Routines Are The Key To Finally Unlocking Amazing Results

Routines are the key

Planning for 2024: Part 5 – morning routines, night routines, planning your projects, food, sleep, cleaning and maintenance, finance

Do you think of “routines” as a bad thing?  I’d like to challenge that idea pretty directly.  According to the Oxford Languages website,

Routine is a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program or performed as part of a regular procedure rather than for a special reason.

(Oxford Language, 2024)

I think that most of our lives are “Routine”.  And certainly, the basics of day to day living are routine.  I won’t dispute that it’s good to break out of your routine from time to time. It’s certainly good to experiment with different routines to find what works best for you.  And to acknowledge that we need to change our routines in response to the reality around us.  However, there are some very big benefits to embracing the reality of routine in our daily lives.  We’ll also take a look at which aspects of our lives it makes sense to turn into routines to truly gain the most benefit from the practice.

Benefits of Routines

Among the many benefits of setting up and following a routine that works for you are stress reduction (Bendi, 2024), better sleep, better nutrition, and increased activity (Northwestern Medicine, 2022)

We’ll discuss what you might include in various routines later, the fact is that having routines can reduce your stress by limiting the number of decisions that you need to make, reducing decision fatigue.  Decision fatigue (Greenstein, 2017) is the very real tiredness you feel after having to constantly figure out what comes next.  It’s why you feel so tired after a long day driving or traveling. 

5 Benefits of routines: stress reduction, better sleep, better nutrition, increased activity, reduced decision fatigue

Engaging in those activities, while fun, also forces your mind to constantly have to evaluate and figure out what comes next.  From figuring out where you will eat your meals to how to get where you want to go, to understanding and abiding by local customs, to taking in all the new surroundings and evaluating what, if any, threats exist.  All the way to trying to figure out how to do what you want to do.  Every decision wears your brain out.  At the end of the day, you feel more tired than usual, and maybe you make some bad choices. Maybe you stay up later than you wanted to.  Or maybe you eat more or just things that you don’t normally eat.  It gets more difficult to stick to your plans, because your brain is just too tired to figure out anything else.

Make Your Life Easier

When you are in a place where you can kind of go on autopilot because you know where things are, you know what to expect and you know how to get the things done that you need to do, you will find that you have more energy at the end of the day to make good choices, to stick to your nutrition plans, as well as other health plans.  When you stick to your plans, it gets earlier to actually accomplish the goals that you set for yourself. 

Another benefit of routines is that you reduce the risk of forgetting things.  You reduce the risk of missing key actions that save you time and effort in the long run.  Routines give you a leg up on the whole doing what you need to do now, to get the bigger benefits later. Having routines for cleaning and maintenance are very much in this category.  Regularly taking care of yourself, your surroundings, your house, your car and other appliances allows them to function well and at a high level for longer than if you ignored them and didn’t keep them in tip top shape. Probably the biggest benefit of this is that you will save money.  Keeping your place and possessions in good repair will increase the amount of time before you need to invest in new things.

Health Routines

Routines for health, such as getting checkups, nutrition plans, and exercise plans help you to stay on track with your health goals.  When you don’t need to figure things out in the moment, you just follow your routines, it gets harder to make up excuses.  It gets easier to do the things that you said that you wanted to do. You’ll find that you can stick to your healthy plans and achieve your goals faster when you follow a routine.

Keep in mind that it takes anywhere from 18 to 256 days to fully set up a routine.  That length of time is so vastly different because it depends on how complicated the routine is, and how much a departure it is from what you are doing now.  So, pace yourself.  Just add one routine at a time and try to wait until you truly feel that it is so well ingrained in your life, that you don’t want to stop, before adding another routine.  Or add them all at once… you do you. 

Routines for Life

I have about seven different routines that have made my life easier. I have routines for Planning, Finances, Exercise, Food, Morning, Evening, and Cleaning and Maintenance.  Life is complex and ever changing. The ability to adapt my routines to the reality of my life is essential to using them successfully. Additionally, I designed these routines to work for me.  They probably won’t and shouldn’t work for you.  You need to design your own routines based on the life that you are actually living and the resources and goals that you have for yourself.  Please do keep reading and use my routines as inspiration for your own routines.  I want you to succeed beyond your wildest dreams. 

7 essential life routines: Planning, morning, night, movement, cleaning and maintenance, financial, food

Planning Routines

My first routine is my planning routine.  Truthfully, I’m always tinkering with these routines, because life keeps throwing me curveballs.  However, I’ll share what I’m doing right now, as it seems to be working fairly well for me. I have Annual, Quarterly, Monthly, Weekly and Daily planning routines.  My annual planning routine can be found here, if you’d like to learn more about it in-depth.  Annually, I take stock of my previous year and set a vision, missions and goals for the upcoming year.  This is always my biggest planning session, and I usually break it up over several days and weeks at the beginning of the year.

