Day One Not One Day: Building a Daily Routine
The day-to-day: it flies past so quickly that we don’t realise the power it holds. Do you ever find yourself fantasising about future goals, yet frustrated that they never seem to come to fruition? It may be because there isn’t proper awareness of them in the day-to-day. You can’t go to the gym one day and achieve your dream physique after one session; it has to be worked at daily and gradually. The same applies for all goals. The small steps we take in the short term are what builds up to a long term achievement. And constructing the optimal daily routine for the mindset and life that you want is the key.
A healthy daily routine should hit four targets: physical health, mental health, productivity, and social time. Depending on your schedule and goals, you can gauge which ones you want to prioritise most. Let’s go through each of them to build the routine you deserve.
There is an undeniable connection between physical wellness and mental clarity. Taking care of your body will not only boost your mental health, but will likely improve confidence, productivity, and general wellness.
There are many ways to look after yourself, and the important bit is finding what routines you find the most gratifying. Physical exercise is an obvious one. And there are so many ways to get activity in. Think about if you have certain goals when it comes to exercise, and then establish your “why.” Why do you want to achieve these goals? This “why” will keep you consistent. If you’re looking to build muscle, try lifting weights regularly. If you want to get moving outdoors, go on walks and runs. If you’re recovering from an injury, build in time for physio. If you want to improve flexibility and feel zen, yoga will be the thing for you. Once you pinpoint the activity (or activities) you want to engage in, think of ways to integrate it into your day to day. Do you have time in the morning or the afternoon, and which timing gives you the biggest mood boost?
Exercise isn’t the only factor to physical health. Self care, hygiene, diet, and much more will also allow your day to day routine to optimise your satisfaction and feeling of wellness. Perhaps you’re a big skincare nut, and want to practise a nightly 10-step routine (you can never have too many creams). The way to make these habits stick is to consciously commit to practising them, and enjoy the practice. Look forward to taking a moment of peace to do your skincare, for example, and be present while doing it; don’t think of the next day’s to do, or something that happened in the past. View building this routine as giving a gift to yourself, rewarding yourself with time when you get to take care of and pay attention to you.
Just like physical health, there are many aspects that go in the mental health pot. Mental health, and what you need to do to nurture it, is definitely the most individualised aspect of your daily routine. Different people have different needs and different things that benefit their mental health, as well as different goals and challenges to work on.
A lot of mental health goes hand in hand with physical health, so you can sometimes kill two birds with one stone by doing an activity that ticks off both your daily mental and physical health boxes. For example, yoga will do wonders with its meditative properties. Doing a skincare routine is quite peaceful and meditative as well, and can leave your mind at ease. Part of integrating mental health activities into your daily routine is knowing yourself and what makes you feel well and peaceful. At the same time, you may want to work on bigger challenges with mental health and pursue a kind of therapy. Whatever you do, you are making an investment in your long term happiness.
Once you’ve pinpointed the things that give your mood a boost and improve your long term mental health, once again choose your timing. Can you take a break from work midday to practise this activity? Maybe it will be most beneficial to you in the morning? It all depends on your schedule and preferences.
Meditation, specifically, is a fantastic way to bring in mindfulness to your day, and you’ll reap the benefits in the short term - improved concentration, stable mood - and the long term - better relationships, increased happiness. Meditation doesn’t have to be your typical sitting and breathing. You can meditate as you’re taking a walk, as you’re sitting at your desk, and you don’t have to fill your head with specific thoughts. You can think about what you’re grateful for, what you’d like to achieve, or simply think about nothing at all.
Like physical health, in order to make your mental health routine sustainable and effective, think of your “why.” Feeling better and nurturing your mental well-being will have an outstanding effect on all areas of your life, and you should keep this in mind when it’s time to practice your routine. You deserve to feel better. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to live a fulfilling life. You can even integrate repeating mantras like these into your meditations.
One of the most important things to learn about yourself is your ideal setting for productivity. If you feel yourself struggling with focus at times, either in your work or your personal projects, take a step back and reassess.
We now live very much in the era of work from home. But perhaps home is full of too many distractions for you to optimise your productivity. In that case, there are ways you can create a better environment for yourself. One way is to find another place to work. If you’re local to London, here’s a list of some great spaces to “work from home” in, and the list doesn’t end there. Are there any libraries or even shopping areas with wifi and sitting spaces you could see yourself working at? Think about some outdoor spaces that could work as well, especially as the weather gets nicer. Something about fresh air and the outdoors tends to do wonders for productivity.
If, depending on your type of work, working outside the home isn’t feasible for you, think about how your home workspace can be improved. Maybe your workspace is cluttered, or simply not aesthetically pleasing. Taking some time to reorganise or redecorate your space will pay dividends by allowing you to maybe even get twice as much done as you did before. Perhaps you find the others living in your home are distracting you when it comes down to work time. Having an open conversation and asking for some space to focus is something very important to do. Don’t lose hope or feel helpless that you can’t improve your productivity. Through a growth mindset and creative problem solving, you will be able to improve.
Another thing when it comes to productivity: try not to multitask. Having the TV on in the back as you’re trying to focus will not help you get the task done any quicker. You can even integrate mindfulness techniques into your work life to hone in that focus, and perhaps might even help you enjoy the work you’re doing more.
Last but certainly not least, time for social interaction is a must when considering a gratifying routine. Think about the people who make you happy. Think about it in these terms: certain types of people will drain your energy, but the ones you really click with, the ones you love and admire, will put energy back into you. Make an effort to keep in touch with these people on a basis that makes sense for you, as time spent communicating will strengthen the relationship and make it a long-lasting one.
Social time can look different for everyone. One thing that is important for everyone to remember, however, is that you should never be “too busy” for the people you value most. Not making time to foster these important relationships - and to tell these people just how much they mean to you - will only culminate in regret down the line.
There are many ways to make time for the people you value. If you live with others, mealtime is a fantastic time to reconnect. You need to spend time eating anyway, so why not do it together and share stories of your days? You can even invite a friend over for dinner, if it’s feasible, and share a meal that way. If you’re not local to all of the important people in your life, a simple chat on the phone is a fantastic way to connect. You can even chat on the phone as you’re walking, cleaning, or cooking; there’s always time for a chat that way. If you do find yourself crunched for finding social time, think about other creative ways to kill two birds with one stone. Are there normal day to day activities you can do with someone dear to you? For example, if you both enjoy going to the gym and have it as a part of your daily routine, coordinate a time to go together. Need to go for a food shop? Bring a friend along and do it together. So many of the previous activities on this blog can also be done with other people. In fact, if one of your goals is to learn a new activity or hobby, a great way to do that whilst meeting new people is to join a group for that interest. It is important to realise that it’s never too late to make new friends.
By building in time for social interaction, you once again are making an investment in your well-being. We all know that humans are social creatures, and finding your people and combating loneliness is so important. You can also feel more supported overall as you’re building your ideal routine. Your friends and family will keep you accountable and applaud you as you’re making progress.
As you go through and work to build your ideal routine according to your goals, remember this. This can be either one day, or day one. Habits are built over time, and you’ll no doubt thank yourself later for your consistency. When you feel the improvement in all these areas of your life, and when your routine starts to feel effortless, you’ll be glad you stuck with it.