Traditionally, fall is known as the season of “letting go.” It’s also a natural time of year to embrace growth and expansion as you clear out the old and make room for the new. You might find that during the fall, your schedule becomes busier than ever. School, work, and organized activities tend to ramp up during this time, which can be tricky to manage if you haven’t established much of a routine for yourself.
Your daily routine sets the tone for how you perform tasks and get things done. Daily routines are also linked to improved cognitive functioning and a decreased risk of anxiety and depression.
Routines take time and effort to establish, but they should eventually feel second nature to you. Here are some key tips to keep in mind when designing your own routine.
Paint a Clear Picture of Your Average Day
Before you take any action toward making positive changes, it’s important to become aware of your current lifestyle and any routines you might already have. This can help you understand where you are now, so you’re less likely to create a routine that’s a little too ambitious (and hard to stick with).
The quickest way to do this is to sit down for 30 minutes to an hour with a notepad or a piece of paper and reflect on the past week. Then, write down every habit, action, or behaviour that you do each day.
The slower (but more accurate) way to do this is by spending one week actively tracking your habits, actions, and behaviours. You can do this by checking in every few hours throughout the day to take some notes, or by reflecting on your entire day sometime in the evening.
Some key things to pay attention to include:
- When you wake up
- When you use technology, and for how long
- When and what you eat
- When and how long you exercise (or engage in daily movement)
- When you start and stop working/studying
- When you take breaks, and for how long
- When and what you do for leisure, and for how long
- When and what you do to connect with family and friends
- When you go to sleep
Determine What You Love About Your Current Lifestyle
Review your notes from the previous section and highlight anything that you consider to be pleasurable. These can even be “guilty pleasures” like watching TV, browsing your phone, napping, or eating a specific food.
It’s important to complete this step because pleasure is directly linked to happiness. Without experiencing bouts of pleasure in your routine, you’re very unlikely to stick with it over the long term.
Identify Low-Value Habits and Behaviours
Go through your notes again, this time highlighting anything that adds little value to your life or that wastes a lot of time. For instance, looking at your phone for the first 30 minutes of your day after waking up could be considered a low-value habit.
You might find that some things you identified as pleasurable could also be considered low-value. This is an important observation because the value (or lack thereof) you get from a particular habit depends on how much or how often you indulge. Something might add value to your life when it’s enjoyed in moderation — but beyond a certain point, you get diminishing returns.
Consider What Your Goals Are
Having at least one goal in mind will help you determine the actions and behaviours that need to be incorporated into your routine so that you can one day reach that goal. For instance, if you want to start a morning jogging habit, ask yourself what kind of bigger goal you can tie that to — like a weight loss goal, a weekly distance goal, or a goal of working up toward running a marathon.
Here are a few research-backed tips to keep in mind for goal setting:
- Make sure your goal moves you toward a desired outcome (as opposed to helping you avoid an unwanted outcome).
- Consider setting both performance goals, which involve judging and evaluating your abilities — as well as mastery goals, which involve improving your existing abilities.
- Set goals that are intrinsically motivating, or inherently rewarding for you.
Now Put It All Together
Now you have all the main building blocks for designing your new routine. Here’s what to do next:
- Use your evaluation of your current routine to help keep you grounded in reality, so you don’t make changes that are too daunting.
- Use the things you love as rewards for sticking to your routine.
- Replace low-value habits and behaviours with goal-oriented habits and behaviours.
Remember that no routine is perfect, and it’s completely okay to experiment as you go. If something isn’t working quite as expected, try tweaking it to see if that helps.
So tell us, Lotis, what do you have planned to refresh your own routine this fall season? Let us know by leaving a comment below!