If only I had more discipline I could keep the house clean, exercise, pray daily, and study scripture. Ever felt that way? Yet, that discipline we so desire in our lives seems ever elusive. We struggle daily with our flesh, our laziness, our old habits, and we fail to gain control.
I wasn’t always a decent homemaker, wife, or mother. The first couple years of our family life, I really struggled getting out of bed in the morning, dressing for my day, feeding 3 square meals a day, and keeping the house presentable.
Eventually, I decided I wasn’t happy with my lack of discipline and started making little changes to my day. I created one habit, one routine at a time, and eventually, by God’s grace, became the wife, mom, and woman I am today. I make no claim to perfection, friends. Discipline still seems to evade my complete grasp, but when I reflect on where I was 10 years ago, I see the huge amount of progress I’ve made.
Where do we turn our days around? Where do we begin developing discipline? For me, it began in establishing simple and predictable routines in my day-to-day life.
What is routine?
Routines are like habits, only even more powerful because they are a bunch of habits strung together. Each executed habit creates momentum and energy that feeds into the next habit in our routine. You already have quite a few routines in place in your life, although they may not all be conducive to the quality of life you deeply desire.
The dictionary defines a routine as “a sequence of actions regularly followed.” When we perform one of the actions in the routine, the next automatically follows. A routine gives us something predictable to follow, and provides anchors that moor our day.
There is a difference in knowing I need to give the bathroom a quick wipe everyday and knowing exactly where that falls in my day. If I simple know it must be done, but do not assign it to a specific time or routine, that bit of information floats around in my brain all day, draining my limited energy.
While habits pertain more to the daily grind, routines can extend to any task that needs to be repeated at regular intervals in our lives.
8 Tips for Successfully Establishing Routines
Having intentionally developed lots of routines over the years, I’ve learned a few things about what can make our break a new routine.
Flylady suggests starting with the habit of shining your sink everyday. I never could quite get on to that one, but, for me, making my bed and getting dressed were a great place to start. If I had chosen bigger habits like waking at 5:00 am and going for a half hour run, failure would have been certain. The habits we tackle first needn’t be large to be energizing. Making the bed made my room look 80% better and getting dress gave my attitude a lift. As you begin, choose just a couple simple habits to string together at one fixed time slot in your day.
A few at a time
If we try to cram a whole slew of habits into a routine the first day, we will flounder. Putting our focus and energy into a few tasks at a time will greatly enhance our success rate. It took years to develop all the habits and routines I have in place currently, but they are here for good now. Drastic change doesn’t happen overnight!
Make them game changers
Remember how Flylady started with shining her sink everyday? That was because that one small habit totally changed her attitude toward her day and her home. Shining her sink, while simple, was her game changer.
While we don’t want to take on a daunting routine or habit (like a 5 am rising), try developing one that will be a game changer in some way. The routine may contain things that change your attitude (getting dressed), have bothered you for awhile (the dirty bathroom), help your day run smoother (checking your planner every night), nourish your soul (prayer time), or give you energy (morning exercise).
Examine your season and don’t compare
Don’t compare your routine with others. We are all in different seasons of life, and what works for one of us may be a total frustration for another. Looking at what routines others maintain should be a source of inspiration, not a bar against which we can measure our own life.
BUT don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Routines are a real life saver, especially when you are crazy busy. Be real about what you can accomplish in your season and then stick to it. This is why during certain seasons I sleep till 7 some mornings and other times I hold myself accountable to wake up at 5:30 am.
Build on the routines you have
We all possess natural routines or breaks in our day (meal times, waking up, going to bed, etc.), and building onto our current routines is the perfect place to transform our days. Look for natural places in your day to tack on new habits and create routine.
Write it down
Once you are actually able to start incorporating new habits into your routines, write each routine down. It may sound kind of silly, but having something to follow makes it so much easier to just “do the next thing.” That’s why I went through the trouble of creating my custom cleaning schedule. The actual act of writing down the routine will also help you access whether you are trying to cram way too much into your routine. (I provide you lots of printables in the 3rd post of this series: Nourishing Routines.)
Expect frequency, not perfection
Life is full of unforeseen distractions and troubles, and something will come along to blow your well laid plans out of the water. Life is not perfect, nor are we. Aiming for perfection will only leave you frustrated. I do not execute all of my routines everyday, yet the framework they provide for even my busy days is what allows me to live the moments fully. I know there is a place and time for all those tasks that I left undone today.
Fulfill your vocation, then reach your goals
When we look for habits/routines to incorporate in our daily living, we start by fulfilling our God-given vocation above all else. For me, that means my family, home, and homeschooling. When I have those habits in place, I am better able to establish habits that help me reach my goals.
Don’t know what your goals are? Take some time to develop specific, measurable goals in different sectors of your life (housekeeping, financial, spiritual, physical, etc.).
Your turn! I’ve put together some printables to help you plan your daily routines. You have some homework to do before the next installment. Sit down and brainstorm habits to include in your routines. What would be life-giving? necessary? beneficial?
This project is meant to help you breakdown what needs to get done in your life and then find ways to make it happen. Make this project as big or as simple as you want. Focus on your daily routines above all else, but you can also take the time to develop weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly routines or tasks lists. Along the way, I will help you establish routines for your chores, kids, and family.
I prefer to think of my routines as places to help me accomplish not only the mundane daily tasks, but also my goals. Keep these areas separate if you like. (You may also be interested in creating a cleaning schedule with the free printables on this post.)
Need some inspiration? I’ll be posting tomorrow about my current routines.
Where are you with your current routines? Are you happy with where they are or do you want or need to kick it up a notch?
Here are all the posts in this series in one place:
- Post 1: Developing Discipline with Routines
- Post 2: Routines that Shape my Day
- Post 3: Nourishing Routines: Framing our days…. (with lots of planning printables)
- Post 4: Delegating and Creating Routines for our Children