routines

Do You Need Better Routines? How to Know if It’s Time to Refresh Your Routines

September 11, 2023

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Do You Need Better Routines? How to Know if It’s Time to Refresh Your Routines

Ever wished creating the right routines could be as easy as tossing ingredients into a slow cooker and walking away? Yeah me too! It’s too bad that we can’t “set and forget” our routines.  That’s why this episode is all about giving your routines a refresh, and why that’s perfectly normal.

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Episode 191 is all about the difference between routines and slow cookers. 

Stay with me here. Anyone who has ever been strapped for time, but wants to serve a delicious meal for dinner knows how awesome a slow cooker can be. I actually have an amazing recipe for slow cooker chicken enchiladas that’s a staple in our house. The beauty of a slow cooker is you just open up your crock pot, pile in all of your yummy ingredients, turn it on, and let it sit there. You set it and forget it. And then enjoy a delicious meal that doesn’t require a ton of work on your part.

Routines on the other hand, aren’t so simple. As much as we would love to design the perfect morning routine, or the perfect evening routine – whatever, that perfect – and I’m using air quotes here, that perfect routine doesn’t last forever. Life changes, you change, your kids get older, your job changes, you move – there are so many things in life that can throw off the once perfect routines we’ve created. Routines – unlike slow cookers, are not set it and forget it. They’re more like set it, and then be ready to adapt it as life changes. 

And that can be pretty frustrating. Routines are supposed to help us – give us that foundation, that anchor to our days and weeks. And we can get pretty hard on ourselves for not having a good routine, or when the routine disappears totally and we’re just kind of winging it – but maybe it’s not your fault. Maybe it’s just that your routine just needs a good refresh to get it back on track and serve you once again. 

So today, we’re talking about

  • Why routines need to be revisited to make sure they’re still effective
  • What a well-oiled routine looks like, and how to know if yours is broken
  • How to refresh your routines without getting overwhelmed and giving up
  • What to do if you know your routines aren’t working, but you’re not sure how to fix them

Alright – so we’ve already accepted the unfortunate truth that even if we’ve set aside time to be super intentional and design a routine – or a collection of routines – I often talk about the 5 essential routines: your morning routine, evening routine, workday startup, workday shutdown and weekly planning session. I’m not going in depth on each of those routines in this episode, but you’ll find a rundown of each of the five essential routines all the way back in Episode 17. 

But in addition to the 5 Essential Routines, you might also have a cleaning routine, an after school routine, a laundry routine and all kinds of different routines to support you. 

And as much as we’d love to come up with a perfect step by step plan for our routines once and then move on to just living life and have those routines work for us forever… unfortunately that’s just not how it works. 

As life changes, our routines have to change too – and sometimes we might look up and realize that a routine that was amazing for a while just isn’t working anymore. Or we find ourselves dreading parts of it, or skipping steps. 

And when we’re not following a routine, routines can’t really help us out. And having routines in place can result in some pretty powerful benefits. Sustainable daily routines can improve our mental health, boost our immune system, decrease our stress levels, improve our sleep, and make us more productive. So clearly figuring out the right routines for us is work worth doing. 

So how do you know if it’s time to give your routines a refresh?

Here are three ways to know if it’s time to refresh your routines, in no particular order: 

First: You never have enough time to finish all the steps in your routine.

Second: You skip steps, and then skipping steps comes back to cause problems later. 

Third: You dread getting started, so you slow through it slowly OR you skip it altogether and just dive straight into whatever is next. 

Let’s take a closer look at each one of these three tell tale signs that your routines need a refresh. 

First – There are a number of reasons why you might not have enough time to finish all of the steps in your routine. 

Maybe you’re not starting early enough. Or you’re trying to do too many things in too little time. Maybe you’re getting lost in the transitions in your routine, or you’re zigzagging all over the place which is causing you to get distracted and lose track of time. I talked all about designing your routines with a physical flow to combat zigzagging back in episode 140, and guest Melissa Thompson shared how she beat zigzagging in episode 101.

Whatever the reason that you don’t have enough time, not finishing all of the steps in your routine is a sureway way to know that it’s time to refresh your routines. 

Second – If you skip steps in your routine, and then skipping those steps comes back to bite you later. 

For example, maybe you dread making tomorrow’s lunch in the evening before you head to bed, so you skip making lunch and tell yourself you’ll do it tomorrow morning… but then you don’t have time the next morning either. And this skipped step starts to add up – you start eating more fast food for lunch, or grabbing quick but unhealthy options – and then suddenly you’re not feeling so great. 

Skipping a step once or twice might be okay, but repeatedly skipping a step and then experiencing the negative effects can lead to a shame spiral. You’re frustrated with yourself because you can’t stick to your routine, but you dread the thing you keep skipping so you’re stuck in an unhealthy cycle. 

Maybe your workday startup routine includes choosing your top three priorities for the day. When you follow through with this, you’re able to move through your day with intention, decisions are easier, and you feel more productive. But perhaps you’re going through an incredibly stressful time at work, so you skip your top three prioritization practice. Then, later in the day you realize you haven’t made much progress on any of your important projects. 

Thinking about some of your current routines, can you think of any steps that you dread, and therefore skip – and then feel the inconvenience later? 

