Try to think back to after you had your first baby; maybe it feels like yesterday, maybe it actually was yesterday. What was the one thing everyone told you to do? Aside from “sleep when the baby sleeps” (which I still swear by, even now that my “babies” are almost 4), I’m sure you heard that parenting buzzword:
Maybe that was easy for you, or maybe that was a struggle (it certainly was a struggle for this mom of twins), but did you ever think about why routine was important advice? Sure, the first advice makes perfect sense; sleep is hard to come by and is certainly a biological need. But why a routine?
When you can anticipate your next meal or next nap, there’s a sense of calm because the routine reduces the chaos.
The truth is, routines are not just beneficial for our tiny humans. We also have a lot to gain from routines. Have you ever set a New Year’s resolutions that didn’t go so well? If you want to work out four days a week but don’t structure your day in a way to make this possible, it’s less likely to happen. However, if you’re able to create four identical days where you workout at the same time each day, this reduces any extra planning, organizing, or potential obstacles that could prevent you from following through with your goal.
Routines Allow For More Flexibility
Okay, so we know keeping a routine to set new goals can be helpful, but why do they matter for everyday life? When you create routines, you get to set yourself on auto-pilot. Think of a routine you already have. I’ll bet you could be half asleep and still initiate and follow-through with that routine (did you just have a flashback to those 4:00 a.m. feedings or was that just me?). The more routines you create and stick with, the less stressful your day becomes, and we all could use a little less stress in our lives! If you’re reading this thinking, “but I like spontaneity in my life,” know that routines are not about rigidity. In fact, they allow for us to be more flexible! When everything is in its place and gets done when it’s supposed to get done, we open ourselves up to the opportunity for last-minute changes.
A Place for Everything and Everything In Its Place
Do you ever leave the house and turn back around because you forgot your phone? Then go back inside again because you forgot your keys, only to discover you can’t find your keys? If this sounds a little too familiar, it may be time to consider a morning routine.
Creating a space where you keep important things you don’t leave home without can reduce that morning chaos. What would you keep there? Keys? Wallet? Purse? Planner? Where would this “loading zone” be? Likely somewhere by the door so you can drop it all when you walk in, and pick it up when you walk out. Zero thinking + zero chaos = 100% happiness (math was never my strong suit, this is why write).
Morning Routines to Reduce Chaos
What would your ideal morning look like? And if you’re imagining those movie scenes where there’s a 5-course brunch-style breakfast and someone grabs a bite of toast and leaves, I’m going to stop you right there. The focus is routines to reduce stress, not Iron Chef America, which is complete chaos.
One trick is to prepare the night before. Have a nighttime routine where you set up the coffee maker, pack lunches, make sure everyone’s school bags are packed and by the door. I set my kids’ clothes out the night before, and if you’re really ahead of the game, you can buy those closet organizers and fill each cubby with an outfit for each day of the week (like these ones from Target).
Imagine a series of steps that happen the same way each morning, like a ballet, flowing seamlessly from one move to the next. Now, I recognize that ballerinas don’t accidentally expel bodily fluids on each other (though that would be slightly entertaining), so we can’t always account for baby spit-up or potty training toddlers, but we learn what routine makes sense for us. For me, I always get the kids ready first to reduce the chances of someone spilling on my pants or just flat out sweating through my shirt before I leave the house. Maybe you get up before everyone and that’s your quiet time to get ready. The point is for you to decide what works for you and then do it, over and over again until you’re a gold medal athlete in your daily routine.
The beauty of routine is that it’s completely individual and as long as it’s done consistently, it’s going to be more effective than making up a new system everyday. Even if your “newborn” is now 10 years old, you can both still benefit from having a few morning and nighttime steps that look the same each day. Next time you’re looking for a way to feel less overwhelmed, consider how routines could be a potential part of that solution!