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Having a daily routine sounds dreamy. Imagine waking up at the same time every day, meditating, maybe some yoga or spinning, coffee, breakfast, news bites. I like to think of myself at a breakfast nook with the sunshine streaming in. I bet I would be super productive all day too.
But alas, I am not a routine person. I have tried and they just never stick. Besides, I don’t even have a breakfast nook.
It’s a mystery to me how anyone does the same thing over and over, my waking circumstances seem to change daily. I have two kids, and a puppy, who like to wake me up every morning in a new way. I’m also expecting, so the morning sickness keeps me from waking up in good spirits anyway, it usually takes until about 9 or 10am before I feel like myself.
One thing I can count on currently is waking up before 7am to that sweet morning sickness. Then the kids and dog wake up and we make our way downstairs. I usually stand around the kitchen for a while trying to figure out what I’m going to eat. Then I make the kids something. From there, it’s a free-for-all.
However, I am noticing that in order to get anything done, I have to have some kind of organization to my day. Being self-employed, with a self-employed husband, can make consistency hard. We only have ourselves to hold accountable, nobody else is expecting anything from us. If we don’t get our work done, we don’t get to pay our bills, it’s that simple.
So I needed to develop some kind of process that provided a little bit of consistency.
Here are seven things you can do, if you don’t like routines, but need a little bit of routine in your life:
1. Use a personal reward system.
Before I make my coffee, I check the bank, make sure the bills have been paid and any checks have cleared. It’s kind of my reward. I won’t make my coffee until I’ve done this. Sometimes that means I have coffee at 11am, sometimes I have it at 830am.
Not forcing a time block on myself makes it easier to do. I can do it whenever, but I can’t have my coffee until I do. This keeps me from not doing it at all (which totally happens if you don’t have some kind of motivator).
2. Tell your kids the thing you want to do.
This can totally backfire, so be careful. But if I know we need some outside time, and my husband and I want to start work on the yard, we’ll tell the kids as soon as they see the sun tomorrow, we’re going outside.
It never fails, the next morning, when the sun is out, they are on us about getting outside. This typically only works with something the kids enjoy participating in, or enjoy watching you do alone.
3. Set reminders on your phone.
I use my phone a lot to motivate me, especially for routine matters. If I’m given a project with a long deadline, I’m bound to procrastinate. I can’t help it.
So I set multiple reminders on my phone; when I need to start thinking about the project, when I need to start reading about the project, when I need to remind myself of the details of the project, and when I actually need to really, really start because otherwise, it will be late.
Another good thing about reminders is that when you snooze them, they’ll keep reminding you.
4. Start by committing to small tasks.
If I think I have an entire house to clean, I’ll binge Netflix instead. If I tell myself all I need to do today is get the mail sorted and the island cleared off, then I’m more likely to do it. I think of this as tricking myself into cleaning. Once I’m on a roll, I’ll continue. So if the island is clean and the mail is sorted, I might empty the dishwasher, or bring last seasons decorations down to the basement.
With two kids, one on the way, a puppy, and a husband, it’s easy for the cleaning to get out of hand quickly. If I tell myself before I go to bed, “Tomorrow, I’ll tackle just the downstairs bathroom. Maybe even just the sink and toilet, save the shower…” I’m likely to clean the entire downstairs.
5. Use leisure to frame your day.
This, with the coffee bribe, is one of my favorite ways to find a routine. Before the pandemic hit, and a lockdown was in order, my oldest had school two days a week and my husband worked full time outside the home. I knew Home & Family started at 11am so I allowed myself tv until Home & Family started. Once it started, it was time to transition to work. (There’s rarely any good tv on between 11am and 2pm anyway.)
I also used this as a gauge as to when I needed to take out dinner. Something needed to be thawing on the counter or cooking in the crockpot before Home & Family started. I also knew that Friends started at 3pm so I made sure everything was done by then so I could watch some TV before my husband and daughter came home.
6. Set time controls on your apps.
I know a lot of my day gets wasted on social media. I can’t help it! And sometimes the time just gets away from you, you’re all of a sudden 3 hours in and nobody has eaten lunch yet.
So I like to set parental restrictions on myself. This helps me limit the amount of time I spend on social media and my laptop. I also check my screen time app pretty frequently so I’m aware of how much time I’m spending on electronics throughout the day.
7. Lower your expectations to avoid discouragement.
When we fail to meet our own expectations, we tend to get down on ourselves and start engaging in self-sabotaging behavior. Something I wish I did get dressed every day. I can’t do it for some reason. I expect to wear a blouse and skinny jeans and flats, but it’s so impractical for my life. I’m spending most of my day chasing toddlers, babies, and puppies, making PB&J and grilled cheeses, and playing on the floor.
That kind of routine, the shower, and full-on dress is too much for my life right now. Once I admitted this to myself, I decided to buy some leggings and sweaters. I found some adorable athleisure outfits that made me feel good. So maybe I can’t shower daily, but I can do some deodorant, dry shampoo, and a cute leisure outfit. Someday, when my kids are older, I might try to go back to jeans and blouses, but until then, this feels right.
Routines are Useful, Even if They’re Annoying
Creating a daily routine can be hard, I can definitely sympathize with that, but they truly do make your life easier. My house would be an embarrassing mess if I didn’t use the personal bribing method or framing with leisure activities. I’m admittedly fairly lazy and sitting on the couch totally appeals to me. But my family deserves a clean house and a healthy dinner, I want to do my part.
Talk to me about your routines? Do you do the same thing daily or have another process for getting everything done?