Have you tried coming up with New Year’s Resolutions, to-do lists, or morning routines only to get overwhelmed and eventually give up? I know I have. I tend to set unrealistic expectations for myself, then feel like a failure when I don’t (can’t) live up to them. But I still love my lists and the feeling of having a productive day. So, is there a way to come up with a realistic daily routine without feeling completely tied down to it?
I think there is. Let’s think through productivity and priorities and see if we can create a daily routine that feels doable and maintainable for you. That’s when a routine becomes consistent, and consistency is where the magic happens.
For starters, productivity looks different for everyone! Whether you work in an office or from home, whether you are a stay at home mom or a college student, whether you work for yourself or someone else, the things that feel productive to you may not be the same things that feel productive to me.
Step one is to determine the things you can do on a daily basis that make you feel productive. The key here is to think small. We’re not trying to choose big, time-consuming tasks like a load of laundry or a writing a chapter of a book every day. We’re trying to find small things that can be done in a few minutes so that you are more like to get them done daily.
What are some, repeatable tasks that make you feel like you’re having a productive day when you get them done? Is it home related, such as wiping the kitchen counters, doing the dishes, or even just making your bed? Is it work related, such as getting caught up on emails or client meetings? Is it goal related such as reading, working out, or even doing a quick, 5-minute makeup routine? The options are endless, because productivity is subjective.
As you decide the things that make you feel productive, I’ll share mine with you. Feel free to use some as you build your routine, or dismiss them all as you come up with your own! This is just to give you a starting point.
I love spending the first few minutes of my day doing a devotional journal.
This is either my writing practice that I do as a way of processing my thoughts, or writing a blog post like this one.
I use a free app, Duolingo. The lessons are quick, and while I won’t be fluent in French anytime soon (if ever), it’s just right for me to learn a bit here and there.
I aim for a 30-minutes minimum workout, but if time allows, I like to push myself to go a whole hour.
Okay, this might seem like a funny thing to include in my daily routine, but it helps me feel like I’m taking care of myself, so it stays.
It’s on the list because even if the only place I go in a given day is to the gym and home, I still like to do a quick, natural look with makeup because it makes me feel better. This includes: moisturizer, CC cream with SPF 40, brightening eye shadow, eyebrow filler, and mascara – that’s it!
15 minutes-as long as I can
I love to read before bed, but I also read throughout the day when I can. I enjoy audiobooks, too, because I can bring a book with me when I’m driving, exercising, grocery shopping (true story), working around the house.
This makes the list because getting ready for bed feels like a production sometimes. My routine probably includes a lot of steps yours does too: remove makeup, wash face, skincare, floss and brush teeth.
That may seem like a lot to fit in daily, but when you add it all up, it takes a minimum of 1 hour and 20 minutes. It could take longer if I take more time, but it doesn’t have to. I can either find that time by waking up earlier, skipping TV at night, or squeezing things in here and there throughout the day. Most of the time, I check things off throughout the day whenever I have time. It can be in any order that works for me that day, it’s not rigid or strict.
Now, let’s talk about how to narrow down your to dos so that you are focusing on what matters most – to you.
Now that you’ve thought about what feels productive to you, let’s figure out what your priorities really are. I’ll go first.
I feel super productive when I am caught up on dishes (I love an empty sink), laundry, and have an overall tidy house. But you can see that zero housework ended up on my daily routine list. Why?
- Remember, I want my daily routines to be small tasks that are doable and maintainable so that I can do them consistently. If I add tasks like make the bed, do the dishes, do the laundry, wipe the counters, tidy the house, I’ve just DOUBLED my to dos, at least! I’d be right back in that rut of putting too much pressure on myself and having way too high of expectations and end up feeling like a failure because I can’t do everything.
- While housework is important to me, it’s not most important. I value having a tidy home, but I value reading, writing, and my health more. My husband and I do a pretty good job of consistently keeping our home clean, but sometimes we get backed up on dishes and laundry (just like everyone else). If the housework tasks get done, I feel great; if my daily routine happens, I feel even better because I know I’ve prioritized the things that matter most to me.
Now it’s your turn. Do you know what matters most to you? Maybe it’s making coffee in the morning, taking your dog for a walk before work, or cooking dinner. It really can (and should) look however you want it to look. Above all, your routine should make sense for you, and reflect at a single glance what you value in your life. That’s my goal, anyway. If I don’t prioritize the things that matter to me, sometimes I just let them slide and don’t do them at all, or at least as often as I’d like. And then it feels like I’m focusing on the wrong things instead of pursuing the life I really want.
I value the written word and the ability to process my thoughts, so I write.
I want to be well read, so I read.
I want to be healthy and strong and fit for me and my babies, so I work out.
I want to take care of this one body I will ever have, so I take pride in self-care practices.
What matters to you? Is it reflected in your day to day routines? If a whole routine feels like too much, is there one thing you can start with today?
This is where it gets stupid simple. How do I keep track of my routine every day? I use the Reminders app on my phone. I keep the same reminders and just check each one off as I go. The setting stays on “show completed” so the reminders don’t go away after I check them off. At the end of the day, I uncheck them all to get ready for the next day. That’s it. So not fancy, but easy.
Here’s what it looks like. I added cute little emojis because I like things to be aesthetically pleasing.
I love lists. Even simple, repeatable lists like this one, because it keeps me on track and is a visual reminder of my priorities.
It is worth noting, my faith and my family matter most to me! Besides my quiet time that starts off my day, the tasks on my daily routine aren’t related to faith and family. Those things are integrated into my life in more natural ways. The goal of my daily routines is to create more consistent habits of other things that matter to me.
I also mentioned earlier that this system is not rigid or strict. There are days that I don’t check off everything on my list. There are even days where productivity is not the goal, but instead fun or rest or something else is the goal! And that’s fine, even good. Make your goals and lists, do your routines, but remember that you are human, you are not a robot. You are allowed to do different things different days and not stick to your routine perfectly.
Perfection is not the goal; consistency is the goal. And if you miss some days, you’re gonna be just fine. Promise.
For more tips on organizing your home and your life, check out my book, Spruce Up! Available on Amazon.
Lastly, if you’re a reader like me, you should check out my blog post Gilmore Girls Reading List!