And then finally, Third: You dread starting the routine, so you slog through it slowly – which results in having to rush later OR you skip it altogether and just dive straight into whatever is next. 

In both of those situations, the perceived cost of taking time to do your routine doesn’t feel worth it. You dread starting your evening routine because you’ve barely had any time to yourself today – this is called Revenge Bedtime Procrastination and I talk all about it in episode 188

Another super common example is skipping your workday shutdown routine. You know you feel so much more prepared when you take a few minutes to review your schedule for tomorrow, make adjustments to your to-do list and close out the day. But you find yourself skipping the whole routine so you can race out the door to pick up the kids or head to the next thing on your list. 

If you dread getting started or skip it altogether, it’s definitely time to refresh your routines. 

So what exactly does a well-oiled, effective routine look like? Well – that answer is going to look different for everyone. You can google the morning routines of billionaires, or the evening routines of 6 figure business owners, you could find a list of 20 things every supermom does before breakfast – but when it comes down to it, the best routine is one that supports your goals, and one that you’ll actually follow. 

It’s a Goldilocks kinda thing – not too short, not too long, it’s just right. Just right for you. 

But – regardless of what steps are included in your routine, a routine is a series of actions that are followed regularly. But I believe that a good routine is a series of actions that help you show up as your best self. And that series of actions is performed efficiently – it has a physical flow, the order of the steps just makes sense. It’s easy to remember, and can become second nature with repetition. 

So if you’re feeling any of the three reasons above – you’re taking too long, you’re skipping steps, or you’re skipping the whole thing – here’s how to refresh your routines with a much needed makeover.

First, if you happen to have the steps of this routine written down somewhere, find that. A lot of planners include pages to capture your routines in the beginning pages, and writing down your routines can be a helpful exercise to ensure that you’re being intentional with your routines. That you’re designing them, instead of just letting them design themselves. Just kind of letting whatever happens, happen. 

With your written out routine in front of you, mentally walk through the steps. 

Ask yourself…

Where am I getting stuck?

Where am I getting distracted? 

What do I dread doing?

What am I most likely to skip? 

Is there anything in this routine that I could shorten, and it still be effective?

Is there anything in this routine that could be moved to a different time of day?

Is there anything in this routine that I could remove completely? 

Do I need to start earlier?

Am I being realistic about how long each thing in my routine takes?

In my book, Time Management Essentials, I talk about the Planning Fallacy in Chapter 3. It’s one of the three productivity pitfalls we need to watch out for. The Planning Fallacy tells us that we are pretty terrible at estimating how long things will take. Is it possible that when you designed your routine, you just didn’t give yourself enough time? 

How do I feel before, during and after this routine?

What’s working well? 

Once you’ve considered these questions, you’ll likely uncover opportunities to make some changes. Maybe your morning routine used to work like a charm, but now that your two year old is having trouble sleeping through the night and is ending up in your bed it’s affecting what time you start your morning. Maybe you could shift some of your typical morning prep to the evening to give yourself more space, and grace in the mornings while you navigate interrupted sleep. 

Maybe you find yourself skipping your workday shutdown routine because one of the things you’d like to do each day is send an encouraging email to three of your direct reports. When you designed the routine, you thought it would take you 5 minutes to do this, but in reality it takes closer to 15 minutes per email. This could be something you move to a different time of the week so you can spend your precious workday shutdown time preparing for tomorrow’s meetings. 

There’s almost always something that we can tweak or adjust to make our routines work for us. But we often have to accept that making tweaks and adjustments is a totally normal part of life first. It doesn’t mean you did a bad job creating your routines, it doesn’t mean you failed – it means that you’re constantly growing and getting better! And that’s something to be excited about. 

And finally – let’s say that you reviewed your written down routines, or you paid extra attention while walking through them – asking yourself the questions I shared and you still can’t seem to figure out where to start. It’s okay – it might just be time to start over from scratch. It’s possible that your goals or your life in general has changed SO much that instead of a refresh to your routines you need a total rewrite. A do-over. 

So, this is your chance to have a blank slate. If you were to design your routines from scratch, what would they look like? What do you need  to do in the routine, and what do you want to do during the routine? We need to brush our teeth in the morning, but maybe we want to meditate for 10 minutes. Create a step by step list of your routine, like you’re an event planner with an itinerary. Write down the start and end times for each piece of the routine, and make sure it’s realistic. You might even want to pop your new written down routine on a clipboard so you can carry it with you while you put it into action. Then? Test drive it, see what works, what didn’t and then repeat. 

It probably won’t go perfectly the first time. Please remember that most things in life aren’t pass fail. Instead – think of opportunities like this as an experiment. The purpose is to try, to take action, learn and try again. Everything is an experiment, it’s not about being perfect. 

So there you have it. Routines and slow cookers – while both are amazing in their own ways, one you can set and forget, the other you cannot. Your routines will and should evolve and adapt as you do. If you find yourself running out of time to finish your routines, if you find yourself skipping steps or skipping the whole thing altogether, it might be time for you to refresh your routines. Just remember that it’s always an experiment. Try, learn, try again!

Resources Mentioned:

  • Time Management Essentials

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