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How Routines Reduce Stress and Allow You to Get Stuff Done

Create helpful habits that integrate the realities of a blended work and home life.

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Part of recently launching a new sleep coaching program has found me writing on the importance of routines. I'm tackling two areas where busy professionals tend to have trouble: The morning (for night owls), and bedtime (for those doom-scrolling away their evenings).

Yet there's so much happening in between. As a result, I've created some helpful habits that keep my own stress cup from overflowing.

Related: 10 Morning Routine Hacks for Happiness and Productivity

Why rituals matter

When you don't have a plan, life is uncertain. When you have no idea what's going to happen, or when, you can feel worried, anxious and out of control. Your fight, flight or freeze responses can kick in. Routines reduce stress naturally because they give some control back to you, re-engaging your parasympathetic nervous system. Incidentally, this capacity to experience a relaxation response is a prerequisite for getting refreshing sleep.

Related: 4 Changes to Make to Your Day so You Get Better Sleep Tonight

Create stress-busting rules to live by

One benefit of working from home is that there's less of a divide between these two areas of our lives. Ideally, this helps reduce conflict and stress in getting everything done. However, this is only true when you have routines that work for you.

Locate existing touchpoints: Grab your calendar and note any weekly obligations. These might include meetings with clients, sports for your kids or continuing education livestream classes.

Gather "To Do" lists: If you have random sticky notes or whiteboards flitting around? Include them. Do any items (commitments, tasks or chores) happen on a weekly or daily basis? Should they?

Exercise your mindfulness muscle: Become conscious of the things you do on auto-pilot and write them down.

Draft a plan: What tasks can you consolidate, batch together or reorder for better flow? You might explore changes for efficiency, take advantage of times when your brainpower is strongest or prevent rework.

Apply for a month, then revise as necessary: It can take some time to change up habits or previously unconscious ways of being. Give yourself some space for the experiment to unfold. Then make changes one at a time.

School yourself on scheduling

As a female small business owner, I can certainly confirm that women continue to take on more of the work required to run a household.

Here are the touchpoints in my current weekly schedule:

  • Monday is marketing.
  • Tuesday is taking care of the trash.
  • Wednesday is laundry.
  • Thursday is food shopping.
  • Friday is finances & errands.
  • Saturday is house cleaning.
  • Sunday is a rest & fun.

I also have private client sessions, facilitate corporate wellness webinars and teach yoga classes. This schedule includes what I do to maintain my sleep wellness coaching practice, my home and my self-care.

Timing is everything

My brain tends to function better in the morning. Conversely, by mid-afternoon my body is craving movement.

I reserve mornings for tasks that require me to be sharp, creative and focused---which is most of the work I do at my computer. It means my afternoons are time for everything else (especially exercise and chores).

Being flexible and adapting to unexpected changes and issues is absolutely necessary, but once the dust settles? I know exactly where I need to pick up. Part of this is training yourself–as with meditation–to return, time and time again.

Not only do I always have clean laundry and rarely get behind on bookkeeping (which as a solopreneur helps a LOT come tax time!); I also give my mind-body system much needed predictability, keeping my stress manageable and my sleep sound.

Related: Optimize Your Daily Schedule for Maximum Productivity -- Here's How

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