The routines we define for ourselves often end up defining the quality of our lives.
Whether you realize it or not, your life is absolutely littered with routine. How you get up in the morning, the route you take to get to work, the activities you perform at work—the list is long! Many of us don’t realize the power to be found in routine. So often our routines end up being what is easiest by default. The less effort we can put forth, the better, right?
But that may all depend on what kind of life you want to have.
You see, by defaulting to the path of least resistance, we let the world guide our life for us. Unfortunately, the easy path is often not the path that leads to the kind of life that each of us desires. We need to practice some intentional structuring, at least for parts of our days, in order to create the space and time to continually get closer to the things we desire (be it money, time, fame, or otherwise). There are huge benefits to our mental and physical health as well (read more on this from Psychology Today and The Lancet).
The human mind thrives on routine. Since we all only have so much conscious bandwidth, our brain adapts by turning the things we do all the time into subconscious activity. The benefit is not feeling like your brain is burning out every day. But if you’re not already living the life you desire, creating that life will mean more conscious changes, right? The key to making them stick is to turn those conscious activities into subconscious ones—by turning them into routines.
One of the most powerful ways you can create more routine in your life, and thereby reach your goals and desires faster, is by bookending your day with structured space. I can’t tell you how much I have benefitted from having a set, and intentional, morning and evening routine. Not only have my days shifted from feeling disorganized and frenetic to feeling like they have a direction, but I also feel like I have more control over my life as a whole since I made the shift.
Let me give you an example. Here’s what my morning and evening look like:
- First thing – a glass of water
I’ve found I feel better when I have some water first thing after I wake up. There’s science to this (use your Google-fu skills), but I do it because it feels good.
- 15 minutes of meditation
Not everyone’s cup of tea, I know. However, I feel that it helps me clear my head to be able to think better during the day.
- 45-60 minutes of development reading
I always have two books going: one for personal/professional development and one for fun. I feel like my brain absorbs info better earlier in the morning (if you’re a night owl, evening might be better for you).
- 5-10 minutes to write out my day and fill in my Oak Journal
I’ve tinkered with several different structured journals throughout the years. Oak is what I’m currently trying. This helps me organize my day and thoughts.
- 45 minutes for breakfast and gaming
I enjoy playing games like Epic Seven while I eat breakfast. This gives my mind some breathing room and jumpstarts my creativity.
- 1-2 episodes of my favorite YouTuber of the moment
This takes about an hour and helps my brain wind down from the day. Entertainment-based TV is notoriously touted as activating the fewest parts of our brains.
- 15 minutes to prepare for bed
I stretch, change into my pajamas, and brush my teeth. It all has to happen sometime and I feel like this too helps me wind down for bed.
- 5-10 minutes for the Oak Journal
At the end of the day this helps me reflect on what went well and what could be improved as well as inventorying to-dos for tomorrow.
- 30-60 minutes of reading
Here’s where the fun book comes in. It’s perfect for just before bed because it doesn’t get my mind racing AND I’m not looking at a screen (and therefore avoiding blue light for at least an hour before bed).
Each element of my routines was chosen for specific reasons I have tried to convey as succinctly as possible. I have decided that I want to feel a certain way or that I want to accomplish something specific during both of those time frames. My morning routine needs to get my brain and body started up and operating well so that I can do my work and enjoy my day. In the evening, I want to gently decelerate until I come to a complete stop with my head on my pillow to make it as easy as possible to fall asleep and have a good night’s rest. (I personally struggle with mild insomnia, so that part is extra important to me.)
How you bookend your day may look completely different. The point is to create the space and time for you to start and end the day on your terms. You don’t have to meditate, or do anything from my list, if that’s not your jam. You can find a ton of personal empowerment and happiness by reserving time for yourself at either end of the day. I encourage you to give it a try and see how you can start enjoying life a bit more each day.