After reading about why you need a daily routine and how it can help you get more done, you’re sold. You want to sign up for your own. Great. The next step is to learn how to create the perfect daily routine for you. This routine may not work for anyone else, but that’s ok: this step in the process is all about figuring out what you need to get done and the best times to tackle each task.
It’s a little bit art and a little bit science.
The science is figuring out what you need to get done; the art is figuring out when to do it.
1. Brain Dump Time
The first step is to gather information on what you need to get done daily. Don’t worry about how you organize this list; this is a brain dump, not a to-do list. take 30 minutes with a legal pad and jot down everything you do each day (and everything you miss but should be doing). Better yet, carry around a small notebook and make notes all day long.
Capture all of the tasks you need to get done in a day.
If You Already Have a Routine...
You can divide these into the following:
- Tasks you already do that work well for you, and
- Tasks you need to add into your routine.
If You're Starting From Scratch...
Begin by answering these questions:
- What tasks do you need to complete each day in order to get to work?
- Which tasks do you need to do each day to get your kids to school?
- Which tasks do you need to do each day to eat?
- Which errands do you need to get done daily?
- Which tasks need to get done each done in order for you to get some exercise?
- Which tasks do I need to get done to maintain an organized home?
Make the list. In the beginning, nothing is too small, if you want to work "brush teeth" into your routine, that's great.
When I was creating mine, I found it much easier to throw everything in and edit out later.
2. Create a Timetable
Now assess your energy levels. Think about when you do your best work.
Most people have greater energy for creative thinking in the morning because self-control depletes throughout the day. It’s important to schedule your “big thinking”
With that in mind, here are some guidelines:
Mornings about getting out the door, which is itself a challenge, especially if you have children. I like to get out the door as quickly possible because I know I do my best work in the morning.
Reserve the mornings for the tasks that require the most critical thinking and troubleshooting. If you're a writer, make sure you have time to write in the morning.
This is a very powerful time of day because your energy (and coffee high) has likely dissipated. This means you're primed to do the really boring, routine stuff. Use this time for tasks like answering emails, setting appointments, researching necessities like directions to upcoming appointments and recipes, and run some errands if you have time (post office, dry cleaner, bank, etc.)
Evenings are for planning and preparation for the next day: put your "get ready" activities like laying out your clothes, packing lunches, and decluttering in the evening.
If you follow the Weekly Organizing Routine, you're going to be decluttering one room a day for 15-20 minutes.
3. Add in Some Flexibility for Exceptions
Your work process or schedule may not fit neatly into this, and that's OK; the point is to harness your most productive times to use for your most challenging tasks, and your least productive times to do the more mundane tasks. What I found while researching daily routines is that a lot of very successful people work all night long and sleep all day.
If that's you, that's fine!
4. Put it All Together
Now match up your activities with times.
Start with anything that has to be done at a certain time each day (like picking your kids up a school or eating lunch).
Then slot in tasks based on when you think it makes the most sense to tackle them.
To make this easier on you, I've created a standard daily routine checklist.
You can use this as a draft to work off of, or cut and paste into your own document.
5. Test Drive
Take our new routine for a test drive for 30 days. How does it feel? Did you schedule your tasks at activities at times that makes sense? Do you need to adjust things?
Adjust anything that is not working on a case-by-case basis. Then do an assessment after 30 days to see how your new routine is working for you.
Surgeons use checklists, pilots use checklists, and you should be using checklists as well. Following a checklist allows you to focus more on getting things done rather than wasting precious brain space on:
- What you need to accomplish
- What you've already accomplished
Keep track of your daily tasks with this printable Daily Routine checklist.
I front-load the Daily Checklist with most of the tasks t be complete in the evening. This way you can get out the door more quickly in the morning:
____ Wipe the sink
_____ Make Bed
_____ Tidy night table
____ Prepare and eat breakfast(s)
____ Defrost ingredients for dinner
____ Pack lunches
____ Check work bag for keys, cell phone, work papers
____ Check school bags
Wether you work in an office or at home, I suggest completing the following either right before or right after your lunch break:
____ Check in with To Do list
____ Schedule appointments
____ Clean out 5 personal emails from your inbox
____ Respond to meeting requests, evites and invitations
____ Check your calendar. Are there any birthdays/anniversaries/important dates this week/next week?
____ Bank: Banking/ATM
____ Post Office: Do you have anything to mail? Stamps?
____ Drugstore: Toiletries, greeting cards, odds & ends
____ Dry cleaner
My #1 tip for successfully checking off this list is to start these tasks the minute you walk in the door. I personally go straight into the kitchen. Don't wait until you're half asleep on the couch to begin your evening routine.
____ Prepare dinner
____ Add items to running grocery list
____ Check in with your menu plan for the week
____ What's for lunch tomorrow?
____ What are tomorrow's snacks?
____ What's for dinner tomorrow?
____ Pack lunch bags
____ Wipe down kitchen counters
____ Pack/refresh work bags
____ Pack/refresh gym bags
____ Lay out clothes for next day
____ Tidy the night table
____ Create tomorrow's To Do list
____ Evening grooming
____ Wipe down sink
Extra credit tasks are for days when you have either extra time, or extra energy.
____ Choose one room and declutter for 10 minutes
____ Respond to 5 more personal emails
____ Tackle a 30 Minute organizing Project
____ Make it a laundry day
Once you have the basics down and begin following your routine, don't be afraid to make adjustments when something is not working.