How to design a daily routine to become your best self (+free lifestyle design daily planner!)
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“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.”Colin Powell
If you were to tell me 10 years ago that establishing a daily routine could have a huge impact on my productivity, happiness, health, and overall life, I probably would’ve brushed you off and then turned my attention back to Halo.
Recently, a friend asked me if I’m happy and I said yes without hesitation, and it felt weird. Weird because I went through a rough patch in the distant-but-not-so-distant past.
From job loss and then quitting the new job within six months due to a toxic environment, to my 3-year relationship
finally ending. And my parents divorcing after 32+ years of marriage. Plus, our family dog tragically fell ill and passed suddenly in the middle of all that.
It wasn’t a fun time, to say the least.
Yet, the phrase “I’m happy” feels right.
A lot of it was learning and growth. The truth is that a lot of things don’t last forever and things, people, relationships, whatever the case may be and for whatever reasons, tend to become less compatible or incompatible with time. It’s up to us to nip the baggage though sometimes things simply have a way of resolving themselves.
So many of my old habits and general lifestyle choices have changed since then. For instance, I’m now a regular practitioner of yoga and meditation routines and take an intentional approach, making sure to schedule it into my routine rather than do it whenever. I moved back to California to be closer to loved ones and have support and community.
If there’s been a tried and true constant in it all, however, if there was one part of me that I’ve been truly honing in and becoming diligent with, it would have to be my daily routine. It’s become sacred to me.
Now, come to think of it, saying “my daily routine is sacred to me” sounds weird, too, because I remember the person I was before I had a daily routine. Maybe you can relate to her and some of her thoughts:
“I don’t have a daily routine because rules. I don’t want to live by them.”
“If I need to do any planning, I do it in my head.”
“Creating a routine is more work.”
“Day planners are for old people.”
Sound familiar? Thought so.
Good Daily Habits Today Set You Up For Success Tomorrow
My dad carried around a brown, raggedy day planner everywhere he went when we were younger, and we teased the heck out of him for it. Little did we know that he would later become goals.
All of my old thoughts about daily routines and planning? Wrong. Out the window.
Creating a routine is not hard work. You know what is hard work? Having no structure or routine in your day-to-day. Winging it. Flying by the seat of your pants. It’s draining, stressful, and costs you far more in the long run than creating a routine ever could.
After I quit my job, I decided to create a daily routine that I would actually stick to so that I could be the best version of myself and better serve the people around me. While the assumption I made in my 20s about it being more work wasn’t necessarily incorrect, it’s quick and minor, so, planning for my days and week is just another thing I do now.
I’m glad it’s now a part of my routine because I’ve become so much more productive as a result. And I do it because I know what happens if I start on Monday with no plan or map. A literal headless chicken I become. Nothing will get done when they need to be and I’ll spend the rest of the week fumbling about.
By prioritizing intentional habits and things that matter to me I have the energy and mindset necessary to take on my day and get stuff done. The key to becoming your best self isn’t in waking up or being born that way. It’s by the practice of good habits that eventually become your personal system. Here’s how to design a daily routine of your own.
How To Design A Daily Routine To Become Your Best Self
Make a list of your daily tasks the night before.
The best way to be prepared for the day and week ahead and stay productive is to set aside some time to actually plan for it. I like to spend 15 minutes or so every night to make a list of the things that I know I need to accomplish during the day. That includes blogging tasks like responding to blog and social media comments, scheduling posts, and writing content, as well as personal daily or regular tasks like cleaning, doing laundry, naps (yes, naps), etc.
So, I’m one of those who schedules in my naps because otherwise, they won’t happen. Much like I longed to be more productive in my pre-daily routine days, I used to long for more naps. Sometimes, especially if I didn’t get the best sleep the night before, I’m tired and out of it by mid-afternoon. Because I’m an early riser, I tend to have a lot done by 9am anyway and figured more naps can’t hurt, so let’s be intentional about it. So, I added 1-3 naps per week to my schedule, and guess what? I take more naps and have more energy to accomplish tasks and cross off more things from my to-do list! A thing like that.
Anyway, the cool thing about mapping your day ahead of time is that you can account for one-off events or non-recurring events like appointments, lunch meetings, and anything else that may come up in a week. This gives you the opportunity to adapt your schedule as needed and still stay on top of things. No two days are alike, especially if you’re a leader, freelancer, or business owner, so having a daily routine will keep all your various commitments and projects top of mind.
Start your day with positive vibes.
My favorite part of the day is the morning because I start my day with a self-care routine. A lot of people hate mornings and I get it because I used to be one of them. That 4 or 5am time of the day where it’s allegedly morning and all the tech bro alarms around the world go off because #crushit? That was my bedtime.
But I kept reading article after article about how successful people were able to stay productive and accomplish so much in the same 24-hour window that I had. Oprah. Barack. Beyoncé. You name it. They’re all able to stay on track, perform at high levels, and succeed not because of some magical wake-up time. No. They all had one thing in common. They have intentional morning routines that power them throughout the day.
