Us humans are creatures of habit. Over time we develop certain behaviours or actions that we do almost every day. These behaviours and actions then become easier to do as time goes on, so much so that we can do them naturally, on ‘autopilot’, without even having to think.
This is what is known as a routine. For example, brushing your teeth before going to bed is a habit that we do as part of our nightly routine.
Your winning routine is a great blend of habits, structure, prioritisation and, most importantly, life.
Before we get started, here are some things to remember:
- We’re not built to be super-productive machines, so prioritise your health and happiness, and the rest should follow suit.
- Building a winning routine can take some time, so be patient and go at your own pace.
- Your routine is unique to you and your current situation, including your interests, your goals, your workload, your health, your social needs and more.
We will discuss why you need structure and routine, what you could include in your routine, how you can create a routine in the first place and then how to stick to it!
Why Do You Need Routine and Structure?
By developing a good routine that works for you, you can develop and promote healthy habits that can benefit your life in many different ways. However, without one, some people can suffer from increased stress levels, poorer sleep, unhelpful eating habits, a lack of exercise and difficulty managing emotions.
Each of these can have negative impacts on our mental health.
However, people often don’t realise that having a good routine and structure to your life can actually have some incredible mental health benefits.
Let’s look at what a routine can do for your mental health:
- Help you to manage anxiety levels.
- Help to de-clutter your mind and focus on the present.
- Build your resilience and prepare you for change.
- Improve your confidence and self-esteem.
- Increase your productivity.
- Boost your quality and ability to sleep.
- Benefit the quality of your relationships.
- Allow time for self-care and enjoyment.
(For more information on these benefits, click here)
These mental health benefits are received in different ways, for different people and at different times. So, with that in mind, let’s discuss how you can create your winning routine!
What To Include in Your Winning Routine!
You don’t need a routine for every single day, but it might be worth applying one to most days. You also don’t need to have a routine for everything that you do each day.
We suggest you only get into a simple routine that allows you to fulfil your basic needs, such as:
- Body Care – e.g. eating, sleeping, exercise and rest.
- Achievement – e.g. working, chores, studying.
- Connection – e.g. speaking with friends/ family.
- Enjoyment – e.g. hobbies, interests, pleasure etc.
This might mean that your winning daily routine only includes some of these, such as body care and achievement, for example. But we will discuss ways to create a winning routine that features most, or all of these.
How to Create Your Daily Routine!
This section will teach you how to create your winning routine in three steps.
Step 1: Set Goals
This first step will help you to form the basis of your routine. With something to work towards, getting into your routine and keeping it will seem a whole lot easier!
Here are some tips for effective goal setting:
- Make it specific to you – e.g. I want to get a job in (your chosen role/ industry)
- Be clear on why you’ve selected that specific goal e.g. What am I passionate about? What experience do I have? What am I educated in?
- Give yourself a time frame – e.g. Reasonably how long will it take to find a suitable role?
- Figure out the steps needed to achieve your goal – e.g. What has worked for others? How many roles do I need to apply for? Will networking help me? Who can I speak to for help?
- Break these steps down into smaller, manageable steps – e.g. ‘I need to send 3 applications per week’ or ‘I need to learn this skill’.
- Break them down again, these smaller steps should then become a part of your daily routine – e.g. ‘I need to spend at least 1 hour per day searching for suitable opportunities, and another hour perfecting my applications’.
Step 2: Use To-Do Lists
A to-do list is simply a list of things that you would like to do in a particular timeframe e.g. a day. It does exactly what it says on the tin!
In this case, your to-do list should reflect the goals and the necessary steps that we’ve already outlined, as well as include actions to ensure that you’re fulfilling your basic needs. Adding the same things to your to-do list each day is the perfect way to build a routine!
Your to-do list should include action words and tasks that cover the 4 basic needs that were mentioned in the previous section: body care, achievement, connection, and enjoyment. You should include at least 1 action tailored to each need.
Your to-do list might look like this at the beginning, for example:
- 2 achievement actions – e.g. ‘find 1 suitable job opportunity’ and ‘plan and begin 1 job application’
- 1 body care action – e.g. ‘go for a 30-minute jog’ or ‘take the dog for a walk’
- 2 connection actions – e.g. ‘spend 15 minutes networking on LinkedIn’ and ‘FaceTime a friend’
- 1 enjoyment action – e.g. ‘watch a film or series’
That is because you will develop a solid routine and you will do the others automatically, without even needing to write them down!
BONUS TIP: Keep hold of your to-do lists so that you can look back and see how much you’ve achieved over time. This is great for motivation and can sometimes be a good reminder that you’re doing better than you may believe!
Step 3: Plan Your Days
Your to-do list may seem a bit overwhelming at first, it would be useful to take it easy. However, one way to relieve thoughts of ‘how on earth am I going to fit all of this in?’ is to plan your days. This involves developing an idea of what your day should look like and how you plan to tick off your to-do list. You may want to write this down, but just a loose structure will do.
There are many different ways to plan your days, trust yourself to find a way that works for you.
Example: Perhaps you could plan your days around your meals. If you were to plan to have breakfast before 9:30 am, lunch at 1 pm and dinner at 6 pm, you could plan to fit your to-do list in between. Or you might even just want to say ‘I’m going to start working at 10 and finish at 3’, use whatever type of structure works best for you!
These types of daily structures will eventually turn into a routine themselves, and you will feel yourself start to adhere to them naturally.
How to Stick to Your Routine!
Sticking to your winning routine can be quite difficult especially as it may take some time to adjust and get settled into it.
Here are some quick tips to help you maintain your winning routine:
Allow for Flexibility
A strict routine with little room for manoeuvre is a big no. Sometimes things change or go against the plan, a task may take longer than anticipated or you might need that extra half an hour in bed, for example. Bear this in mind when developing your winning routine.
You are the best in the world at being you. You know what you can manage, what motivates you, what demotivates you, what challenges you may face etc. Please also bear this in mind by acting accordingly and by being kind to yourself.
Use Spatial Awareness
This involves using spaces for their intended purposes. Such as only using the dinner table for eating, only studying/ working at a desk or only using your bed for sleeping. This will help your brain to form connections between the space and the action, which will do wonders for your routine and general health.
Be Clear on ‘Why’
In order to stick to your routine and structure, you must be clear on the reasons that you are doing it. Otherwise you may just end up confused and demotivated. Remember that your winning routine is there to help you manage your life in a way that fulfils your needs, it is not there to ensure that you spend your whole life sitting behind a desk.
Managing your needs and reaching your goals on willpower alone will be very difficult. So try your best to reward yourself where possible as this will help you to stay motivated and ensure that you get the most from your winning routine.