How to Develop a Routine That Works–And Stick With It! (Part 4)

So, if you did your homework yesterday, you now have a written routine created for your family. Way to go!

A Routine Only Works if You Follow It

Just having a routine written down on paper is not enough. You actually have to stick with it!

Now, like I said yesterday, you don’t have to follow your routine perfectly for it to make a big impact. But you do need to use it as a guideline on a daily basis. Even just following 75-80% of it almost every day can mean a world of difference in your home and life.

Here are four suggestions to help you stick with your routine:

1. Add One New Thing Every 3 Weeks

If the concept of a routine is completely new for you, don’t try to overhaul your life all at once. Slow and steady changes in the right direction will result in much more lasting and long term changes. As I’ve often said, moving in the right direction–even at a microscopic rate–is still moving forward.

I recommend adding one new habit every three weeks. Start with a morning routine and stick with that for three weeks. Then add in an evening routine and stick with it for three weeks. Finally, add in an afternoon routine and stick with that for another three weeks.

Once you’ve got your routines down, try filling it in by following your entire written routine. If that’s too much to add all at once, go back to just adding in one or two new things to your routine every three weeks.

2. Create a Checklist

I’ve found it really helpful to print a new routine for each day of the week to follow and check off as I complete each task. This might just be the Type A in me, but there’s something about checking off things from a list that helps to keep me on track.

If you don’t want to mess with having a new page for each day, you could print and laminate your routine and use a dry erase marker to check it off. And then just wipe it clean at the end of the day.

Or, if you’re more of a techy person, you could use some type of online program on your computer or smartphone. I use the To Do App for my daily to-do list (this is separate from my standard routine) and think it could easily be set up to have a standard routine to check off each day if something a bit more high-tech appeals to you.

However, don’t try to make it more complicated than it needs to be. A simple list printed on scrap paper with a pen to check it off can work just fine. What matters most is not how high-tech or elaborate your system is, but that it inspires you to follow through with your routine!

3. Get An Accountability Partner

If you feel like you’re not disciplined enough to stick with a routine on your own, find an accountability partner to help keep you on track. Maybe it’s a friend who checks in with you via email every afternoon. Or a neighbor who pops by every afternoon. Or your spouse who checks in with how your day went at dinner. Maybe you form a group of online friends on Facebook to keep each other accountable. Or perhaps you do something entirely different.

Think about what would most motivate you to stay accountable and then get that accountability system in place. No excuses; just do it!

4. Reward Yourself For Sticking With It

Create milestones to celebrate along the way. This inspires you to keep at it when you don’t feel like sticking with it. Plus, life is just a lot more enjoyable when you make time to celebrate your successes!

What ideas do you have for motivating yourself to stick with your routine?

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How to Develop a Routine That Works–and Stick With It (Part 3)

Before I get into this post, I wanted to remind you that I share this to help those of you who are struggling with organization in your life. If however, life is going smoothly for you or you just don’t need something else added to your life right now, just skip over this post, okay? The last thing I want to do is heap guilt or more things to do onto your plate!

Once you’ve determined your big rocks and mapped out the basic framework for your day, it’s time to plan the Time Blocks in your routine. Here’s how I recommend doing that:

1. Start With a Time Budget

Take your list of priorities and follow the instructions in this post to come up with a time budget for the 24 hours in your day. (See my time budget from 2010 here for an example of how this will look.)

2. Arrange the Order For Your Day

Once you have your time budget created, take those blocks of time and put them in a set order for the day. Do not stress over doing this perfectly, just think of how to order the time blocks so things would flow fairly smoothly in your home.

For instance, here’s what my current routine looks like:

My Current Routine

Up, Bible, coffee
Run
Shower, dress
Clean up bathroom/bedroom, start laundry
Blog
Children up, baths, hair fixed
Breakfast, Bible Time, clean up kitchen
Chores, switch laundry, dinner out from freezer
Homeschooling
Reading together
Lunch, read alouds
Afternoon Routine
Homeschooling
Blogging
Free hour
Dinner, Bible Time
Evening Routine
Time with Jesse, read

3. Make Sure to Include Margin Time

If you’ll notice, I have an hour of free time built into my routine. This gives some “padding” in the routine to allow for the inevitable interruptions and things that come up throughout the day. Plus, it also provides a time block for extra projects.

4. Keep It Simple

Don’t make the mistake of trying to pack your day so full that you end up overwhelmed and burnt out. It’s better to do fewer things and actually finish them, than to attempt a massively-long list and end up frustrated. Stick with the basics and don’t forget to focus on the big rocks first.

5. Don’t Worry About Following it Perfectly

We never follow our routine exactly. I view it as a guideline, not a strict slave master. It’s there to keep us moving in the right direction, but it can be shifted and rearranged somewhat depending upon how the day is going.

Now, if you start shifting things too much, you’ll defeat the purpose of having a routine, but do give yourself some grace and don’t feel like you need to follow it to a tee or you’ve failed. Good enough is always better than doing nothing at all.

6. Keep Tweaking It

A good routine is like a good budget: you keep tweaking it as your needs and life changes. If something isn’t working, change it!

Practical Application

1. Sit down and create a time budget.

2. Take your time budget and your big rocks list and develop a simple routine for your day. Type it up so you can easily tweak it, as need be.

If you create a routine or already have one, I’d love to have you share yours in the comments section.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about how to stick with your routine, now that you’ve created it! :)

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How to Develop a Routine That Works–and Stick With It! (Part 2)

If you missed it, be sure to read part 1 of this series here.

