The lines between work, home, and…well, everything is blurred right now.
One minute you’re hopping on a Zoom call for work, and the next you’re helping your child with a remote learning lesson on fractions.
Meanwhile, you still have to figure out when you’ll squeeze in household chores, dinner, and your at-home workout.
If your normal routine went out the window months ago, you’re not alone.
But it’s important to create a new daily routine that works for you right now because the structure can help you feel healthier and be more efficient.
“Having a routine and schedule right now is more important than ever,” says Jolie L. Weingeroff, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in Rhode Island and New York.
Here’s how a daily routine can benefit you — and how to build a schedule that works for you.
The Benefits of a Daily Routine
A routine can benefit your physical and mental health in a few key ways:
Research suggests that keeping a routine can help lessen the impact of stress on your mental health.
Make healthy eating easier
In a large French study, research suggests meal planning is associated with a higher-quality diet and a lower chance of obesity — and it’s easier to stick to your healthy eating plan when it’s built right into your daily routine.
Work out consistently
Instead of waiting for motivation to strike or “free time” to suddenly appear, block out time for exercise. Getting in regular workouts is not only vital for physical health, but it’s also important for mental health as well.
One in three people doesn’t get enough sleep, according to the CDC. Following a consistent bedtime routine can help improve your sleep quality — which can have a ripple effect on your overall wellbeing.
6 Tips for Building an Effective Daily Routine
How do you create a routine when everything is in chaos? Follow these tips to create a schedule that adds structure and helps to reduce stress.
1. Start planning the night before
One of the best ways to start (and stick to) a daily routine is to plan out your routine the night before.
That’s because, as you progress through the day, your ability to make beneficial decisions and work within your willpower declines.
“The more set up you are on healthy ‘autopilot,’ the better choices you make that support your goals,” says Michelle Houston, a NASM-certified personal trainer and health coach.
So before you go to bed, get out a pen and paper and write down tomorrow’s schedule.
2. Go slow
You may see a super-productive friend or influencer and feel pressured to keep up with their jam-packed daily routine.
But what works for someone else might not work for you.
“Try not to start with too many steps in your routine,” Houston says. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, Houston recommends starting with small and simple tasks you already do each day — like brushing your teeth — and then building your schedule around those.
3. Batch tasks together
Research suggests that multitasking is pretty much a myth — in reality, we’re just switching back and forth rapidly between tasks.
That can be taxing on the brain, which means less gets done. That’s why you can be crazy-busy all day and feel like you didn’t accomplish anything.
Combat that feeling by scheduling time to focus on certain tasks at designated times.
“I have a schedule of tasks I do every day,” says Brynn Franklin, M.S., ACSM Exercise Physiologist and ACE Health Coach. “For example, Mondays I create social media posts, Tuesday I draft my emails, and so on.”
You can also batch non-work-related tasks — like meal prep — to help you save time during the week.
4. Leave time for self-care
Burnout is real, and it can have serious impacts on your mental health and wellness. That’s why it’s essential to build time into your schedule for both self-care and relaxation.
Don’t know where to start with self-care? Here are some ideas to help you get started!
5. Take frequent breaks
It’s better to under-schedule your day rather than trying to accomplish superhuman productivity.
“You do not want to set yourself up for failure,” Weingeroff says.
And it might sound counterintuitive, but frequent breaks may actually boost your productivity.
One study found that the most productive people take plenty of breaks during the day, working for 52 minutes at a time before taking a 17-minute break.6. Cut yourself some slack
Life is unpredictable (especially right now!) so don’t beat yourself up if you deviate from your schedule. It’s going to happen, so just make sure you have a game plan for getting back on track.
“The key is to be able to recover and salvage the day and not fall into the trap of all-or-nothing or extreme thinking in which you declare the day as ‘shot’ and yourself as a failure,” Weingeroff says.
If you miss a step in your daily routine — say, you sleep through your morning run — just get back in the groove as quickly as possible, and think about what you can do differently tomorrow.