Summer is not officially over but the week after Labour Day is often an unofficial cue that it is time to get back to taking care of whatever business we might have avoided in favour of more leisurely activities during the warmer months. Even if you don’t have school-aged kids, “Once school is back in” seems to be an impetus to tackle some sort of routine which, if maintained and done correctly, can be the key to unlocking a stress-free, mentally balanced life! Routines are defined as “a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.” They can be personal or family-oriented, can help you manage your workload or develop mastery in a chosen passion, hobby or sport. They can set the stage for continuous improvement and can help you eat healthily and learn more, they can boost your confidence and clear your mind. Routines save so much time when well-managed and can free you up to be able to accomplish more at work, be more supportive to friends and family, and help you make more time for yourself.
But where does one start? As with many habits, it is helpful to examine and analyze your current status. Take stock of where you are at mentally, schedule time to think through and document anything that is nagging at you rather than let it build up. Journalling may be a great place to start this documentation and in itself become a new routine. You can write about where you are and where you would rather be. How do you spend your time? What is getting done? What isn’t? What stresses you out? What are your short and long-term goals? What does living with purpose look like to you? Once you have figured all that out, try to track your actions as this will expose inefficiencies and periods that can be better spent on more worthy endeavours. Begin by listing activities in your journal, one after another, that you find yourself doing from the time that you wake, until the time you go to bed. Note specific times, activities, and also how you are feeling throughout the day while performing these activities. Do this for a good enough length of time so that you capture the things that have become routine, maybe a week or even two. At the end of your chosen period, go back and circle or highlight the times that you felt stressed and also the activities that maybe weren’t the best use of your time when you consider your goals. Once you establish where you have been spending your time and what is not serving you, you can list out a few things you’d rather do that would make you feel better and try and fit them into the slots where you spotted inefficiencies. For example, if you document that you are spending a large chunk of time watching television or scrolling through Social Media when one of your goals is to learn how to speak a different language, perhaps it is time to put down the remote or phone from 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm and do some studying. As with anything, moderation and striving for balance is key, so start by replacing the TV or phone once a week, then twice then three times or maybe four until you feel that you are maintaining a pace toward bilingual success within a time that you can be proud of. Now, you’ve developed a habit and can move on to tackling the next new routine.
As with anything, it is important to keep things fresh so ensure you build this as an ongoing practice! Author Arthur Conan Doyle once said, “My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work…I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation.” Make it part of your new routine to review your progress at regular intervals while keeping it fun, exciting, and challenging. Celebrate achieved goals and set new ones, raise the bar. Make sure to check in with yourself and your stress levels and reprioritize where you need to mitigate pressures. Adjust timelines as needed and be realistic, fair, and honest with yourself. Only you will know what is working and what needs to be shaken up. This should be a fluid process and will be forever changing as you grow and achieve and the smallest of adjustments can revitalize and renew your enthusiasm. This practice should be a gift to you from you, a process that allows you time to fit in everything that has meaning to you. It is something we often complain about having or even not having but creating a custom routine with intent can be the most important time we spend on ourselves and be the map to making our loftiest goals and dreams a reality.