By: Madeleine Ortiz
While the pandemic continues, cancelled plans and open schedules can make the days feel long! Despite extra time for completing different tasks, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, more stressed than before. Social media, usually a great way to help us feel connected, can set expectations of what we should be doing in our free time that make us feel even worse. But, there is a solution to feeling less overwhelmed and more grounded during times like these….
It feels like the days I am busiest, are actually the days I get the most accomplished. I spend the night before wondering how I can possibly complete everything I need to do – but at the end of the day, I’ve somehow checked ten things off my to-do list and still managed to squeeze in a workout session and a homemade dinner. Turns out, I’m not alone. I have teacher friends who tell me they get less done in an entire summer off of work then they do in one week during the school year. I hear the same from gym buddies who never miss a 6 AM workout during their busy weeks, but can’t manage to take a walk around the block on the weekends. And perhaps most surprisingly, retirees, who were sure they’d take up yoga or a new hobby once every day was the weekend, seem to do less than when they worked full-time.
So why is that the more we have to do, the more likely we are to get things done? There are lots of theories, but the one that appears most often is that we tend to schedule and structure our days better when we are busy. If we know we have deadlines, we are more likely to carefully plan our days from start to finish.
Lucky for me, and lots of others like me, being super busy isn’t the only way to guarantee productivity. In addition to increasing productivity, routines are also shown to reduce stress and anxiety, help you make better big decisions and even lead to better sleep. The best part? Having a routine doesn’t have to mean scheduling every minute of the day. By using the tips below, incorporating a routine into your everyday life is easy & rewarding.
Wake up and go to bed at the same times every day.
While it may be tempting to binge-watch your favorite TV show on a Thursday night, or sleep until noon on a day you don’t have to be up for work, setting consistent hours for sleeping is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Not only does a regular bedtime guarantee you’re getting the sleep you need, going to bed and waking up around the same time everyday can improve the quality of your sleep.
Set regular meal times.
Choose flexible times during the day to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. Eating meals at the same time each day does make it easier to plan the rest of your to-do list. For some, consistent meal times can lead to more energy, better digestion, & even better-regulated blood sugar! Skipping meals, also, can do more damage than you might think.
Make movement a priority.
The list of benefits you can get from physical activity is limitless, so be sure to make movement something you do everyday. Schedule a portion of your day for exercise, and make it non-negotiable. It can be a walk, stretching, dancing to your favorite music or even some vigorous house cleaning. If exercise is a new part of your routine, experts recommend attaching your movement to a habit you already have established. For example, working out before your morning coffee or stopping for a walk on your route home from work. Just like many other parts of your routine, the more consistent you can keep the time, the more likely you will be to actually do it.
Write it down.
Just like writing down goals is an imperative step in accomplishing them, writing out your daily routine is a great way to help yourself stick to it. Writing down your routine helps make it more “official.” Additionally, having the ability to post your routine somewhere highly visible like your refrigerator or your bathroom mirror means gives you a visual cue and extra motivation to stay on schedule.
Schedule in time for flexibility.
As much as we’d like to be able to never deviate from our routine, there will be times when life gets in the way. You may need to schedule a doctor’s appointment during your normal movement time, or attend a social gathering a few hours after you’d normally eat dinner. Don’t let life’s inevitable hiccups blow you off course. Allow for flexibility in the schedule and do your best to shift things around so you still feel happy, secure, and productive.
Here are some sample schedules that may work for you!
7:30 am Wake up – spend about 20 minutes meditating
8:00 am Shower, get dressed, start breakfast
8:30 am Eat breakfast
9:00 am Work!
1:00 pm Break for lunch
1:30 pm Work
5:30 pm Some kind of exercise— walk or YouTube video
6:00 pm Start dinner
7:00 pm Eat dinner
7:30 pm Dishes, clean up
8:00 pm Read, relax, fold laundry, Zoom with family, chat with family, whatever…
10:00 pm Start the dishwasher, clean up a few last things around the house… where does this hour always go? 🙂
11:00 pm In bed!
8:00am Wake up, make bed, wash face, make coffee
8:30am Coffee, breakfast, reading
9:30am Morning movement
10:30am Household chores, reaching out to friends, family or hobby time
1:30pm Afternoon refresher- meditation, stretching, reading, outdoor activities
3:30pm Snack if you’re hungry!
6:00pm Dinner prep/eating
7:30pm Dishes, make a to-do list for the next day, get ready or bed
8:00pm Relaxation of choice…
10:00pm Bedtime routine
10:30pm Lights out!
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