A daily routine is a great way to keep yourself on task. The longer you stick with it, the more each task becomes a habit, and the less you’ll have to struggle with motivation. The hard part is developing a routine you can follow every day. Start out with small changes if you have trouble staying on task, and experiment to find out what holds you back.
1. Spend a day recording everything you do. Carry around a planner, notebook, or mobile phone with a calendar app. Write down the start and end times for every activity, no matter how small. At the end of the day you’ll have a list telling you exactly how you spent the day.
2. Reduce unwanted activities from your day. The goal is to tweak your actual schedule to form your daily routine, instead of trying to invent a completely new plan for your day. Look over your list of activities for the day your record. Decide which ones you’d like to spend less time on, such as procrastination or social media. Cross out some of these activities from your list.
3. Write down productive activities to replace them. Count the amount of time saved by removing those activities from your day. Write down activities that could fill that time, such as work, studying, housecleaning, or other productive activities.
4. Arrange your day into a schedule. Using the schedule from your actual day, and the list of changes you’d like to make, write down a routine you can follow. You can rearrange activities into any order you like, but don’t change the amount of time they take. If it took you thirty minutes to have breakfast today, assume it will take you thirty minutes tomorrow as well.
5. Set aside enough time for sleep. Most adults need 7–8 hours of sleep a night to stay alert and high-functioning. Children and teenagers often require 9 hours or more. Schedule a bedtime and wake up time that gives you plenty of sleep, or your daily routine will not be sustainable.
6. Make time for breaks and interruptions. If your rough draft of a routine is chock full of activity from the moment you wake up until the time you go to bed, you’ll probably burn out or fall behind the first time something unexpected happens. Adjust your schedule to allow for at least one 30–60 minute chunk of free time if possible, and several 5–15 minute breaks in between productive activities.
7. Try out the routine for a day. Give the schedule you wrote down a test spin. Do your best to follow the routine exactly. If you do not, write down what you did differently from the schedule, and why.
8. Change your schedule based on your experience. Sit down at the end of the day and look at your schedule. If one of your time estimates turned out to be unrealistic, allow more time for that activity and cut something less important out of your day. If you finished an activity more than 20 minutes early, allow less time for it in your schedule. Finally, if the order you did your activities was inconvenient or didn’t feel right, try shuffling the activities in a different order.
9. Repeat until you can follow the schedule. Try following your schedule again after making changes. If you are having trouble doing so, continue to make adjustments and keep trying.
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