How to Make a Daily Schedule for Yourself That Can Help You Do What You Want

Photo: Getty Images/Delmaine Donson
When someone has a routine, they're more likely to come across as really having their whole life together. Maintaining daily rituals is like the adult version of always completing your chores: It evokes being polished, mature, and organized. These are the kinds of people who used highlighters when studying, with a color-coding system to emphasize different types of relevant information. To be sure, having a routine sounds great—who doesn't want to be a chore-completing, highlighter-using powerhouse of their to-do list? But learning how to make a daily schedule for yourself in order to achieve that status, however, sounds like a huge drag.

But not to worry—experts are here to make the process seamless. Below, learn what the benefits of having a daily routine are in the first place, plus easy-to-follow instructions for how make a daily schedule for yourself, without shedding any tears of boredom during the process.

Why is it important to have a daily routine?

If you're a spontaneous free spirit who relishes variety and has never shown up on time for a coffee date, like, ever, you might need some convincing here about why it's beneficial to know how to make a daily schedule for yourself. After all, the word "schedule" makes you cringe and goes against the limitless feeling of freedom you love. But on a mental-health level, routines can provide for a sense of control and psychological comfort in sameness. One 2011 study from Tel Aviv University even concluded that a healthy amount of repetitive behaviors are correlated with a reduced prevalence of anxiety.

"When we can't decide whether to work out, meditate, journal, or read a few pages of an inspirational book, we use our energy thinking about what to do versus doing something useful." —Susie Moore, life coach

One reason for this is the possibly that routines eliminate the potential for decision fatigue, or difficulty in making a good decision as a result of the number of decisions one needs to take. "When we can't decide whether to work out—and if we do, what type of workout?—to meditate—and using which app or YouTube video?—journal, or read a few pages of an inspirational book, we use up our energy thinking about what to do versus using our energy doing something useful," says Susie Moore, life coach and author of Stop Checking Your Likes: Shake off the Need for Approval and Live an Incredible Life. "It's kind of like scrolling through Netflix trailers for an hour, frustrated, versus just starting a movie and getting cozy." Having a planned daily schedule you can count on can eliminate that wasted mental energy.

For more evidence, note that many CEOs wear the same outfit every day—which isn't coincidence. While you certainly don't have to stick to one outfit as your strategy for freeing up mental energy, having a daily schedule of some sort is important, especially if you're a big dreamer who aims to be one of the greats. After all, psychologists like Freud, composers like Beethoven, and artists like Picasso have all embraced personalized routines in order to dedicate more effort toward their craft.

So whether what you're after is mental calmness, increased helpful structure, or professional success, knowing how to make a daily schedule for yourself is a great first step. Below, Moore shares four easy steps for making one you can live by. And once you're set with her tips, use an online template, like this free one from Microsoft Office, to bring your daily schedule to life.

How to make a daily schedule for yourself in 4 steps

1. Identify what matters most to you, and prioritize it

Identify what you want to work into your schedule, whether that includes abstract concepts like "practicing gratitude" or must-do work tasks like "check my emails." Have a list of what you want to be part of your life, so you know what to fit into your schedule. Being able to identify your daily goals can serve as inspiration for meeting them.

"To me, inspiration is everything," says Moore. "It positively impacts every single interaction and thought I have throughout the day. So I'll spend 10 to 15 minutes reading over coffee to boost my mood and get into my high vibe for the day. Exercise, meditating, journalling all come later in the day—if at all." Figure out your priorities, and schedule accordingly.

2. Address an important aspect of your routine during the first hour of the day

Since many of us are more productive in the morning, it makes sense that you'd push your most important rituals up front, if you can. If, for instance, you feel great after completing your vinyasa flow, but you tend to not want to roll out your mat by the end of the day, make sure to practice in that first hour you're awake so you can joyfully check it off your list and move it out of your way.

"The first hour of the day sets the tone for the entire day, so don’t let that golden hour of the morning get lost," says Moore. When you start the day well, no matter what happens that day, you'll be satisfied your morning routine was a positive investment into yourself."

3. Acknowledge the length of your entire schedule

Keeping track of your time ensures that you have the time to fit in everything you want to complete. And alarms are a good tool to help you make sure that you budget for everything. Track your time for a week or so to provide a basis that allows you to accurately block hours when you do make a daily schedule for yourself.

"This means you won't run late, have to cut your routine short, or feel overwhelmed with the idea of structuring it," Moore says.

4. Forgive yourself when you skip the routine

Routines are important for keeping you on track, accountable, and, yes, put-together. But we're all only human! No need to beat yourself up psychologically if you give yourself an off day.

"A militant life is not the goal here—the goal is ease," says Moore. "So when you just need extra minutes to snooze, it's okay. There are many mornings in your future. You can jump back in tomorrow."

As Moore tells me, "good enough" is good enough when it comes to making a daily schedule for yourself. "Discipline is freeing," she says. "But it doesn't have to be perfect."

Working from home right now? Here are some stay-on-track tips that productivity experts recommend. And this is why your midday self-care activity might actually be fueling your burnout.

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