Routines have been instrumental in helping me juggle my busy life. Two weeks since leaving work and I’m yet to establish a new routine. It probably hasn’t helped that 10 days of this I’ve been touring the SW of England with my kids and staying in 4 different places.

Many of us make use of routines to help us through our days, weeks and months. They can be great to help us function efficiently and effectively. But our lives also risk being destabilised when our routines get disrupted.

I’m not the only one out of routine right now. My kids currently have no real routine – with bedtimes decidedly later than normal! We’ve probably also disrupted the routines and lives of the different friends and relatives we’ve been staying with.

 

Why so many of us have routines

Routines are not just reserved for my family and friends. Many of us use routines to help us through life.

Creatures of habit

It’s sometimes easy to forget that we humans are animals, whether we like it or not. And, like many other animals, we are essentially creatures of habit. We all have basic needs that we have to fulfil including eating, sleeping, expelling waste etc.

Takes away some of the thinking

When I’m in a routine, I’m somewhat operating on auto-pilot. This can work in both determining what to do as well as sometimes within the task or activity itself. This can reduce the amount of time and energy on that task which can be reserved for other (arguably higher-powered or higher-valued) things.

Mark Zuckerberg, amongst others, wears the same style of clothes each day to eliminate wasted time and effort in choosing what to wear.

Makes processes more efficient

In a similar vein, I’d argue that routines can extend to actually making some processes more efficient. This can come from the repetitive element as well as incremental refinement overtime.

There are tasks that I do each day or always combine together, which overall and over time can lead to efficiencies e.g. batch cooking or prepping my running gear the night before.

Ensures certain things get done

I believe routines can bring further benefits here. I apply routines at the planning phase and then again in actually getting the tasks done. This can apply to activities I don’t particularly want to do (e.g. washing and tidying) as well as things I do want to do (e.g. making time for exercise).

 

Examples of my key routines

I personally use a lot of different routines to help me manage my work, my family life, my training regime etc. These are some of my key routines that keep me in check:

  • Planning on a Sunday for the week ahead – family plans, food plan, shopping needs, exercise & study plans
  • Getting up at the same time every day
  • Setting my key priorities for the day the night before
  • Writing my aspirations each morning
  • Writing my daily gratitude diary – 3 things each day
  • Planning and writing my blog at the weekend for the following week

When I don’t have a routine or worse still, get out of a routine, it can be hard to motivate myself or even find the time to do some things.

A key example of this for me is resistance training. I have a set process, which takes about 10 mins and consists of difference exercise for my arms and then my abs. When I’m in a routine, I’ll do this at least 5 days a week. When I’m out of my routine, I just don’t remember or seem to find the time and weeks can pass between sessions.

 

Why routines are important

While we have more options and choices about how we function than most other animals, many of us still choose to use routines to help us to manage our lives. There are various benefits associated with routines.

There are some reported health benefits of having a routineincluding improved mental health, less anxiety, better sleep as well as more chances of eating healthily and taking exercise.

Headspace reports other benefits of having a routineincluding increased productivity, creativity and more time to do the things that are important to do.

 

The risks of getting out of routine

We’ve looked at the benefits of routines above, but there are a few risks to be aware of.

Over reliance on a particular routine

Routines can be useful to manage our lives, but our lives aren’t always linear, predictable or straightforward. Life can sometimes get in the way and so can other people!

Remember – there is more than one way to skin a cat!

Try to identify ways in which your routine might be able to be flexed (if necessary), with minimal disruption to you (or others) in the process.

Outdated routines that are no longer relevant

Sometimes we do things because, well “this is the way we’ve always done them”. Maybe they served a great purpose at some point. Maybe they still do. But maybe they don’t!

In the same way that having a periodic spring clean could be beneficial, or clearing out our wardrobes, so could taking a look at our routines.

Maybe there’s another process or a different way that could serve us better?

 

Wrap-up

Routines can be useful to help us function well and many of us use them to help get us through our days, weeks and months. They can remove some of the active thinking and help to improve our productivity and effectiveness. Furthermore, routines can help us to adopt good habits that can help us to improve our physical and mental health.

 

Thank you for reading! For more on Age Life Balance, browse the blog at www.agelifebalance.com to find out  more.