I also do a mid-year check-in at the beginning of July to see how things are going and make any changes that I need to.  Sometimes, I find that missions and goals that made sense for me in January are no longer making sense in July, and I’ll eliminate them.  Or I may discover that I have new missions and goals that I wasn’t aware of in January, and I’ll add them to my planning in July. 

My Quarterly, Monthly and Weekly planning routines all follow the same formula, I simply adjust the time frame that I’m looking at.  For each of the time frames, I start by quickly reviewing the previous time frame, and writing down my three biggest wins and three biggest misses.  This allows me to see where I’m having success, and where I need to look at more closely to figure out what I need to change.

What Works?

The second step in my planning routine is to dig into the processes that I’ve been using and ask myself what has been working and what have I tried, and had fail?  This part of the process allows me to acknowledge what I have found is actually worth repeating. 

This can be very difficult for me to see what I’ve done that has actually gone well.  So, making this part of my planning process has been a game changer. Looking more closely at what I’ve tried, and it hasn’t worked out is also amazingly useful.  This allows me to see what ISN’T working.  Where am I trying to do the same thing and it just isn’t working? Additionally, when I have to write over and over every day, every week, every month that something isn’t working, eventually I decide that I want to figure it out and stop failing to get the things done.  Honesty, especially with yourself, honesty is the best policy. 

Obstacles and Opportunities

The third step in my planning process is to pivot and look at what I know about the upcoming time period, whether it’s a Quarter, Month, Week or Day.  I assess the upcoming time period for Obstacles and Opportunities.

Obstacles are times that I can already see are going to be challenging for me, and that I need to plan ahead, if I want to stay on track.  Or maybe I just need to acknowledge ahead of time, that I’m not going to be able to do all the things that I want to do, because I have to deal with some other life stuff.  Examples of obstacles may be weeks when I have a lot of evening meetings.  I know that I won’t get to bed on time, I’ll be wound up when I get home, or stressed all day in preparation for the meeting. No matter what, I can already see that my days are going to be impacted by the extra stuff going on in my evening.

Opportunities on the other hand, are times that I can already see I have a chance to get ahead, or take advantage of something, if I’m just ready to do so.  On the flip side, opportunities might be times when I know that I’ll have a whole day to myself to work on what ever I want.  Or they might be opportunities to meet people who can help me out, or to do things that will make my life richer or more interesting. No matter what the opportunity looks like, if I’m not ready to spring into action to take advantage of it, I’ll miss out. 

What Do You Want to Accomplish?

The fourth step in my planning routine is to make a list of all the milestones that I want to accomplish during the time period.  I will also make a list of the habits that I want to keep up during the time period. The difference between milestones and habits is, generally speaking, a milestone is a thing that you have to do once during the project.  Whereas a habit is a thing that you do over and over, with no real end point in mind.  Samples of a milestone might be running a 5k or submitting a paper for review.  Habits are things like following your running training program every day or spending 30 minutes writing every day. 

Give It Time on Your Calendar

The fifth step is to take each and every thing from my milestones and habits list and put it on my calendar.  I like to use Google Calendar because it’s easy and it synchs with my emails, as well as with my family so that we can share calendars. I can also block time on Google calendar, and then go back and add in the tasks that I want to accomplish during that time block.  Unfinished tasks automatically move along to the next day. And I can set up habits as repeating tasks, so that I don’t have to write them down over and over, every day. 

Does It Make Sense? Is It Doable?

Finally, for Weekly and Daily planning, I look at the week or day and make sure that my time blocks and tasks are arranged so that I can actually get them all done.  This is tricky, not going to lie.  It has taught me to get better at planning for reality.  As in, I can look and see that I spent 3 hours doing something last time, so I know not to plan just one hour this time. 

It also has forced me to realize that I have a strong overcommit habit.  So many things sound fun and I want to do them, however, there just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do all the things I want to do. In this, I feel bad about letting things go, however, when the evidence is right in front of me that there’s just no way I can do it all, I have to be honest about how many hours there are in the day, and what I can actually do.  Painful as it is, overall, it’s been good for me.  As I’ve learned to say no to things that I just really can’t do.  It also helps me identify some of those obstacles and opportunities from the previous step. 

Realistically, I plan at least 2 hours for each of these planning sessions.  Because that’s how long it takes me to work through all of the process.

Master planning strategy

Morning Routines

With planning done, let’s next turn to morning routines. We all have a morning routine, whether we like it or not.  One of the things that’s pretty popular right now is having an aesthetic morning routine, or the morning routine of a billionaire. Or a “Hot Girl” morning routine.  Whatever the morning routine du jour is, what you actually need is a morning routine that works for you and your life.  Whatever you are doing right now, is your morning routine.  You may ask yourself how well it’s working for you? And perhaps you’re happy that your current morning routine is getting you up, and ready for the day, then don’t fix it.  Besides following someone else’s morning routine is likely to just exhaust and stress you out.  That is the opposite of the goal here. 

