Having set routines that you follow everyday is more important than you may think.
Routines make life easier, help free our minds and help us relax. Having a daily schedule can lower anxiety, leaving you with greater capacity to cope with unanticipated stress. Routines can help you sleep better, vitally important for being able to handle day-to-day life (just ask any sleepy baby!).
The biggest problem – starting new ones! My family struggles with this mightily so I went looking for tips.
I am trying to get my daughter and I onto a pretty structured daily schedule, doing mostly the same things at the same time every day. I have not been great at getting this done. Changing the whole day at one time doesn’t work so I’ve decided to work on one thing at a time. Between my job and weekly travel, we have a really hard time just waking up at the same time each day so I have decided to start with that. At this point, I’m trying to make sure that we can wake up at the same time every day for the next week before I try to start making adjustments. So to the tips!
First, decide what it is that you want.
Don’t just say something like “I want to wake up (or go to sleep) earlier.” That’s too vague and will give your mind too much room for procrastinating. You need to be clear on what you really want so that you can generate enough motivation to make the necessary changes in yourself.
For this example, pick a time. In our case, I want to get up at 5 AM and have my daughter get up at 7 AM. Right now, we’re at about 6 and 8.
Second, divide your goal into baby steps.
How far away from your desired change are you now? Using the above example, what time are you waking up (or going to bed) now? If you want to wake up one hour earlier every day, what else has to change in your schedule to do that? Can you start going to bed earlier first? If not, maybe you can adjust your waking time in small increments. NASA used 15 minute a day adjustments for their astronauts to adjust their waking time. If I find that 15 minutes is too large of a jump because we’re having trouble getting to bed earlier, then I will chunk it down into 5 minute intervals. However small I have to make it to be able to take a step in the right direction, I’ll do it.
Third, reward yourself for making progress.
Baby steps are way better than no steps and are way, WAY better than beating yourself over the head about how lazy, stupid, horrible, etc. your inner critic says you are for not getting around to making any changes.
Again using the above example, you might decide that waking up 15 minutes earlier every day for a week warrants lunch out with a friend or a special coffee (if you’re into that). Rewarding yourself every day would be even better. Wake up 15 minutes earlier and maybe have a cup of tea while looking out the window at the trees, enjoying the quiet in the house before the morning chaos begins (my preferred reward right now).
I’ve also been trying to add in 10 minutes of yoga in the morning. Do something, anything, that will get your brain the dopamine reward that gives you the motivation to keep striving toward your goal.
Try not to kick yourself for backsliding. It takes time to make changes. Talk back to the inner critic.
To paraphrase something that I read a while back, hire a mental defense attorney to defend you against your inner prosecutor. Chunk it down into the smallest steps that you can stand. You do NOT have to be on your new routine overnight. Then just start again. As an example, I had a day this week (OK, a couple) where I woke up about an hour late. I started in on “you can’t do it, why try, waaah, waaah” and was getting very angry with myself. I had had a few nights of not sleeping very well and I was turning that crankiness on myself.
After I realized this I was able to stop, step back and re-frame the situation in my mind. As of this morning I’ve made up .5 hour of that time. Tomorrow I will try to make up another 15 minutes. I’ll reward myself if I make ANY progress on the wake-up time. I can’t stress enough how beneficial it is to get that positive push. It really keeps your motivation up to keep trying.
Do you have any special tricks for starting a new routine at your house? Share them here!