The Benefits of Having a Routine

If you read just about any parenting book, or get parenting advice from just about anyone, they’re going to tell you about how important it is to have a routine for your child.  Yet no one talks about the fact that schedules and routines benefit more than just children; adults can benefit from them as well.  You give your children regular bedtimes, and regular mealtimes, and try to have a predictable routine throughout the day.  Do you do the same thing for yourself?  My guess is, probably not.

Why do we think it’s important to have a routine for our children?  One reason cited by parenting experts is that it allows children to know what to expect and how to behave.  The familiarity allows children to feel secure and reassured, and it allows the day to go more smoothly.  Wouldn’t these all be things that we could benefit from in our daily lives?  People like patterns and predictability; they even look for patterns where there are none.  It makes us feel more comfortable when we know what to expect.  We like knowing that B always follows A, and that A always happens at 11:45.  It gives us a sense of control, which is comforting.  So what can we do?

Bedtimes

We have regular bedtimes for our children, but most of us go to bed at a different time every night.  Then, we wonder why we’re worn out at work during the day, or why we need three cups of coffee to get going in the morning, when our kids can go seemingly non-stop.  Maybe, it’s because our sleep habits are nowhere near as healthy as our kids’, and we either have to pay the price or try to make up for it.

Having a regular, predictable sleep-wake cycle will make you feel more rested, and it will make you healthier.  Those of us who have sporadic, random bedtimes are usually the ones who get sick the most often.  Our bodies need rest to recover from the activities and stress of the day.  Scheduling this rest at the same time every day lets your body know that it is going to get the rest it needs, and keeping to this schedule will allow you to both fall asleep and wake up easier because your body knows what is expected of it.

Just planning a daily bedtime and sticking to it will do wonders for your energy levels and your health, but there are more benefits to having a schedule for your days if you choose to incorporate them.

Mealtimes

If you work eight hours a day, then likely at least one of your meals will fall at the same time every day.  However, you probably skip the meal directly before your shift, which is breakfast for most people, for the benefit of a few minutes more sleep.  This is a bad idea, for more than one reason.

Having regularly scheduled meals allows you to regulate what and how much you eat, and it’ll keep you from grazing throughout the day.  Your body will start to get hungry at the scheduled times, because it knows that it’s time to eat.  This will prompt you to need to eat a meal rather than just a small snack that’ll leave you feeling hungry again in an hour.  And when you start planning your meals, instead of just walking into the kitchen and grabbing whatever you see first to snack on, you’ll most likely start to eat better.

Getting Things Done

Having a daily and weekly routine will do wonders for your productivity.

You’ll be less likely to forget to do things if you have them planned, like going to the grocery store or remembering to take your daily medications.  If you plan to go to the store every Friday afternoon, and take stock of what you’re going to need before next Friday, you’re much less likely to wake up in the morning to realize you’ve run out of milk and forgotten to buy more (which I do pretty regularly).

You’ll also find that you’ll get a lot more done because you’ll spend less time wondering what to do next.  Instead of thinking about what you’re doing and going to do, you’ll just be doing it.  The more you have planned, the less you have to worry about and try to fit into your day.  Having a routine can eliminate a lot of unnecessary stress in your life and leave you the energy to stress about the important things and the unexpected, because everything is no longer unexpected.

How Do Routines Work For You?

Is this something that you practice already?  (if so, good for you!)  Have you tried it and found it doesn’t work for you?  What does work for you?  Please share.

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Pam is a preschool teacher and writer with a background in psychology and child development. She's available for freelance work, private consulting, or just a nice chat. Connect with her on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, or via email at p.komarnicki AT social-discomfort DOT com.

One Response to The Benefits of Having a Routine

  1. My question and comments are this. Do you yourself follow a routine? Do you have regularly scheduled mealtimes and bedtimes? Having a child can eat into your scheduled routine drastically. It's great to have a planned schedule/routine, but what do you do whey it's interrupted? How do you handle the stress of breaking the routine? Do you have a plan B or just throw your hands in the air and scream screw it?

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