As the examples in the previous article, routines can be an effective way to maximize your day. Here are some benefits of following a routine:
Avoiding Decision Fatigue
Every day, we have to make thousands of decisions. Our brains are constantly making choices, from the small (which shirt to wear) to the big (which company to award a contract to). Every time we ponder the options and make a choice, it uses a little bit of mental energy. Our store of mental energy is finite and as it runs out, it becomes more and more difficult to make decisions. This can result in procrastination, snap decisions, and poor decision making, on top of unnecessary stress.
This is true even when we are making fun choices, such as vacation planning or picking items for a registry. For example, one study showed that volunteers enjoyed choosing fantasy items for a hypothetical wedding registry for around four minutes. By minute 12, making decisions — even fun decisions — was exhausting.
Of course, making decisions is an important part of life. After all, making decisions is how we choose our education, jobs, and life partners. So, how can we escape needless decision making and preserve energy for those choices that really matter? The answer is to set a routine you don’t need to think about for the simple things, so that your decision-making abilities are saved for the important things in life.
Have you ever lost your keys, your wallet, or your work badge? How long did you waste looking before your items turned up?
Everyone misplaces something from time to time, but if you regularly lose important items, developing a routine can save you time. Create a place for all the daily items you need and return them to their place, every single day. Likewise, if you lose track of important documents at work, or frequently forget items on your to-do list, developing a routine for organizing and keeping track of your important papers will save you time and energy, and let you get your work done faster.
Do you eat lunch out every day? Or grab a daily latte and a muffin from the coffee shop for breakfast? A habit of eating out is a routine, and it’s one that could be costing you a lot of money. Instead, develop a routine of buying groceries and prepping simple breakfasts and lunches once a week. You’ll save time and money in the long run.
By a similar token, developing a consistent look can help you spend your clothing budget wisely, and avoid impulse shopping for clothing that doesn’t suit you or your lifestyle. It can also save time getting dressed each morning. Of course, a consistent uniform doesn’t have to be all boring black. Think of Angela Merkel’s signature colored jackets, Diane Von Furstenberg’s brightly printed dresses, or Kanye West’s color coordinated sweat suits. The idea is simply to pick something that works for you and stick to it.
According to CDC, only 23% of Americans get the recommended amount of exercise each week. Adults should perform strength training exercises twice a week, as well as getting 150 minutes of brisk movement each week, equal to a 25-minute walk per day.
Even fewer Americans get enough fruit and vegetables each day, with just one in ten eating the recommended four to five cups of fruits and veggies per day. If you aren’t the sort of person who wakes up feeling motivated to hit the gym and eat broccoli (and really, who is?), a routine can help.
The key to a routine is that it doesn’t depend on motivation — you just do it out of habit. If you want to get healthy, make fitness and healthy eating part of your routine. For example, add a serving or two of fruit and vegetables to every meal, and when you get home from work, walk around the block a few times before you go in the door.
Helping You Sleep
Another important benefit of routines is in their ability to help you get the sleep you need. If you struggle to get a full seven to eight hours of sleep each night, your pre-bed routine could be the culprit. If you spend the moments before bed reading stressful news articles, answering work emails, or watching action films, it’s no wonder it’s hard to relax and sleep.
For the best sleep, experts recommend turning off TVs, computers, tablets, and phones at least an hour before sleep, and developing your own soothing ritual. Whether you stretch, drink warm milk, read a soothing book, or listen to a calming podcast, find something that relaxes you and do it every night. Before long, your brain will recognize your bedtime ritual, and help you drift off faster and sleep more deeply.
Getting a good night’s sleep is even more important for your child. Studies show that starting in infancy, performing a bedtime ritual helps children fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Good bedtime rituals include a bath, brushing teeth, story time, and gentle cuddling or a massage. Studies show that such a consistent bedtime routine can help children (and their parents!) sleep better in as little as three days.