The power of daily routines and how they help you stay happy and healthy
By Kathryn Knights, Management and Leadership Tutor at Professional Academy
If the thought of routine (another day at work, another workout at the gym, another dinner to cook) makes you shudder and think your life needs a radical overhaul. Think again. Routines have the power to help you stay happy and healthy. You just don’t know it yet…
Why have a daily routine?
Create certainty in uncertain times
Whilst some spontaneity can be invigorating, if your entire life is based around unpredictability it make you feel very uneasy. Routines help to give you stability and this is a comforting feeling during times of uncertainty.
Routines also help you overcome mental barriers that might usually prevent you from doing something. For example, if you have included time in your calendar for a 4pm gym workout then when 4pm rolls around there is no way you can tell yourself that you do not have time.
Doing something every day will help you improve and get better at it. That constant development and improvement will help to boost your morale and inspire you to keep going.
In his book, ‘Outliers’, journalist Malcolm Gladwell suggests 10,000 hours is the milestone number of hours that need to be dedicated to any one thing to become good at it. For example, if you want to get better at going for a walk every day then practicing that one thing each day will help you become better at it.
Gladwell’s 10,000 hours has been further developed by other others to include, not just practice, but deliberate practice i.e. being purposeful and systematic in the pursuit of something. While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance. This is particularly important when trying to master something complex. For example, if you want to become a world leading violin player then it will be deliberate practice, rather than just practice, that will help you on your path to mastery.
Follow the lead of the world’s best creators
Take a look at the world’s most creative and successful people and you’ll notice they have one thing in common. From Pablo Picasso to Beethoven to Serena Williams – they all use routines.
It has been written that the famous Spanish painter, Joan Miro, would wake up at 6am. He would then wash and take a light breakfast. He began painting at 7am until midday. At which point he stopped to perform an hour of exercise. This routine gave his day an order and removed some decision-making. By doing so his head was clear to work on the most important thing – his art.
How to create a daily routine
Create a plan
1. Take a pad of paper and write three column headings: personal, work, relationships.
2. Under each heading write down everything you do during a typical week.
3. Now write down the things you would like to do in a typical week, for example:
- Personal – read before bed each evening
- Work – read one interesting LinkedIn article, check in with an old colleague
- Relationships – go for a meal with friends
4. What are the obstacles that are likely to stop you doing the things you want to achieve? Jot down how you might reduce or remove those obstacles.
5. Create a routine to support the things you want to achieve.
6. Start your routine and it some time to settle in. Don’t be afraid to change your routine once you’ve established it. One small adaptation can have a big impact in terms of re-energising you and helping you helping you stay on track.
Other things you can do to support your daily routine
Give yourself some regular thinking time. Take a notebook and write down your thoughts each day. Jot down any problems or worries and get them out of your head and onto paper. This can help you clarify and work through anything that is troubling you instead of letting unhealthy thoughts build up in your head.
What do successful people have in common? Nearly all of them have a structured morning routine. Former US president, Barack Obama, keeps a strict morning workout routine of weights and cardio at 6.45am, before eating breakfast with his family and helping to pack his daughters off to school.
Investing in your morning routine is one of the most powerful ways to take ownership of your day and improve your overall wellbeing. Some research suggests that people who favour an active daytime routine over a nighttime one have healthier sleeping cycles. Resulting in better mental health compared with those people who have interrupted sleep cycles.
What is a morning routine?
A morning routine is a set of actions you perform each day. It starts when you wake up and ends before starting your day's main work.
Short and simple routines work best as they reduce any potential friction that could prevent you from performing them.
Here is an example of what you could include in your morning routine:
- Eat and drink – take water on board and eat a nutritious breakfast.
- Movement – get the body moving. You don’t’ need to perform a serious workout, a few stretches or a gentle walk is enough.
- Plan the shape of your day – think about what you need to achieve to fulfill your major goals. Take a look at your calendar and see what the shape of your day is e.g. do you have a meeting to attend or will you be office-based all day?
- Think – reflect on what you are grateful for in your life right now. Then focus on the day ahead and consider what the potential challenges might be along with how you can overcome them.
Do your best
Obstacles don’t need to derail you.
Routines don’t always go to plan. There will be days when life throws you a curve ball e.g. you get a flat tyre or the boiler breaks. Then there will be the planned disruptions e.g. going on holiday. Be kind to yourself and just try to do your best to keep as much of your routine going. If you plan to journal for 10 minutes and that gets cut short by a few minutes then that’s ok. Just do your best.