2. Get the Framework in Place

Once you know what your big rocks are, it’s time to develop a basic framework for your day. This is not a detailed play-by-play of exactly how your day should look like, this is just how to big rocks fit together.

A) Map Out Your Wake Up Time, Bed Time, and Meal Times.

The first step to getting a good routine in place is to determine your wake-up time, bed time, and meal times. These are not set-in-stone times, but if you have a general guideline to follow, it helps bring order and structure to your days.

Try (as much as is possible) to stay within at least an hour or so of the time you have planned for your wake-up, bed time, and meal times. If your house is anything like ours, stuff comes up and sometimes your plan goes out the window. When that happens, be flexible, roll with the punches, and then get back up on the wagon as soon as you’re able!

If you have no order or structure at all in your life right now, just getting up and going to bed at the same hour every day and eating your meals at the same hours throughout the day will give you a tremendous new sense of order and flow in your days. Plus, it will probably guarantee that you get more sleep and skip fewer meals–something that will definitely affect your overall health in a good way!

I suggest picking realistic times–especially for getting started. If you’re not a morning person, don’t plan to get up at 5 a.m. every morning unless you want to set yourself up for failure.

B) Create Morning, Afternoon, and Evening Routines.

I first learned of the concept of morning, afternoon, and evening routines from FlyLady. And I’m amazed at what a difference this simple change in one’s life can make.

If you’re unfamiliar with morning, afternoon, and evening routines, it’s basically just coming up with 3-5 simple things that you do in the same order when you first get up, after lunch, and right before bed. Simple is key here.

Sample Morning Routine

1) Wake up, make coffee, read Bible/pray.

2) Exercise

3) Shower, get dressed, straighten bathroom and bedroom.

4) Start a load of laundry.

5) Check email.

Sample Afternoon Routine

1) Clean up kitchen.

2) Switch laundry to the dryer.

3) Fold one load of laundry.

Sample Evening Routine

1) Clean up kitchen.

2) Do a quick 10-minute house pick up.

3) Lay out clothes for next day.

4) PJs on and face washed.

If you’re brand-new to the concept of routines, start with a morning routine only and make it a priority for three weeks before adding anything else to your routine. Once you feel comfortable with a morning routine, then add in an afternoon routine and then an evening routine.

Take it slowly and don’t rush developing these habits. Even if it seems like you’re not making much progress, it’s better to inch forward in the right direction than to try to add all these new things in at once and burn out.

Practical Application

Take 30 minutes this weekend to write down your proposed wake-up time, bed time, and meal times. Also, write down a simple morning routine, afternoon routine, and evening routine.

Put this paper in a very conspicuous location and review it often. You can even set up reminder alarms on your phone, if you find that sort of thing helps you!

I’d love to have you share your proposed morning, afternoon, and evening routines in the comments, if you’re willing.

Begin following your wake up time, bed time, and meal times starting immediately. Add in the morning routine, as well, if you feel up for it.

Now you have a very basic structure for your day in place. On Monday, we’ll talk about filling in the rest of the day, making sure that you get your big rocks in first.

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How to Develop a Routine That Works–and Stick With It! (Part 1)

Do your days feel chaotic and disorganized? Do you feel like you’re always behind and always running around in circles?

You need a routine. It will calm your chaos and bring rhythm, order, and peace to your days.

What is a Routine?

A routine is a plan for the flow of your day. It can be very basic and bare bones or it can be more specific. However, it is not a regimented schedule with detailed time blocks for how you’re supposed to spend every minute of every day.

While a rigid schedule works well for some, we’ve found that a routine is much more doable for our family–especially since our children are younger and my husband and I both have our own businesses. No day is exactly the same, so the flexibility a routine provides is perfectly suited to allow for the interruptions that inevitably arise.

{In the middle of writing that last sentence, Kathrynne came running upstairs from the basement to let me know that Silas had just thrown up all over the couch. So I spent 20 minutes bathing him, cleaning up the couch, and taking care of the soiled clothes. Yep, this is a classic example of why a flexible routine works better for us than a rigid schedule!}

How To Set Up a Workable Routine

1. Start With the “Big Rocks”

You’ve probably seen or heard the illustration about putting the big rocks in first:

A popular story describes a time-management professor who demonstrates the importance of prioritizing by filling a five-gallon mason jar with fist-size rocks and asking the class if the jar is full. Since another big rock wouldn’t fit, the class answers, “yes.” However, the professor proceeds to pour a pitcher of gravel, then sand, and finally water into the jar before it is finally full.

The point of the story is not that you can cram much more than you ever dreamed into any given day. The point is this: “If you don’t put your big rocks in first, the fillers of life will take up your day and you won’t fit your big rocks in at all.” 

If you want to get things done that truly matter, you must focus on the big rocks. Ask yourself: What are the most important things I want to be prioritizing in my life right now?”

If you feel like you still don’t have clarity, consider what will matter to you in 25 years from now. This helps you strip away the non-essentials and focus on what you really want to be devoting the bulk of your time to.

Develop your daily routine with the big rocks in mind. You’ll likely be able to find time for some pebbles and sand, too, but begin with what matters most.

Practical Application

Take 10 minutes to consider what your “big rocks” are (ask your spouse for input, if you’re married). Write them down on a piece of paper. If you’re willing to, I’d love to have you share them in the comments section on this post.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about using these big rocks to help craft a framework for your daily routine.

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