I’ve been talking a LOT about routines lately.
Essentially, counselling patients on the how to of implementing some of the healing and self-care strategies I’ve prescribed for them. Because one of the most important things I’ve learned from personal experience is that if you don’t plan for it, it doesn’t happen.
Exactly how is it that some people are able to fit in a workout, meditation, morning sun, 9-6 work, “special time” with kids, time with partner and nutritious, home-cooked meals, almost daily? How, possibly, does one do this AND protect a non-negotiable 7-9 hours of sleep a night?
I’ve got two answers: it requires being selective with your priorities and effective with your planning.
It’s actually very easy, and may take you all of 20 minutes to figure out how exactly to make happen what you want to make happen in your life. I’ll break these down further as simply as I can:
- ONE GOAL – Whether you are working with a doctor or therapist or just on your own with this, try to get clear on the ONE thing you want to resolve first – what is the most important wellness / personal / professional goal for you at this very moment? The most immediate thing that needs to happen before anything else?
- ex. Losing weight
- ex. Better relationship with kids
- ex. Getting a raise
- ONE or TWO THINGS TO ADD TO YOUR SCHEDULE – Now, pair this one goal with one or two actionable steps that will get you there. Be realistic about what you are willing / able to do and be choosy about what will give you the biggest bang for your time-buck. You cannot do it all.
- ex. Starting to exercise, more home-cooked meals
- ex. Spending one-on-one time with your kids, reading a parenting book
- ex. Achieving an additional certification, updating your resume
- ONE or TWO THINGS TO REMOVE FROM YOUR SCHEDULE – I repeat, you cannot do it all. You are not stretching time into 24 hours ++. You have the same waking hours to work with as you always have. If you are already being stretched to your limits, you cannot continue to make additions without subtractions (unless you’re looking for the fastest road to burnout!). Choose one or two things you are doing daily or weekly that either aren’t serving you OR could be done by someone else – either a partner, child, hired help, a computer…whatever. Then, swiftly take them off your plate before making the above addition(s).
- ex. A household chore someone else could be doing (even if it’s not “perfect”)
- ex. The 30 minutes of scrolling social media that isn’t getting you any closer to your best self
- LOOK AT YOUR CALENDAR – Before implementing anything…take out your calendar, whether over the phone or on paper. (I’ll be honest, I’m a paper-and-pen girl, seeing actual written things on written pages that I can flip makes it real for me and lets me plan visually. But you do you!). Block out the booked times to take them off the table (things like work, appointments, dinner, etc.) Depending on your schedule, this may be consistent throughout the week, or may change by the day.
- Block out all of the hours you are working, eating, driving, sleeping, doing essential errands, etc.
- BE REALISTIC – Be realistic about the time you have available – that is, keeping in mind all the things that are part of your unique life circumstance. If taking the dog for a walk or calling an unwell loved one daily is a thing for you, you have to account for it! Be realistic, too, about how much daily or weekly time you plan on committing to your actionable steps above. ALWAYS prioritize short and consistent versus long and infrequent.
- ex. 20 minutes a day of healthy movement (versus 2 hours once a week)
- ex. 5 minutes a day of an attention practice (versus 30 minutes on the weekend)
- ex. 2 hours of dedicated study a week (versus one day a month)
- FIND POCKETS OF TIME – Locate pockets of time for daily (or near daily) action. For me, this is really only possible in the first moments of the day upon waking. When I leave things to do in the evening after work, 90% of the time, it doesn’t happen. Very often, this means going to bed slightly earlier so that you can get up slightly earlier and not sacrifice slumber.
- ex. the extra half hour on your lunch break at work that is usually spent scrolling
- ex. the 10 minutes in the morning after you wake before the rest of the house does
Now that you’re well equipped with HOW to make real changes on a consistent basis, decide on when you will begin! Tell your loved ones; enlist them to be your cheerleaders as well as to support you in the changes that are coming.
Following through is actually super do-able. It just requires an openness to rejigging the way you are used to doing things. Remember, if you keep doing what you’re doing without changing anything, you’re going to get about as far with your goals as you are now. If you want to see any sort of meaningful change, you will have to add something, usually subtract something, and properly plan for success.
Once you’ve got the hang of this, nothing can stop you from achieving the life you want, trust me.