A routine is like autopilot for the boring things in your life. It is not autopilot for your life. Establishing routines on daily, weekly, and monthly schedules frees up your brain to think about things that are important and exciting.
Instead of trying to figure out which pants you want to wear, why not think about how you’re going to ask the boss to assign you to that new project.
Instead of trying to remember if you put the garbage out on time, why not think about the hiking trip that you’re taking this weekend.
Instead of worrying about whether you paid the power bill, why not enjoy a nice cold beverage of your choice confident in the knowledge that you’re not neglecting your responsibilities.
To establish your daily routine, think about the things that you do everyday and when you do them. Start with when you wake up. What are the first three things you do after you open your eyes? Write those things down along with how long they take you to do. It’s important to keep track of the timeline of these events so that you can identify where you’re cutting it close and where you have wiggle room.
Go through your whole day this way and once you have things written down, group them up into larger categories. If you have a list items for “brush teeth - 2 minutes” and “toilet - 5 minutes”, roll them up into “bathroom - 10 minutes”. This kind of grouping is helpful as it helps simplify the schedule.
Depending on your schedule, you might need to make one schedule for work days and another for personal days. I choose to keep my schedule similar for both days and just swap out the big chunk of time in the middle of the day.
My daily schedule is below:
The point is to keep track of the boring things so that you can focus on the fun and exciting things that you enjoy. It's not supposed to be an impatient task master cracking its whip to keep you on task.
Every time you see “personal time” on my schedule, I can fit in whatever I want there. Notice, however, that every time you see it there, it’s always preceded by something else. This indicates that those things take priority for that time, but in lieu of other responsibilities, I can decide what to do with my time.
Your weekly schedule is created in much the same way as the daily schedule. Pick a day to start with and map out the major recurring events for that day, then move on to the next day doing the same thing until you’ve mapped out your whole week.
These events are those that fill in the “work/family/wife/personal time” sections of my daily schedule. They’re the things that I can count on happening under normal conditions. If everything is on track, these are the things that occupy my time.
For reference, my weekly schedule is below:
Hopefully, if you’ve written out your daily and weekly schedules, the monthly schedule is fairly straight-forward. Your monthly schedule is likely to be populated mostly by finance-related events. Payday, bills, appointments.
Think about the things that happen every third thursday of the month or every two weeks. Make a list of these things and have it ready to reference when you’re trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing instead of watching reruns on Netflix.
Now that you’ve got your routines mapped out, you’ll need to keep track of them somewhere that works for you. For me it’s my online calendar. It’s connected to my phone and I can add or reference things as the need arises.
Be sure to cut yourself some slack. Unexpected things will pop up that will throw off your routine. That’s ok. Once you realize that you’ve lost track of your routine, pause for a moment to feel bad about yourself, but then get back after it.
Now you have to make a habit of checking your schedule. I’ve trained myself that every time I sit down to watch TV, play video games, or browse the web, first I check the calendar to make sure that I’m not neglecting or forgetting something. Having done that, I’m free to thoroughly enjoy whatever leisure activity that I’m engaging in without the anxiety of neglecting my responsibilities hanging over my head.