By: Madeleine Ortiz
With most of us staying safe inside our homes 24/7, cancelled plans and closed places the days can feel long! Despite our wide open schedules and extra time for completing new and different tasks it is easy to feel overwhelmed, anxious and more stressed than ever before. Social media, usually a great way to help us feel connected to others, can actually set expectations for quarantining at home that make us feel even worse. But, there is a solution to feeling less overwhelmed and more grounded during times like these and beyond….
It feels like the days I am busiest are actually the days I get the most accomplished. I spend the night before wondering how I can possibly get everything I need to do complete – but at the end of the day, I’ve somehow checked ten things off my to-do list and still managed to squeeze in a workout session and a homemade dinner. Ironically, the days when my laundry is already complete, my meals have been prepped and my schedule feels light, I hardly even manage to take a shower and get dressed – let alone complete the closet organization, extra long workout, and healthy baking I imagined myself doing when I had more time.
Turns out I am not alone. I have teacher friends who tell me they get less done in an entire summer off of work then they do in one week during the school year. I hear the same from my gym buddies who never miss a 6am workout during their busy work weeks, but somehow don’t manage to even take a walk around the block on the weekends. And perhaps most surprisingly, retirees, who were sure they’d take up yoga or a new hobby once every day was the weekend, seem to get less complete then when they were working full time.
So why is that the more we have to do, the more likely we are to get things done? There are lots of theories, but the one that appears most often is that we tend to schedule and structure our days better when we are busy. . If we know we have deadlines and time constraints we are more likely to carefully plan our days from start to finish. If we have a day that seems “empty,” however, and we only have one or two tasks to accomplish, we are less likely to make a strict schedule and more likely to procrastinate.
Lucky for me, and lots of others like me, being super busy isn’t the only way to guarantee productivity. Having a consistent routine that you stick to even on your least taxing days can yield the same daily sense of accomplishment. In addition to increasing productivity, routines are also shown to reduce stress and anxiety, help you make better big decisions and even lead to better sleep. The best part? Having a routine doesn’t have to mean scheduling every minute of your day. By using the tips below, incorporating a routine into your everyday life is easy and rewarding.
Wake up and go to bed at the same times every day.
While it may be tempting to binge watch your favorite Netflix show on a Thursday night or sleep in until noon on a day you don’t have to be up for work, setting consistent hours for sleeping is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Not only does a regular bedtime guarantee you’re getting the hours of sleep you need, going to bed and waking up around the same times everyday can also improve the quality of your sleep. Bring on the increased energy and productivity!
Set regular meal times.
Choose specific times during the day to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner – and then do your best to stick to your schedule. Eating meals at the same time each day makes it easier to plan the rest of the tasks on your to-do list. For some, consistent meal times can possibly lead to more energy, better digestion, more regulated blood sugar and even a smaller waistline! With all the benefits a meal schedule brings, it makes sense to adhere to it – even on days you aren’t in an office, and especially on days you’re super busy. Skipping meals all together can do more damage than you might think.
Make movement a priority.
The list of benefits you can get from physical activity is virtually limitless, so be sure to make movement something you do everyday. Schedule a portion of your day for exercise, and make it non-negotiable. It can be a walk, stretching, dancing to your favorite music or even some vigorous house cleaning – just be sure you’re moving your body. If exercise is a new part of your routine, experts recommend attaching your movement to a habit you already have established. For example, working out before your morning coffee or stopping for a walk on your route home from work. Just like many other parts of your routine, the more consistent and specific you can keep the time for your movement, the more likely you will be to actually do it.
Write it down.
Just like writing down goals is an imperative step in accomplishing them, writing out your daily routine is a great way to help yourself stick to it. Writing down your routine helps cement it in your brain, and make it more “official.” Additionally, having the ability to post your routine somewhere highly visible like your refrigerator or your bathroom mirror means gives you a visual cue and extra motivation to stay on schedule. Bonus points if other members of your household see and know your routine and can help hold you accountable.
Schedule in time for flexibility.
As much as we’d like to be able to create a routine and never deviate from it, there will be times when life gets in the way. You might need to schedule a doctor’s appointment during your normal movement time or attend a social gathering a few hours after you’d normally eat dinner. Don’t let life’s inevitable hiccups blow you completely off course. Allow for flexibility in the schedule when you need it and do your best to shift things around so you still feel happy, secure and productive.
Here are some sample schedules that work for some of us on the My Weight Team!
7:30 am Wake up— spend about 20 minutes meditating
8:00 am Shower, get dressed, start breakfast
8:30 am Eat breakfast
9:00 am Work
1:00 pm Break for lunch
1:30 pm Work again
5:30 pm Some kind of exercise— walk or YouTube video
6:00 pm Start dinner
7:00 pm Eat dinner
7:30 pm Dishes, clean up
8:00 pm Read, relax, fold laundry, Zoom with family, chat with my husband, whatever
10:00 pm Start the dishwasher, clean up a few last things around the house… where does this hour always go? 🙂
11:00 pm In bed!
8:00am Wake Up, make bed, wash face and make coffee!
8:30am Coffee, breakfast and reading
9:30am Morning Movement
10:30am Household chores, reaching out to friends and family or hobby time
1:30pm Afternoon refresher- meditation, stretching, reading or outdoor activities
3:30pm Afternoon snack
6:00pm Dinner prep
7:30pm Dishes, make a to-do list for the next day and get ready or bed
8:00pm Relaxation of choice
10:00pm Bedtime routine
10:30pm Lights out