The word "routine" has always sent a shudder down my spine. It makes me think of a strict day with no room for fun, free time, or spontaneity. And yet, as I get older, I'm starting to realize there are so many benefits of a solid daily routine.
In fact, life can even be easy breezy (and fun, and carefree) once you get yourself on a good schedule. That might be hard to wrap your head around, especially if you revolt against too much organization like I do. (I want to be free, damn it!) But take a second and imagine what your work day would be like if there was no routine — no rules, nothing expected of you, no set hours to be there. That might sound kinda fun, but in reality it would be pure chaos. Nothing would ever get done, people would be upset and confused, and the whole thing would fall apart.
That's sort of how life can get when you don't have any structure. It sounds good at first, but really it just ends up being a stressful mess. I've definitely realized this over the years, and have since adopted a schedule for myself that includes morning and evening routines, and a super organized workday. And you know what? I've found myself with more peace and more free-time than I ever did when I let the days run away with me.
If you want to reign in your crazy life, and finally adopt a daily a schedule, then here are some of the other wonderful benefits you'll see. (I promise, it's not scary at all.)
1. You'll Check More Things Off Your To-Do List
Ever wake up with so many things to do it honestly feels like nothing will ever get accomplished? Enter: your routine. When you have a daily routine, you're much more likely to check things off your to-do list. Why? Because having a schedule means blocking out chunks of your day for specific tasks, such as work, errands, or hitting up the gym. When you set up specific times for things, it's far less likely you'll push them off for later — especially once they become habit.
Sure, sometimes emergencies crop up, and you might occasionally run out of hours in the day. But having a schedule, and thus some structure, makes productivity that much more likely.
2. You Mental Health Will Thank You
Have you noticed how anxiety and stress levels go through the roof during chaotic, disorganized days? I mean, how could they not when you're running around and not getting anything done? A daily routine takes this type of stress away by eliminating the guess work, and therefore all the stress, from even the busiest of days. You'll feel much more at peace knowing where you need to be, and when.
In fact, a solid daily routine is so good for mental health it has been used to help treat people with bipolar disorder. According to Salynn Boyles on WebMD.com, "Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine report that bipolar patients fared better when their treatment stressed the importance of establishing daily routines for things like sleeping and eating. Social rhythm therapy, as it has been dubbed by the researchers, is based on the idea that irregular sleeping habits and those associated with other daily activities can trigger manic episodes by disturbing the body's sleep-wake (circadian system) clock." Bipolar or not, that sounds like something worth avoiding by sticking to a routine.
3. There Will Be More Time To Relax
Remember how I was going on about routines being all anti-relaxation? Well, they're actually quite the opposite. Not only does a routine mean getting more done (and then having the freedom to truly relax on your highly-accomplished laurels), but it also means you have the opportunity to make free time a priority.
It's all about setting aside blocks of time for doing whatever you please, whether that means sitting on your butt, hanging out with friends, or partaking in a hobby. As Leo Babauta noted on his website ZenHabits.net, "It’s crucial that you take a blank weekly schedule ... and assign blocks for the things you love — the stuff on your essentials list. If you want to exercise, for example, when will you do it? Put the blocks of time on your schedule, and make these blocks the most important appointments of your week. Schedule the rest of your life around these blocks."
4. It'll Help You Break Bad Habits
One of the things that I find most intriguing about a daily routine is that it has the ability to help break bad habits. Think about it — if you get yourself into a bunch of good habits, and they become your "thing," then it doesn't leave much room for your old, bad habits.
It may sound too go to be true, but it's really as easy as deciding what matters to you, and then making a schedule that revolves around those things. Once you stick with it for a few weeks, the new routine will become your habit, and your old ways will become a thing of the past.
As Melani noted on the health website NaturalQi.com, "Pick the things you don’t want to be doing. Define what the opposite of those are, and start pushing for habits in the opposite direction. Instead of trying to avoid bad habits, its easier to start to create new ones." Stick to your new schedule, and bad habits will be naturally eradicated from your life. How cool is that?
5. You Get To Choose How The Day Goes
When you don't have a routine, life just sort of happens to you. The day either gets wasted as you try to decide what to do, or you find yourself tangled up in the wants and needs of everybody else. Having a schedule means having control over your day from the moment you get up until the moment you go to bed. It means doing exactly what you want, focusing on yourself, and accomplishing all those goals. Doesn't that sound nice?
6. Procrastination Will Be A Thing Of The Past
Procrastination can happen when you have no idea what the heck is going on. I know I often feel this when I'm working on a project, but don't really have any clear direction. I'll often stare at my work for hours, dumbfounded, and then frustratedly throw in the towel.
A day without a plan can sort of go in the same direction (i.e., nowhere). But a day with a plan? Well, you get the idea. Sticking to your schedule means getting things done, because it means knowing what's expected of you. It's an outline for the day, and all you need to do is follow it.
7. You'll Get Really Good Sleep
Much like your day will go smoother with a schedule, so will your nighttime hours. That's because a bedtime ritual means getting the body into a rhythm that can only mean better sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, going to bed at the same time every night, and waking up at the same time each morning (yes, even on weekends) can help regulate the body's internal clock. Once you've fallen into the groove, you'll have a much easier time falling asleep, and then staying asleep.
It can feel so much easier to just let your days happen as they may — wake up, do whatever, go to the gym if you feel like it, etc. But if you really want an easier life, and if you actually want to get things done, then a structured daily routine is where it's at. Set your day up to take you where you need to go, and then bask in your long list of accomplishments. See? A little structure is totally worth it.
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