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How to Make a Routine Work for You

While it may seem like routines are repetitive, they can be a very powerful way to improve your life.

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Think back through your week. Do you have a routine? Does it seem like you regularly hit up Starbucks, take the same route to work, and put dinner on the table at the same exact time every night? While it may seem like routines are repetitive, they can be a very powerful way to improve your life. 

Research from Syracuse University suggests that routines are related to satisfaction, personal identity, and achievement. Family rituals and routines can aid to psychological health and well-being. The study found that “nine out of 10 families believe it’s important to sit down as a family for a meal,” which can strengthen relationships, stability, and emotional exchange. But just because a routine can be repetitive within your family or work life doesn’t mean that you can’t switch things up.

Make a routine work for you by setting up some parameters to abide by, but keep things fluid. These routine ideas allow flexibility so you can seize a spontaneous moment when it feels right.

Minimize procrastination with a deadline

You probably know that certain household chores have to be done during the week. And you only have a set amount of time before you rush off to work. An idea to minimize procrastination is to set a self-imposed deadline with mundane tasks in your routine.

A study from MIT shows that self-imposed deadlines are effective in improving task performance. For example, let’s say your kitchen desperately needs to be cleaned, but you know it’s going to take some time to tackle those dishes. 

Instead of putting off the chore for another day, set a timer for 15 minutes. Get as much done as you can inside of those 15 minutes and then stop once the timer is up. You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish when your brain is given a deadline.

The power of written plans

A planner or calendar can help you remember important birthdays and anniversaries, but it can also help you prep your week more effectively. When you write plans down, you might feel more in control of your week rather than stressing about how busy you feel.

Psychologist Barbara Markway points out in an article on Psychology Today that keeping a planner helps you stay healthy, too. “It helps your physical health by helping you track things like diet and exercise,” Markway wrote.

In turn, you get to make choices. When you see commitments lined up in a week, or realize you have missed several days at the gym, you can prioritize tasks that are most important to you.

Don’t block schedule 

You have heard of block scheduling, right? This system is popular among middle and high schools in that students take fewer classes within the day but for longer periods. But when you apply the same system to adulthood, it’s not as effective.

Why? Because it locks you into a certain timeframe to complete a task or project. Someone who is unemployed might have the entire day to cook dinner but a busy full-time worker might only have 30 minutes. It’s called Parkinson’s Law which is the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” 

A better way to complete tasks is to use a project management system instead of blocking long stretches of time on your calendar. During the week you get to decide what you want to tackle first. You gain structure from your to-do list but you also gain flexibility by deciding when to complete each task.

Standardize personal finances

How often do you look at your finances? You more than likely interact with money every day, but managing it is a different story. A recent study by U.S. Bank found only 41% of Americans follow a budget.

You can manage your finances habitually with a few tricks to make it fun. At the end of every month, go over your income and expenses. Conduct a budgeting meeting with your favorite beverage or a playlist that keeps things light. You’ll be in a better mood to dig into your financial situation and keep financial stress at bay.

You can also make it easy on yourself and automate contributions to a savings account. Most banks have the option to set up automatic transfers so you can hit financial goals without manually monitoring accounts. 

Routines can be as fluid or rigid as you make them. Set a foundation that allows you to track and automate tasks, and puts timelines into place could help you feel more in control. Allow yourself enough flexibility within your routine so you can take advantage of spontaneous events. Because life should strike a balance between the routine and the unplanned.

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