Establishing a Routine
Jan 17, 2017 | by Lisa Reynoso
For many people, the word “schedule” conjures up images too stressful to contemplate. They dismiss the idea with statements like, “I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of person,” or “I’ve tried using a schedule and it didn’t work.”
The truth is, though, that we are all creatures of habit and thrive on routine. Young children are calmer and easier to handle if they are on an established routine, and adults would be, as well, even if they don’t believe so.
In my own personal life, I used to be that way. I used to believe that a schedule was too hard to stick with. I felt inadequate, frustrated, with anything more than the most basic schedule of going to work and coming home and approximate meal times. When I became a stay-at-home mom, I pretty much gave up on schedules. I made sure my husband left for work on time (that is, that breakfast was ready before he had to leave), and after that I just did things however and whenever. Even after having children, I resisted being anything like scheduled, telling myself it was stressful.
As my children got older, I made various attempts to be more scheduled. But it just seemed that there was never enough time in a day to get everything done.
But recently I had a revelation: We disconnected the Internet for several months, and I suddenly was able to get everything I had to do before breakfast done, and then some.
At that point I was forced to admit that the only thing keeping me off schedule was myself.
Let me elaborate, and see if you can relate. I would get up, and while I was waiting for the kettle to boil to warm up some water, I would tell myself that I would just quickly check my email. Well, 15 or 20 minutes later I would finally get off Facebook and head over to sort the laundry. That done, I would take a quick peek to see if anyone had replied to my comments, and then scan down my wall while I waited for the water to boil for the oatmeal. I’d get off half an hour later, decide I didn’t have time for any exercise, didn’t feel like a shower, and I’d head in to get dressed. And by breakfast time, I felt so defeated and behind.
When the Internet was disconnected, I no longer had the possibility to be distracted by Facebook, or anything else online. If I thought of something I wanted or needed to do online, I wrote it down to do later, and continued on with my day. So I was much more productive in the morning. We ended up getting Internet again later, because it’s hard to homeschool anymore without it. But I think I have a better handle on it now. Especially because of what I’m about to share.
Recently, I made some changes in my life. I determined to be very strict with my schedule/routine. I started tracking what I wanted to accomplished before breakfast, and how long it took to do those things. I also decided to be very strict with bedtime, to be in bed on time, no matter what anyone else in the house did.
By going to bed at a consistent time, I was able to wake up rested by 5 am. Now, my schedule looks like this:
I found that instead of micromanaging each item in my morning routine, it was easier to group several tasks into a period of time. For instance, I found that I could go to the bathroom, change into exercise clothes, warm water to drink, and sort the laundry, in about 15 minutes. If I got out of bed within seconds of my alarm I could accomplish all those things very quickly. Of course, this required me to exercise my will and choose to get up. But it is easy, because I made a decision to get up on time and not lay around in bed. So come morning, I didn’t have to decide again. I just had to act.
Research has shown that willpower is a finite resource. This is no surprise to most of us. But we can shortcut the process by drawing “bright lines”; that is, deciding beforehand what we will do in a given situation and essentially setting that decision in stone. In the book of Daniel, we read that Daniel “purposed in his heart” not to defile his body with the king’s food. So when the food came, he didn’t stop to think about it. When I was nursing my third child, we found out that he was allergic to gluten. So I gave up gluten for a year. And I didn’t have to think about whether I would have bread or a pastry at a potluck. It wasn’t an option anymore. I didn’t have to think about it each time, am I going to do this or not. I had already signed it, and I made the right choice automatically.
It’s not always easy to draw these bright lines. It takes a willingness to face who we are, to face that we are measuring up to what we want to be. And that’s not always easy. Introspection is it fun. At least, not always. And the more bad habits we have, the worse it feels. But we never regret it when we choose to make the right decisions. To draw the bright lines that we know we should draw.
So maybe you don’t need to be a strictly scheduled as I strive to be. And even I have lost some flexibility; after all, I have kids. I have to be realistic. And I have not even fully succeeded at being all that I could be yet. But it’s a goal. I’m striving for it. And it feels good to get a routine established, because I’m able to get so much more done, have time to get things done that are important. Like exercise. I now spend at least an hour a day doing some form of exercise at least 5 to 6 days a week. And I’m busier than I was when I couldn’t find time to exercise for half an hour.
So here’s the takeaway for you. Find a time of day where you tend to get off track. Come up with a schedule or routine flow that will allow you to use your time the best. And write it down and post it where you will see it every day. Make a commitment to yourself to stick to that routine. Even better, make a commitment to a spouse or your close friend. Ask them to hold you accountable. And then as you get used to that, start experimenting with different periods of the day. Until you have achieved a schedule that works for you.
And while you’re making your schedule, don’t forget to take a few minutes for God. As the One who created you, He deserves your attention too.