Start Your Day the Calm and Purposeful Way

We want your morning routine to allow you to meet the day with a sense of calm and purpose.  If you’re looking to tweak your morning routine, there are lots of places where you can draw inspiration.  Many of these will recommend things like starting your day without electronics, taking time to be grateful, mindful and to get some movement in.  They also may include critical self-care steps like taking care of your skin and teeth, in addition to your mind.  Don’t forget the healthy breakfast!  As I said, it is critically important to have a morning routine that works for your and your realistic morning.  By all means, check out other people’s Ideal morning routines, and try new things.  However, in the end you need a morning routine that makes sense to you and for you. 

Having a morning routine, when it works as intended, truly does reduce your stress and set you up for success throughout your day.  You can start by making a list of all the things that you actually do each and every morning. From there ask yourself if you want to change anything about your morning routine. Is there any part of it that you want to experiment with and try new things?  If you have anything you want to change, give it a shot for a couple of days or a week.  Then make sure that you include it in your weekly review and decide if you want to make it permanent, or if you want to try something else. 

Night Routines

The same principles apply to your night routine, whatever it may be currently.  Start with a list of what your current night routine includes. Then compare it to other night routines to decide if you want to try anything different.  One of the main goals of a night routine, whether you are a kid or an adult, is to mentally, emotionally and physically prepare you to go to sleep.  Your night routine should be all about closing off your day, and winding down so you can peacefully drift off to sleep. 

As with all of these routines, yours needs to be customized to you, your life and your reality.  If you have small children, then your night routine possibly includes getting them ready for bed. 

The types of things that are frequently recommended for night routines are things like not eating right before bed. Doing your skin care, hair care, brushing your teeth, maybe taking a shower or bath.  Perhaps it includes cleaning your space.  Maybe your night routine includes a mock tail or something to help you sleep.  Or perhaps you like to wind down by reading a book or magazine.  Many, many sources recommend turning off your screens for at least an hour before you try to fall asleep. (Wakefit, 2019)  As with all of these routines, you need to find what works best for you at this time.  Your routines will change as you change, so it’s ok to try new things out. 

How to Get Your Movement In Everyday

In a very different vein from a relaxing night routine, is your exercise or movement routine.  This includes everything from your annual, monthly, weekly and daily plans, to your pre and post workout.  Starting from the highest level, with your annual plan, decide if you have any major physical fitness goals for the year.  Is there a race you want to run, or a mountain that you want to climb? Do you have a personal goal, such as doing pushups or pull ups?  Or do you perhaps have a social goal of meeting new people at the cycling club? Maybe you want to start a new thing, take up yoga or kickboxing?

Even if your goal for the year is to maintain your fitness and consistency, like all other things you need to have it on your schedule and part of your routine.  So, from your goals, turn those into concrete steps that you will take on a daily and weekly basis.  Make sure that you have time on your schedule to do the fitness activities that you want to do.  If you want to learn more about the various types of physical fitness, check out my post about that, here

4 aspects of physical health

Ideally, you want to try to work on all the aspects of physical fitness.  Personally, my routine changes somewhat with the seasons, as well as when I’m travelling, or injured.  Since I’m currently struggling with a runner’s knee issue, I’m limited to lifting, yoga and swimming for my fitness.  While I love running, I have to take a break from it, so my body heals. If you’re starting a totally new fitness program, please check it out with your physician to make sure that it’s appropriate for you. 

Make Your Food Easier For You

Everybody eats, pretty much every day. Food acquisition takes time and planning. Preparing the food takes time, and cleaning up after the food is eaten, also takes time and energy. I know I’ve certainly had days where I was just too tired and overwhelmed to figure out a healthy meal, let alone clean up afterwards. This is where having a food routine has changed my life.

Meal Planning

Once a week I figure out what my meals are going to be for the upcoming week. From there I build a grocery list, being sure to include any items that I need for my pets, or household maintenance. My list is in Google Keep, and shared with my family so that they can add things to it when they notice that we are running low. This allows me to go to the grocery store once per week and get everything that we need. Only going to the store once per week saved me so much time, energy and money. I’m less likely to make impulse purchases.

The last step in my food routine is making sure that I have a reminder on my phone about when I need to start making each meal. I also note when I need to pull things out of the freezer to thaw. That way I’m not leaving myself in the lurch with a frozen chunk of meat that I need to figure out how to cook.

Finally, since I do most of the cooking, my husband cleans up after dinner. This may seem like a lot, however, it really does simplify my life.

