It’s easy to complain about how things never change and sometimes, it’s out of our control, but I’d argue that most times it’s because we aren’t prioritizing or putting work into whatever we want to change. Though we all wish there were, there isn’t a quick fix. Rewiring the brain to replace old habits with new ones takes time and effort.
This isn’t easy to hear, even for myself. I consider myself a diligent and hard-working person. I create to-do lists and religiously live by my calendar, so much so that I am often teased by friends. Despite being organized, there are still areas I haven’t seen growth where I’d like to see it. That’s because even though I am organized, I can lack discipline. I’d love to lose fat and tone muscle, but I make excuses to not go to the gym or to treat myself to my favorite Blizzard from Dairy Queen. For others it may be a lack of structure that makes it difficult to find the motivation to create and stick to new habits, whether it’s from a loss of a job, working from home, or even retirement.
I have been extremely successful in reaching many of my goals.
The difference between the ones I’ve accomplished and the ones I haven’t: making them non-negotiable priorities.
How do you make your priorities non-negotiable? Only you can truly decide what is non-negotiable. Once you’ve determined that, what has helped me is creating a detailed routine in my schedule that I can refer to when I forget or when I’m wavering on what I need to accomplish.
I use the calendar on my phone to schedule places I have to be and I use the reminder app for anything time specific I need to do (ie: taking out the trash, scheduling an oil change, watering the plants, updating my biweekly water delivery, etc). I also have a note I keep open at all times which lists the non-negotiable items for each day. I write it in chronological order for when it needs to be done but I keep it pretty simple. Anything that can happen throughout the day or doesn’t have a specific timeline I put at the bottom of the day. At work, I write down my to-dos on a post-it note that I have on my laptop. Sometimes I email the list to myself and leave it unread so I can look at it when I’m ready to tackle it.
Schedules can be anything from smaller routine items like the time we wake up and go to bed, leave for work, shower, brush teeth, etc. to more external items like exercise, homework time, time to call loved ones, meals you’re making for the week, social wellness like a book club or a knitting group, etc.
Everyone has a different method that works for them, but one aspect remains the same: a routine and schedule are beneficial.
People seem to understand that schedules are important for pets, babies, and toddlers. That’s why daycares and schools follow the same schedule every day. That’s why when training a new pet it’s important to implement the same expectations and behaviors day in and day out until they understand. It’s also been psychologically shown that routines are beneficial for those with mental illness and those battling addictions.
In all these situations, routine creates structure and provide a sense of safety and accomplishment. The benefits are no different for the ordinary person.
So why are so many of us hesitant, dare I say resistant, to implement them? Because forming a habit and remaining disciplined is hard!
This is a reminder that even though it may be challenging at the start, it gets easier and the rewards outweigh the hard work. It’s never too late to start setting goals and implementing steps in a routine to help you get there.
5 Benefits of a Schedule:
- Decreases Wasted Time – Many of us have experienced things that waste our time, whether it’s scrolling through social media or letting a streaming service play episode after episode. Everything is fine within moderation, but when our day is scheduled by priority, those things that typically waste our time are moderated in a healthy manner.
- Increases Control – Ultimately when we create the schedule we are deciding what is most important to us. We may not have control over some of the have-tos like working and paying the bills, but we can decide how they fit in with other priorities.
- Reduces Stress – There’s a lot we can’t control, so adding structure can improve mental health by creating more stability. By knowing what’s next, we spend less time worrying about what’s to come and reduce anxiety.
- Better Sleep – Committing to a regular schedule, including a sleep schedule, can improve the quality of rest. Reduced stress will also result in better sleep.
- Increased Self-Esteem – Seeing progress and feeling accomplished in our goals improves our self-worth and purpose.
5 Tips for Creating a Schedule:
- Find what works for you – Do you prefer paper/pencil, a physical or digital calendar, an app like Notes or Reminders ?
- Spend time each week making or refining your schedule – How do the things your scheduling support your goals or ultimate why?
- Use your internal clock to help you plan – What part of the day do you feel most productive? When do you struggle to accomplish tasks?
- Break them down into smaller tasks and be specific – Instead of just writing dinner, what will you cook for dinner? Instead of just writing exercise, will you be attending a group class, participating along with a specific YouTube video?
- Give yourself grace – You won’t be perfect. Something in your schedule might not get done like cleaning the kitchen floor. The floor will still be there the next day. Not every part of your life has to be scheduled, but make sure you include time for YOU. It doesn’t matter what activity: reading, crafting, exercising, talking on the phone, etc., pick one that you enjoy!
What techniques work best for you when creating a schedule? Please share in the comments! Everyone is different and something you share might just resonate with someone else!
Author: Dana Perich, Wellness Educator & Coach