How Routines Create Consistency in an Inconsistent Life

If there’s one thing I think we’ve all learned in the last three years, it’s that life is unpredictable. Not just from a day-to-day standpoint where something comes up with our children’s behavior, a friend unexpectedly asks for a favor or an illness randomly presents itself… but on a large-scale, lifestyle-impacting level of unpredictability.

So how do we find stability in an ever-changing world? What can we depend on when we can’t ever predict what might happen next? We learn to rely on ourselves.

A common piece of wisdom we often hear is “Focus on what you can control.” If we tried to change the tide and spent time and effort fighting against things we can’t control, we’ll only become exhausted and overwhelmed with a feeling of hopelessness. 

Part of focusing on what you can control is recognizing what you are truly in control of—that’s mostly our reactions, our boundaries and the time we create for ourselves. When do you make time to come home to yourself? That is how we create consistency in an inconsistent life.

For me, that is the JMB Living Journal. The prompts are the same each day to encourage my mind to make a habit of focusing on finding joy and beauty, while the act of journaling itself serves as a time for me to slow down and enjoy some self-care.

At the core of self-care, there is a dedication of time for yourself… for luxuriating, relaxing, exercise, alone-time, decompression—really anything that fills your cup and contributes to your wellbeing. Habits and routines help ensure that we are making time for ourselves each day, but there’s also quite a few differences between habits and routines.

I go in-depth to what it takes to make and break habits, as well as why they’re worthwhile, in my habits blog post, but routines serve a different purpose and require a different approach. 


Habits vs. Routines

habit tracker

While routines can contain a series of habits, a routine allows for greater improvisation and adjustment to the flux of each day. For example, my exercise routine on a busy day might just be 10 minutes of yoga; the routine consists of laying out my mat, completing the yoga session and drinking water after. What matters is that I was able to fit it into my day, even if it was just 10 minutes.

My daily routine is made up of a few routines like my morning routine of brushing teeth, washing my face, drinking a glass of water with a squeeze of lemon, followed by heating up a cup a bone broth. I have a routine for the time I spend journaling, an exercise routine, etc. However, even my routines vary from day-to-day. My skin-care routine might be different on a day when I choose to wash my face rather than take a full shower, just as my hair routine will be different on a wash day vs. non-wash day. The contents of the routine are adjustable and can be made to reflect your day, whereas habits are behaviors that you want to discard or adopt and do them so regularly that they become automatic.

Why Routines Are Important

how to create a routine

A good morning routine can make all the difference in the world for starting your day. Regardless of what your morning routine contains, make sure that it positively sets your mental mindset and energy in such a way to give yourself the ability and the momentum to create a really good day for yourself. Routines can and should be different from person to person, and they can change with the seasons or at different points in your life. 

The morning routine that worked for me a few years ago no longer works for me now. And after more months than I’d like to admit of trying (and failing) to continue to make it work, I finally realized that I needed a new morning routine. 

It’s important to intentionally craft a routine for yourself. See it as an investment into your holistic wellbeing. Routines are good for:

  • Mental health- the reliability of completing at least one routine each day that is meant to be just for you allows you to slow down and take care of yourself everyday, regardless of how overwhelming life becomes.

  • Physical health- both hygienic and active routines are good for your body, which you’ll thank yourself for investing in as you get older. Also, what’s more satisfying than laying down at the end of the day, knowing that you did at least one complete routine that contributed to your health?

How To Create a Routine that Works for You

Things to consider:

  1. What would you ideally like to incorporate into your days on a regular basis?
  2. Current sleep schedule, work schedule, family schedules, etc.; What has flexibility to move vs. what is set in stone?
  3. What habits do you already do daily, and how can you turn them into a routine?
  4. What will help you take better care of mind, body and soul?

Start Small

  1. Small shifts of time

    1. Similar to creating a new habit, it’s best to be realistic in creating a routine, rather than piling it all on at once and expecting it to be achievable every day. Make accomplishing your routine accessible by limiting it 15 to 30 minutes at most. This is a realistic amount of time to complete a routine without impeding into another aspect of your day. 

  2. Small commitments

    1. If part of your routine calls for a specific daily activity, like journaling, skin-care, etc., start with an intention to do it every day for just five minutes. This way, you won’t be discouraged if you don’t have a lot of time to get to your routine, you just have to carve out five simple minutes to do that for yourself that day. 

Make a plan

Routines do require some self-discipline, but they are still as flexible as you make them. Your skin-care or hair routine might happen in the morning or at night based on what time you shower that day; maybe you move your exercise routine to lunch on a day where you’re busy after work, but don’t feel like waking up early. 

Make an intention of when to complete that routine on a perfect day, and make a plan of how you’ll do the routine. Then, if you need to improvise on a day where life gets crazy, have some contingencies and be flexible.

Test it out for a week.

A trial run can give you a glimpse at what it looks like when you’re committed to that initial routine. You’ll also know what it feels like each day as you incorporate it for that sense of accomplishment.


Reflect. 

What worked? What didn't? Why or why not? What could you do differently to make it work better?


Revise.

Adjust your plan based on what you learned, test it for another week and repeat.


Some of my routines have become second nature, like getting ready in the morning by putting  my clothes on in a certain order and brushing my teeth at a specific point in my routine, but others are a pocket of joy for me in each day: whether I get my journaling done in the morning or evening, part of my routine is to light a candle and make a hot cup of tea; fitting in activity each day for my exercise routine gives me the opportunity to go on a walk, ride my bike or do a yoga sequence. Not all routines have to feel like chores, but you can approach them all with the same positive attitude and intention to take care of yourself. After all, you are the one that can best take care of you and taking care of you is crucial to a life of vitality and joy.

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