Did you know that our brain can only make a finite amount of decisions every single day?
Every time you make a decision (which by the way you are making every single second) you are using up more mental energy and therefore capacity in your brain. That is why usually by the end of the day you have more brain fog and find it harder to make bigger decisions and why we have the feeling that we need to just switch off. That’s because we do.
That is why when we are going through incredibly busy periods in our lives or just periods where we have to make big decisions e.g. moving home, changing your career, planning an event we feel more overwhelmed than usual.
This is where routines can help. If you complete a routine of any kind enough, it becomes a habit. When it becomes a habit, your brain can switch off a little from the decision making process as it already knows what is coming next.
A great example of this is when you arrive at your destination in a car and wonder how you got there as you don’t remember driving. It only happens on journeys you do often because it is imprinted and you don’t need as much conscious thought to do that journey. It gives your brain the freedom to be worrying about other things such as what you need to do this evening or what you fancy for dinner (all important decisions of course) – I bet if you were on an unfamiliar journey though and then you remembered something you hadn’t done or you start planning your day ahead, your brain would start blocking the ability to do that as it is already busy focusing on what you are doing right now.
The more routine you have in your day to day life, the more capacity you have to deal with life’s little surprises or frankly put, have the energy to deal with the next big project in your life. If you are running around aimlessly every single day, winging it as you go along and generally making it up as you go along, as soon as something else is added to your “have to do” list it can easily lead to overwhelm.
Most of us have heard of a morning routine and perhaps you have an evening routine? Those with children will likely have a routine for school drop offs and afterschool clubs. But what else can you make routine to reduce the decision making you have to do throughout your day or week?
What about a work routine? This is especially true for those that may be self-employed. Designate certain tasks such as paperwork and invoices to a particular day etc. If you are employed, I am sure there are certain tasks you do every week that you can start to schedule in and make a habit that you will do x,y and z on a Wednesday for example.
Meal planners are another great routine. Many may plan their meals for the week ahead but why not go further, for each season and have your menus on a rotating basis? Not only do you not have to decide what you will eat, you are more likely to stick to a plan meaning you are more likely to make healthier food choices too.
Self-care routines – could you plan something for every day of the week for you to fit in around your schedule, that way you don’t have to remember to look after yourself too or even make a conscious decision too, it is just part of your routine.
As mundane as it is, how about a cleaning routine? Be that daily, weekly or even monthly. Make a schedule for what you will do when and then there is no decision as to what needs to be done and what has already been done as you already know.
My final example is exercise routine. Many of us use the excuse of not having time to exercise but by carving out time once and creating the routine now, this frees you up down the line when making a decision about your schedule. I am no fitness coach though so I won’t delve into the benefits of an exercise routine to reach your fitness goals but there is an added perk there too.
When I talk about routines, that doesn’t mean that they are rigid set-in stone plans that you can never change. They are there as a fail-safe, when you need something to fall back on, when life is a little overwhelming and you can’t think what is next. When you are trying to prioritise your day you don’t have to worry about what is happening between 6am – 9am as you know they are your morning routines and your school routines for example. There is no need to break that down further as you are in a habit now for what that process entails.
Autonomy and structure gives you the freedom to then use the rest of the time using your energy to achieve those goals, do something fun, plan an event or cope with a big life event. They force you to think more consciously about how you live your life and if that is truly the way you want to spend it.
For me, evening routine is something I am trying to implement in my life. I am a terrible sleeper and am aware that is affecting me on a day-to-day basis and I could have a lot more energy if I fell asleep at a reasonable hour. Just sitting down to think about a routine has highlighted to me how badly I was setting myself up for a good nights sleep. Sometimes just that conscious thought even initially can show you how you can do better for yourself, let along the benefits it will have long term.
If you currently have no routines in your day to day life, start with a morning routine and build from there. Do not add a new routine until the last is embedded in you and feels more like a habit. The trick is to build slowly, you can’t change your life overnight, no matter what the goal is.
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