If you start your day with positivity, self-care, and good habits, then you’re better equipped to take on the day and serve the people around you. Remember when flying was a thing and the flight attendant would go over the safety procedure and tell you to put on your mask before putting on the masks of others? You have to be taken care of first. Your cup has to be full before you can pour into another cup.
Things you can do in the morning to start your day on the right track:
- Positive affirmations
- Gratitude exercises
Don’t forget to make time for breaks and food.
When we’re busy and in the thick of the day, sometimes it’s hard to remember to take a break or eat a meal. I used to think “not me. I love food.” More lies. The busier I’ve gotten as an adult and working professional, the easier it has become for me to forget to put food in my mouth. Now you know how I keep my shape; my bills grew!
In all seriousness, starting the day with breakfast is a huge and essential thing, but it’s only a part of the picture. It needs to be followed up with reserved time for snacks and meal breaks throughout the day to maintain good health. Make it your goal to go no more than two hours without having a break from the screen or a stretch of some sort.
I’m a fan of The Pomodoro Technique for time management and use it to stay productive most days, and it’s much easier for me to make time for breaks and food when I’m using it. Generally, you work for 25 minutes, take a break for 5 minutes, and repeat that cycle until you’ve reached 100 minutes of work (and 15 minutes of breaks). Then, you take a 15-20 minute break and repeat. It’s that simple, and because of the frequent breaks, ideas and thoughts are fresh, and it’s easier for me to focus.
There are days where I’m inspired and in work mode and just go. You’ll have them too. It happens, especially when you’re working on a project or launch, and that’s fine. Just be mindful of your situation and remember that you need to get up for some fresh air and nourishment every now and then. If you have a day or two like that in a week where you’re kind of powering through without prioritizing yourself, then make sure to balance the scale by having some self-care heavy days that include scheduled breaks, naps if you need them, and time for hobbies like language-learning and gardening.
Stay active throughout the day.
When you’re designing your ideal daily routine, make sure to schedule in exercise and activities to keep you moving, especially if you work remotely or have a desk job. One thing you’ll notice when you create a daily routine is that because your days are scheduled and carefully planned, you might actually have more time than you initially thought. And if your work schedule is a flexible or accommodating one, then making time for staying active is easier than ever!
One thing I did when I first created my daily routine was to make sure that I was allotting myself a minimum of 90-minutes for my afternoon breaks. That gives me time to eat a snack or lunch as well as some brisk exercise like a brief walk around the neighborhood if weather permits. Midday yoga, cleaning, preparing a meal, walk the dog, gardening, dance, quick trip to the beach… the options are pretty endless.
Try to have fun with it if you and your work schedule can help it. It’s a nice break in the day and it gives me something to look forward to. If you’re designing your dream life, then you might as well make it just that.
Have a nighttime ritual.
We often talk about morning routines and rituals and how important those are, but it’s equally important to dial in what you do at night. Just as we tend to have a “start” time in the morning by way of our alarms (or natural kisses of sunshine) to get the day started, we definitely need a “stop” or “off” time in the evenings to begin winding down and preparing for the following day.
Things you can do at night to signal the end of the day and prepare you for a good night’s sleep:
- Turn off your electronics at least one hour before bed; you can opt for books or a nice podcast to help you unwind.
- Spend 5-10 minutes journaling or writing about your day; wins, what you’re grateful for, where you want to visit in your dreams are just a few writing prompts to get you started.
- Take a warm soothing bath with some luxurious bath bombs.
- Try guided meditations or hypnotic stories to calm your mind and even wake up with a better mood.
Tweak your routine as necessary.
If you’re here, I’m going to assume you’re likely someone who gets overwhelmed or stressed from time to time. No worries. I’m here to tell you that creating your own daily routine is one of those things that you don’t have to stress over or feel like you should have it figured out in a day because it’s actually a continued learning process and requires building upon good habits every single day. Yay!
Be flexible with it and adapt according to how you feel and what your body tells you. Trying that 5am entrepreneur life and it’s not working out for you? Then don’t do it. Rather spend your mornings reading and save your exercise for that mid-afternoon slump? Go for it. It’s really that simple because the routine is yours and the choices are yours to make.
I used to wake up between 4 and 5am because I had a client overseas and thought I could handle that schedule. It ain’t for me. While I’ve become a morning person since my 5am days as a 22-year-old, I’ve figured that my best time to wake up is no earlier than 6am and no later than 7:30am.
I also tweaked my meditation schedule and moved that from mornings to my nighttime routine to help me settle down and be present because my brain loves to stay wired. If I need a boost of motivation or spirituality in the mornings, I have yoga, affirmations, and my Bible.
Becoming Your Best Self Happens One Day At A Time
So, there you have it! If you’re getting to design your own daily routine for the first time, try it out for 30 days or so and take notes or journal about how you feel. Do you feel like you’re able to accomplish the things you need to? Has there been a change in your mood? Gauge your response to new habits and adjust as you go.
If you already have a daily routine, share the deets below and tell us about some of your favorite tips!
Ready to start designing your daily routine and be a happier and more productive you? Sign up below to download a copy of my FREE Lifestyle Design Daily Planner!