How to Build Helpful Routine into your Life
Research suggests that being in a routine is being in your comfort zone.
Having a daily routine can help us to feel more in control, and lets us make room for all that’s important. Routine can aid our mental health and help us to cope with change, form healthy habits and reduce our stress levels. However, sometimes you do need a break from your routine; we are not programmed to do the same thing 7 days a week and doing so can starve you of new and exciting experiences.
Finding the right balance will vary from person to person. If you are working from home or studying, it can be hard to strike a healthy work-life balance. A lack of routine and structure may begin to feel very overwhelming, and small tasks can seem like mountains. One practical solution is working a 9-5pm grind Monday to Friday, taking regular effective breaks, and completely switching off at the end of the day. Then make sure you relax and recharge over the weekend.
Research highlights that your routine first thing in the morning sets the tone for the entire day. This makes sense as we can all relate to feeling great when we have been super productive first thing, compared to how we feel after one too many drinks when we’re rolling out of bed at 2pm (oops!). We have devised some great pointers to create the perfect morning. Just remember though, that life can get in the way, so don’t beat yourself up if not everything goes 100% smoothly!
Morning Routine Example:
• Wake up and start the day
• Make your bed
• Drink a big glass of water
• Have a healthy and filling breakfast
• Be active: light or moderate exercise
• Swallow the frog! (Explained below)
• Tick off your to-do list tasks
Top tips for creating a beneficial routine into your day
1. Try not to reach for your phone when you first wake up
This can be hard, especially if your wake-up alarm is on your phone, but instead of spending the waking hours of your morning scrolling on your phone, throw it out of plain sight and challenge yourself to see how long you can go in the morning without looking at it. You may find you get more done!
2. Write a to-do list for each day, and stick to it
Holding yourself accountable is one of the best ways to achieve your daily goals and tasks. A to-do list is an orderly way to manage them effectively. We recommend jotting down your tasks the night before, or when you wake up in the morning on a notepad, or a specially designed to-do list. For convenience, you can also use the notes page on your phone, but a lot of research suggests crossing tasks off relieves stress and helps you to delegate.
3. Meditate in the morning
Are you not a morning person? Do you feel that meditating when you have just woken up might send you straight back to sleep?! Well, in fact meditation practice activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which triggers a deep state of relaxation during the practice. This means that even though you may wake up tired, after meditation you’ll get a boost of energy endorphins that’ll help you spring to life and switch on “beast mode”. Meditation allows you to drop into a “flow state’ in which you become supremely adaptable to change. Unexpected traffic jam? No problem. Someone blows their horn at you in a car park? All good. Delivery fails to turn up? You can handle it.
Research suggests that the best time to meditate is first thing in the morning. However, other beneficial times include whenever you’re stressed, on your lunch break, at the end of a workday or right before you go to sleep.
You could try signing up to Headspace, which helps you to meditate and live mindfully. Apply the student discount for great prices on various packages designed to help manage busy schedules and reduce stress and anxiety.
4. Listen to happy music when you are getting ready for the day
It is no surprise that music makes you happier, especially when you are listening to some great cheesy hits, but the science behind it shows that it lowers stress and improves mental health. From elevating your mood, to even strengthening learning and memory, music has a direct effect on our hormones by decreasing the levels of cortisol in the body, counteracting the effects of chronic stress. Listen to music as you get ready in the morning, or even on the way to work – it will set you up for a great day! Spotify have created some awesome playlists, so listening to good songs has never been easier!
5. Swallow the frog
Author Mark Twain famously once said that if you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you! This phrase has been widely adopted for effective time management: your frog is your dreaded worst task, and you should knock it out first thing in the morning. It is all too easy to put off what you don’t enjoy, by focusing on everything else under the sun! But, by ‘swallowing the frog’ you will accomplish what you set out to achieve, without wasting time procrastinating.
6. Get rid of distractions
Understand that work time is work time, and rest time is rest time, to improve productivity and quality of work. To prevent procrastination, declutter your workspace before you start working, to make it a less distracting environment.
Another top tip is to turn off smartphone notifications. We are all guilty of constantly checking our phones and scrolling on social media, but this can add to distractions and stress. Just limit the number of times per day you check and respond to emails, texts and social media by removing the constant temptation to keep an eye on these pests! Findings from the ‘Do Not Disturb Challenge’ revealed that participants were more productive and less distracted after their first notification-free 24 hours, with the experiment having a positive long-term impact.
7. Take a break
It’s easy to fall into a trap of frantically trying to get as much done as possible, but taking a break to rest your mind will improve the quality of your studies or work in the long term, leaving you feeling less overwhelmed and more in control. We love these tips to improve productivity:
Set your timer for 45 minutes and fully focus on your work, then allow yourself a 15 minute break; or set for 50 minutes and have a 10 minute break, or 55 minutes and a 5 minute break. Be strict with your break times, to keep yourself in the rhythm of working effectively without getting too distracted and finding it hard to get stuck in again.
Another great tip is to charge your laptop to 100% at the beginning of the day, and work without connecting it to a power source, so when it dies, you know to take a break too.
8. Try to sit up straight whilst at a table or desk
This may sound strange (and was perhaps something your mother nagged about), but good posture appears to have many surprising health benefits. A recent study from the University of Auckland concluded that sitting with an upright posture can function as a coping mechanism against stress. Results from the study showed that participants who maintained an upright posture, reported higher self-esteem, as well as feeling more enthusiastic, excited and strong, whilst the slumped participants felt more fearful, hostile and sleepy. So, challenge yourself not to slouch, and reap the benefits of sitting up straight!
9. Allow time to completely switch off from work
However hard you work, doesn’t it always seem that there are never enough hours in a day to achieve everything? It can be tempting to keep going until you’re exhausted. Accept your limits, try to be realistic with your goals, and just do your best each day; it’s important to leave yourself time to unwind and relax.
We recommend cooking a fresh evening meal, as the very act of organising ingredients and transforming them into a healthy meal is a great stress-buster. If you are pushed for time, then check out one of the schemes offering recipe boxes delivered to your door, which can also help reduce waste, e.g. Hello Fresh.
Try to avoid relying on alcohol to help you unwind at the end of the day, as too much can cause anxiety and make you feel worse instead of better. Although antioxidant-packed red wine has been found to reduce stress, it may be more beneficial to overall health to save the drinks for the weekend and embrace green teas and water during the week.
After dinner, a great way to unwind is to take an evening stroll. The fresh air will help you to relax and clear your head. Just make sure you don’t spend this time talking or thinking about work and instead, walk with a friend or opt for a podcast to keep you engaged.
10. Make time for self-care
Even though routine and accomplishing tasks are important, sometimes you need to go easy on yourself. There will be days where you wake up ready to smash your goals, but at other times, you may lack energy and motivation. On these days, instead of beating yourself up, just take it easy and be kind to yourself.
Make time for regular self-care, which will not only help you avoid burn-out but can also ramp up your productivity. Avoid pushing it to one side in a panic that you ‘don’t have the time’, because sometimes you need to make yourself your top priority. Self-care can be defined as any deliberate action you take, to support your mental, physical, and emotional health. So, while relaxing baths or face masks can certainly be a form of self-care, so can taking a walk in the fresh air, calling a supportive friend after a rough day at the office, or skipping a networking event to curl up in bed and read.
11. Get the right amount of sleep
Just like eating well, sleeping enough is crucial to our general health. Sleep plays an important role in repairing the heart and blood vessels; ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease and high blood pressure. Sufficient sleep is also important for our immune system, overall mental health, concentration and productivity.
Sleep consultant, Annie Simpson, explains that sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, but most healthy adults require between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best.
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