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2020 was kind of a bust, and for most of us, our daily routines of going to class, doing work, seeing friends and going to sleep at normal hours were thrown aside. Days began to blend into one another and any sense of time had disappeared. I found myself spending hours doing mind-numbing activities like spending hours on Instagram or binging Netflix when I could have been doing work instead. This habit followed me into 2021 and I found myself feeling stuck in an unproductive mindset. I understand more than anyone that for some days, it is an exhausting struggle just to get out of bed in the mornings when you can feel your phone calling your name. We can’t blame ourselves for being human though, everyone feels stuck sometimes and everyone can get comfortable with their bad habits. I am here to let you know that there is a way out of these habits and a way that you can start feeling productive again. I have found that, for myself, there is no better form of self-care than having a routine that I enjoy or that makes me happy. Everyone’s routine is going to be different, but the important thing is that the routine is customized to the person. I have come up with questions you can ask yourself in order to create a personalized routine that is going to allow you to feel productive again.

1. What makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning?

I know that breakfast is apparently the most important meal of the day but, in all honesty, I don’t love most breakfast foods. For me, I never start my mornings with breakfast, as bad as that may be. I do, however, love having iced coffees or sometimes tea. Instead of having breakfast right away, I opt for coffee or tea instead and then once I am a tad bit more awake, I will eat something. The point that I am trying to make is not that I think breakfast sucks, it is that you should be starting your morning with something that makes you excited to get out of bed and get your day started. This could be something different for everyone. It could be having your morning coffee, your morning skincare routine or maybe it’s taking your dog for a walk in the morning to start your day. Try not to reach for your phone right away and start your day on a positive note. Getting out of bed in the morning is a lot easier when you know you have something you’re looking forward to.

2. How do you want to visually organize your time?

I swear that having a planner makes a world of difference in your day. It doesn’t have to be a planner, it could be a calendar of some kind too. Another thing to consider is if you like things to be digital or hand-written. I am personally a fan of hand-written things. I write all my notes by hand and I do the same with my planner. However, there are plenty of apps you can use to create a digital planner. A lot of people have also begun using Google Calendar to block out the time in their days. I love having a planner because it gives me a space to block out my day and see what I need to get done. Plus, it is really satisfying when you finish a task and you get to check it off or cross it out in your planner. Finding a way to visually organize your time could greatly improve your stress and take a huge weight off your shoulders. I find this especially helpful now that everything has been moved online because of Covid.

3. On a related note, how much can you truly handle in a day?

Keeping with a similar point to my last one, being realistic about how much you can handle in a day will be crucial to creating your routine. We tend to be hard on ourselves for only getting one thing done on our list, meanwhile, the list includes over 20 different tasks. When we do this, we set ourselves up for disappointment and we start to feel bad about ourselves and our abilities. You have probably had people tell you not to underestimate your abilities, but it's also important to take a step back and not overestimate what you're able to get done in a day. It's important to be realistic with yourself and think about how much time you have in a day and how much time you are willing to dedicate to working on the tasks you need to get done. You are a strong and capable person, there is no doubt about that, however, you’re also human and there is only so much you can get done in just one day. Allow yourself the realistic expectations you deserve and realize that there will be days where you still don’t get everything on the list done and that’s okay. By allowing yourself to only bite off what you can chew, you set yourself up for success each day and every day becomes a small victory.

4. What does “winding-down” look like to you?

The end of the day is arguably the most important part of the day. How you choose to end your day sets up how your next day is going to go. For instance, if you stay up super late on your phone and you go to bed at 2:00 am, you're probably not going to be as excited to have to get up the next morning for class, since you didn't get much sleep. Trying to stay off of social media before you go to bed is one of the biggest tips I can offer you. However, everyone defines “winding down” a little bit differently. For me, lately, I have enjoyed getting under a blanket, sipping a tea and reading a chapter or two of a book before going to bed. This helps my mind calm down and it takes me away from my phone before I have to go to bed. However, everyone is different, some people might see “winding down” as having a snack and watching an episode of Netflix. Whatever it may be that you have to do to wind-down before bed, try and do it at the end of each night. If you go to bed happy and you know that you did the best job you could have at getting done what you needed to do, it will leave you wanting to wake up and do it again the next day. Feeling productive once leaves a person craving that feeling again.

I know that finding a routine that works well for you can be challenging, and there isn't really a step-by-step guide out there to help you achieve the best routine for you. However, if you take a second to look at yourself and reflect on what parts of a routine you would benefit from most, then you are sure to find something that will help you. It's guaranteed that not every day is going to be perfect and we can't really expect it to be. I mean just look at the year that we had in 2020. Nobody can be productive every single day of their lives and we have to realize that that's okay. The important thing is that we try to be there for ourselves and others. Sticking to a routine is a good way to start being there for yourself.

Rachael Stevens

Wilfrid Laurier '21

Rachael is a fourth-year English major at Laurier, with a double minor in German and psychology.
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