The only certain thing lately has been how uncertain things are. For many of us, our lives have been flipped upside down and our daily routines of wake up, gym, commute, work (or in whichever order you choose to do these) have all but gone out the window. However, it’s vitally important that we maintain some sort of routine, albeit a new one, to establish a sense of normalcy, and care for our mental health.
- It helps reduce anxiety. Because you know what’s coming up and that each important task will get done, stress levels tend to be lower in those with a well established routine.
- It can help productivity. Just like a structured working day, a structured daily schedule means you can prioritise and focus on one key area before moving on, instead of jumping around and getting half a job done.
- It shows you what you love. Mapping out every minute of your day is perhaps a little ambitious, but breaking your day into time slots will show you that you do in fact have time to learn that language, practice your painting or read that book. You’ll make time for your passions when you see the trade off of a ‘must do’ in a routine, versus a ‘want to do’.
Psychologist Sabina Read tells mental wellness organisation Beyond Blue that right now one of the few things in our control is how we map out our time, and it can be really good for us to do this: “We can’t control the bigger picture but we can control how we break down our day. It’s these smaller things that are seemingly less urgent and less powerful that are actually the building blocks that create a sense of stability to help us navigate today.”
There is of course no one size fits all for a ‘perfect daily routine’, but a great place to start when building a daily routine is to get out a pen and paper and write down everything you HAVE to do in a day. It may be useful to have a different routine on working days and weekends. Factor in your working hours, cooking time, parenting time (perhaps even at home schooling time), cleaning time etc. Once those are listed, decide what time you want to go to bed and wake up, ensuring you get 7-8 hours sleep (sleep is always beneficial but perhaps right now more so than ever!). Now set an alarm to get up at that time every day! Map out your ‘must do tasks’ in your awake hours, and then check what is left. Next, factor in some ‘me time’. It can even be as little as 15 minutes in the morning, or as a way to clock off work for the day. Add in exercise, time to catch up with friends or family, or hobbies, or just leave free time! Now you have your blueprint for the day!
Have your routine somewhere readily available and then make a pact to stick to it to the best of your ability for a full week. After that week you’ll know what didn’t work, what felt hard, and where you needed more time. Feel free to adjust until your day has a nice flow. Routines aren’t meant to be set in stone!