The second to last routine that I want to talk about is your cleaning and maintenance routines. This is important for keeping your space pleasant, as well as for keeping your appliances and possessions in their best shape, so that they will continue to benefit you for many more years.  My current cleaning and maintenance routine consists of a daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal cleaning and maintenance routines.

Cleaning and Maintenance Routines Breakdown

My daily routine is focused on the day to day things, like cleaning the kitchen after meals.  My weekly routine is about the areas and things that need to be cleaned frequently.  This list includes cleaning the bathrooms, laundry, grocery shopping, meal planning, taking out the trash and recycling and vacuuming.  My monthly cleaning and maintenance routine involves things that need to be kept up regularly, such as washing the dog, cleaning major appliances, like the dishwasher and washing machine, and cleaning the vents. As well as dusting and wiping down door knobs and light switches. Finally, my seasonal maintenance routine varies by season.  In the summer it includes a lot more outdoor maintenance such as pruning, mowing and sweeping the porch.  It also includes things like changing the oil in my car and rotating the tires. 

If you would like to see my exact routines, just drop a comment below and let me know.  I’m happy to share them with you.  Just keep in mind that like everything else, they are constantly in state of flux.  I’m always trying to balance all the things that I do. 

4 cleaning and maintenance routines: daily (wash dishes, wipe down counters, put junk mail and other garbage in  the trash, clean litter box). Weekly cleaning - take out trash, clean old food from the fridge, clean bathroom, vacuum. monthly maintenance - fill water softener, wash dog, treat pets for fleas and ticks, clean dishwasher filters, clean washing machine. Seasonal maintenance - mow lawn, change oil in car, declutter, plant garden, put up / take down seasonal decorations

Keeping Your Money Life on Track

The last routine that I recommend you consider including is a financial routine.  There are lots of ways to do this, and figuring out what works for you might take some experimentation.  It’s worth it though. 

What is a financial routine?  Again, this is going to vary a bit based on where you are in your life and what resources you have, as well as what your current and long term goals are.  As a start, I’d suggest that you check out my post on the Financial Corner of Life’s puzzle.  That will give you a sound basis as to what you might need or want to include in your financial routine. 

The Minimum

The minimum that a financial routine probably should include, no matter what, is to check your accounts and make sure that all the activity is accurate, no fraud is going on.  As well as to make sure that your bills are getting paid.  From there, if you have the means to pay down your debt, save for a rainy day, or invest for the long term, you should plan and maybe automate that.  The thing is that you set aside a regular time, whether that’s weekly or monthly, to look over your finances and make sure that things are on track.

4 pillars of financial health

So, what do you think? How many of these routines have you already added to your life?  What do you think you need to add?  Post a comment below and let us know what works for you. 

Routines may seem boring or simple, they may be complex, they do help you organize your life and keep things on track. They are a commitment that you make and keep to yourself to live your best life.  When you decide on and follow your own routines that make sense for you and where you are in your life, they can take so much stress off of you, as you simply have to follow them, you don’t have to decide what to do next.  

Routines are Automation for Your Life

Routines are a way to automated parts of your life that simply have to be done repeatedly.  If you’re scared of setting up a routine, or worried that you’ll “fail”.  Try to relax.  No one is perfect, and like all the rest of the pieces of life’s puzzle, it’s a constant work on progress.  You do have to get up and try again.  Learn about what didn’t work and try something else.  Listen to yourself. Figure out what works and what doesn’t work for you.  Look at your life, figure out what you need to do and encourage (or bribe) yourself to do it. Ask for help from a loved one or a friend.  Use an app to keep your accountable.  There are so many ways that you can figure out what routines you need and how often you need to do them. 

And please, please remember that life is a moving target.  It’s not fair, and it WIILL change every time you think you have something figured out. That’s ok, that a normal part of the process. There’s nothing wrong with you and you’re certainly not doing it wrong.  Any routine that I or anyone else show you is just the one that we’re using at the moment.  They change. And no one is perfect at keeping to them.  They do, however, make your life easier and reduce friction.  They are worth it to try and to keep trying. 

Your routines need to work for you. your life, your space, your time, your energy, your obligations, your family, your resources. you.

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Bendi, M. I. (2024, 03 18). Why routines are good for your health. Retrieved from Piedmont:

Greenstein, L. (2017, 08 09). National Alliance on Mental Health. Retrieved from The Power of a Morning Routine:

Northwestern Medicine. (2022, 12). Health Benefits of Having a Routine. Retrieved from Northwestern Medicine:

Oxford Language. (2024, 03 12). Routine. Retrieved from Oxford Language:

Wakefit. (2019, 09 11). The benefits of sticking to a nighttime routine. Retrieved from Meduim: