most important routine you can put in place is an evening routine, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a night owl. Though it sounds counter-intuitive, a good evening routine helps take the pressure off your mornings, so that you can arrive at work on time, relaxed, and ready to be a superhero for your organization.
But Kylie, you say, I don’t have time. Well, you do. Factor in the time you will save in the morning. Turn off the TV a little earlier at night (chances are it’s overstimulating you anyway). Your routine doesn’t have to be two hours of scheduled activity. The nice thing about a routine is that, once it becomes ingrained, you hardly notice you’re doing it and can accomplish it in no time.
The best evening routines have in common some (but not too many, I promise) key components:
- Eating. A healthy, relaxed mealtime is a great way to unwind from a crazy day at work, and of course, eating is important, and one of my favorite things to do to boot.
- Tidy time. Studies have shown that our brain is less stressed when it is in a tidy, or at least organized, environment. And who wants to wake up to a messy house on top of everything else that mornings throw at us?
- Scrub-a-dub. Your normal before-bed hygiene should be in there somewhere. (This is not a commentary. I trust you.)
- Comfy clothes. Getting out of workaday clothes and into home clothes goes a long way toward making the evening better.
- Relaxation. Unwinding in some way, doing something you enjoy.
- Ample sleep. Don’t give your shut-eye short shrift. Allow yourself enough time for 7-9 hours each night, or your productivity will suffer.
So how do you go about starting your own routine?
First, if your mornings are typically harried and harassed, sit down and think about what makes them that way. Do you wake up late? Can’t find clean clothes to wear? Have to cob together a lunch from an empty cupboard? Getting ready in the morning takes too long? Or maybe the minutiae of the morning just takes longer than it should: coffee (or not), breakfast (or not), or maybe you have children (enough said about that!). How many of these things can you shift to your evening? I would bet quite a few of them. Write these down.
Then write down the things that you have to do already. The basic goals of a bedtime routine are threefold: wrapping up today, getting ready for tomorrow, and getting ready for bed. What do you already do in the evenings? Write these down.
Finally, combine your two lists and put them in some sort of order that makes sense to you. Yep, it’s that easy.
I know, overachievers, you want to add more to this basic framework. WAIT. Focus on this basic routine, and only this one, until it becomes a habit. Habits take 21 days to form. I like to do new ones for a month just to make sure they are firmly entrenched. Mark it on your calendar. Give yourself gold stars or little rewards if you stick to it.
- After you’ve lived with your routine for a while, you can add one or two things that you would like to do. Meditation? Add it. Personal projects (not too stimulating, please). Add it. You can add anything that will help you get to a better you, but please do it slowly and in moderation. You’ll be a rock star soon.
- Try to keep bedtimes and awake times consistent. Not only with this help your sanity, it will also make it easier to get up in the morning. Before long, it will just feel natural to get up at that time. (Click here for an article on how to become an early riser.)
- Obviously, certain days have certain issues (paying bills, garbage night, social activities, regular meetings and appointments, etc.). Make a separate, abbreviated routine for these days, or delegate parts of your routines to others (if applicable) on those days.
- Automate tasks that aren’t priorities. If breakfast isn’t a big deal for you, and you don’t mind having the same cereal every day, maybe you could set it out the night before to save yourself a few minutes in the morning.
- Keep tweaking! Evaluating your routines is what keeps them fresh and helpful. The first time you do your new routine, time yourself, and adjust if you need to. Be your own efficiency expert. If it isn’t working, fix it.
Here is my own routine, by way of example. You can borrow from mine, and customize it as needed, or start from scratch. Keep in mind that I’ve lived with mine for a bit already, so feel free to make yours a little more basic to start.
When I come in the door from work:
- Check to make sure your car keys/bus or subway fares are where you can find them.
- Charge your phone and laptop.
- Feed cats.
- Change into comfy clothes.
Over the course of the evening:
- Cook dinner.
- Wash the dishes. (Waking up to dirty dishes just makes your whole day start off on the wrong foot. Trust me, it’s causing you way more stress than you think.)
- Check the weather.
- Pick out tomorrow’s clothes down to accessories. (If you’ve got little ones, do this for them too. Older children can be taught to do it themselves.)
- Check your calendar.
- Consider your day tomorrow, and put everything you will need in one location.
- Pick three most important things that you need to do tomorrow. (This will help you get it off of your brain, and should help you sleep better.)
- Plan the next day’s dinner/taking things out to thaw if necessary.
- Pack lunch. (Leftovers or sandwiches, fruit, and yogurt are easy.)
- Turn off technology at least an hour (preferably more) before turning in.
- Tidy up the house.
- Quality time with my husband Art.
Just before bed:
- Nightly bathroom routine. (Don’t forget to take any nighttime medicines.)
- Set up the coffeemaker.
- Set your alarm.
- Go to sleep!
I’d love to hear about your own routines, or how starting a new routine is working for you. What’s your favorite part of having or starting a routine?
Posted on March 4, 2013, in Kylie, Magic Monday, Productivity, Resources, Workplace Issues, Your Career and tagged Monday, Night owl (person), Organization, Productivity, Routines, Waking up early. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.