Getting up early for the 7am power walk to the bus stop. Strolling to grab a salad on your lunch break. Dashing to the gym for your usual Spin class after work. If your predictable days of nine-to-five have disappeared for good, chances are some of the things that kept you feeling fit and healthy have gone along with them.
Whether we’re working from home, hybrid working or just facing some uncertainty in our daily lives, the onus is now on us to figure out how to get the best out of our 16 waking hours - and that can feel quite scary. And, when we are feeling out of control or not sure about what is coming next, it can be hard to make healthy habits stick.
And that’s where building a new routine from the ground up can help. Having a daily structure in place that uplifts and empowers can vastly improve the quality of your life, from your health to your productivity. And who better to design it than the person who knows you best? You!
Not sure where to start? Relax. We’ve done all the hard work for you…
The benefits of a healthy routine
We all know that having a regular routine makes us feel more stable and secure when it comes to our mental health. A healthy routine can also result in
- Lowered stress levels
- More established (healthier) daily habits
- More prepared with meals and consumption of more nutritious foods
- Feeling more productive
- Feeling more focused
- Improved decision making
Step-by-step guide to building a new routine
OK, you’re sold on the benefits. But how can you reap the rewards when there’s no such thing as a ‘normal’ day for you? Lacking a rigid daily timetable means you can’t rely on anything external for stability, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done! Just follow these four simple steps to give your lifestyle a reboot.
You may be working from home one day, then commuting into the office the next. But chances are some parts of your day will always remain constant. For example, every day you’ll wake up, brush your teeth and eat breakfast (or at least drink coffee!). You’ll probably eat lunch, too. There’ll be family commitments and chores to attend to. And at some point you’ll wind down and go to bed.
Being aware of this familiar baseline gives you a basic structure to work from as you build your new routine.
Time to get those coloured pens out (or get technical and use a spreadsheet). Write down a timesheet that’s split into seven columns (to represent a week). Each column should be split into 16 blocks (that represent your waking hours). Then you can start constructing a very rough weekly routine using your previously mentioned fundamental building blocks.
When you see the entire week written down, you’ll notice that while lots of things may change, your day is really built up out of a bunch of mini routines – constant ‘cornerstones’ such as sleep, work, exercise and meals.
Regardless of the chaos of life, we can almost virtually guarantee that we’ll…
- Wake up and go to bed each day
- Eat meals or snacks
- Spend time daily on personal grooming, like brushing our teeth or showering
There may well be things that you do each week such as…
- Commuting to and from work
- Work itself
- A regular hobby that has a set time
- Housework or family commitments that have to be done
When you identify all your daily or weekly anchors and schedule them into your timesheet, you can begin to build your routine around them.
Once you have the skeleton of your routine formed you can flesh it out with habits you’d like to adopt, like taking a walk to break up your work day or some stretching first thing in the morning.
Just be careful not to over do it. What’s the number one cause of new routines falling to pieces? People trying to introduce a whole host of changes all at once. Start by simply choosing just one or two simple things you’d like to turn into a habit. After a week or two or so of doing that consistently, add just one more thing.
The Japanese have a term which they use to describe continuous improvement - Kaizen. Kaizen means methodical, gradual, continuous improvement. While the Japanese use it for business, it also fits quite nicely for routine building.
Taking sustainable, often smaller steps, with the idea of continually improving each day towards the routine you want is a much more reliable method of actually achieving the lifestyle you’re aiming for. And you can do this by using your existing habits as your ‘cue’.
For example, if improving your appearance is your goal, a daily tooth flossing habit will give you a great smile. So, using your existing ‘brushing your teeth’ habit as your cue, aim to floss just one tooth. Once that becomes a habit, floss two!
The same goes for exercise. If your goal is to be more flexible, tell yourself that everytime you brush your hair you’ll do one simple stretch at the same time. Or make it a habit to do some squats and lunges every time you boil the kettle for your morning cup of tea.
You could tie a journaling habit into your existing bedtime routine, or make it your aim to add one extra vegetable to your daily sandwich. Just remember to make the habit tiny enough that it seems ridiculously easy to implement as these quick wins will really build your confidence.
So, what will your new routine look like?
A good routine can do more than just ground you in the midst of chaos. After all, those tiny, seemingly insignificant things you do each day are really the blueprint of your entire life, from your physical and mental health to your productivity and success at work.
So plan your routine and develop it over time. Focus on sustainable, smaller steps and continuous improvement at a rate which makes you feel secure and confident. Those tiny changes will compound over time, transforming you into a healthier, happier and fitter new you.
If you liked this article, you might like The Healthy Habits of Successful People and how to Channel them.