The Importance of Routine

               This month’s social media emphasis is on routine with good reason.  Routine is what saves us from those notorious words, “I didn’t have time”.  Have you  ever thought to yourself, “I would eat a better breakfast if I just had more time in the morning” or, “I wouldn’t have to buy fast food for lunch if I only had more time to prepare a nutritious lunch”, or, “I wish I had time to exercise every day”?  Having a routine can help you to “find” time for those things that are really important.

               I remember the first time I understood the value of routine.   It was about 25 years ago – at the time, I had three young children, was attending graduate school and working part-time.  Yes, I had a lot on my plate.  Yes, I didn’t have total control over my schedule.  But…. the week I instituted a strict schedule that included when we ate our meals each day, when I took the kids for a walk or to the park, when I studied and what time we started our bedtime routine was the week that I learned a few things:

  1. Everyone was happier… and less stressed,
  2. I had MORE time,
  3. Life was easier!

Why are routines so helpful?  WebMD has compiled a list of benefits from various peer reviewed studies.  They include:

  • You will feel less stressed because you feel more in control.  By making conscious decisions in advance, you will identify best strategies for your daily life.
  • You will sleep better!  YAY for more sleep!  Your body LOVES routine and, when you go to bed and get up at similar times everyday, your body gets into that rhythm, enabling you to go to sleep more easily and get up feeling less tired.
  • Your health will improve.  Having a plan and routine for meal prep, exercise, rest and self-care will enable you to be much more consistent in creating and maintaining healthy habits.
  • You will be happier!  Having and maintaining a consistent routine will create more time for fun!

Research demonstrates that routines are especially important for children, those recovering from addiction, those with mental health disorders AND for busy working adults – basically everyone!

Personally, I know that I am much more productive, eat healthier and am more consistent in my exercise habits when I follow a routine.  At those times when my routine is disrupted, at least one, if not all of my pro-health behaviors suffers.  As I attend to Fit’s social media and informational communications, I am also reflecting on some of my own habits that interfere with maintaining a great routine.

While I consistently prepare breakfasts and lunches at night before bed (usually while I am preparing dinner), I have identified a few “time wasters” that may interfere with my productivity at work and with my maximizing my free time.  I believe the number one “bad” habit that I sometimes fall into is wasting time on my phone.  While I need to check my e-mail for work-related e-mails, I almost always also check some type of social media.  I would only need a quick check to see if I need to answer any comments or attend to any messages, but, often, I’ll spiral into looking at my timeline or checking my news app and reading far too many human interest articles.  There are times when an hour will seem like only a few minutes – then I don’t have time for something that I would MUCH rather do – like go for a walk or even take a short nap.

Being conscious of your “time-wasters” is the first step to finding more time in your day and identifying times and places where you may benefit from a regular routine.  For example, checking your phone at pre-set times during the day and setting a strict time limit for screen time- or delegating social media and news reading to once a day for only a pre-set number of minutes.

If you are interested in how routine can benefit you and how to develop one that works for you, follow my blog this month – I’ll be giving tips every week.  For this week, keep a little journal – write down how you spend your time and, at the end of the day, write down all the things you wanted to do but did not have time to do.  This will give you a general idea of where you are spending your “free” time and also enable you to identify priority behaviors – those things that you want to do for health and wellbeing but have difficulty fitting into your schedule.

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