If you’re feeling stuck or if you want to get back on track after some time off, building a routine that works for you is exactly what you need.
During my years as a blogger, I’ve received tons of messages saying things like:
- How can I make my routine stick?
- What’s the best daily routine to follow?
- What is your daily routine?
I’ve given some of these people a very detailed description of my routine, and I even wrote a post about it in 2020 because my routine was what kept me sane back then.
Me giving you my routine can give you ideas, but it’s not going to magically help you develop your perfect routine and make it stick.
Because you and I are two different people.
People with different needs, responsibilities, personalities, and genetics.
In this post, I’m giving you an 8-step framework to help you build your own routine, one that suits you and makes you happy because when you start the day right, everything falls into place.
This intentional daily routine framework will help you take the pieces and put a routine together like lego blocks.
I’m also giving you a complete description of my daily routine so you can get ideas if you want to.
You’ll notice my routine isn’t rigid at all, but it’s still a routine, so I hope it helps you build your own with ease.
Before we begin…
Before you start designing your routine, you must get very clear about three things:
- What do you want your routine to do for you?
- Do you want more free time?
- Do you want to take care of yourself better? (e.g., sleep more/better, work out, eat better, etc.)
- Do you want to be able to concentrate better?
- Which daily task do you HAVE TO include in your routine?
- Do you have to comply with a set schedule for work?
- Do you have meetings you need to attend at certain hours?
- What’s already working well in your routine?
Like I said before, I (and many other people) could give you a detailed description of their fantastic and effective daily routine.
But the fact that that routine works for them doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you.
Which areas of your life do you tend to leave unattended because you’re too caught up in the day-to-day?
Is it your health? Your mental health? Your hobbies? Your home?
Being clear about this will increase your self-awareness, so when it’s time to build your routine, you’ll know which habits you’d like to cultivate.
The perfect routine should allow you to take care of yourself and make progress in your job and/or business.
For point 1:
Keep these things in mind while designing your routine.
Usually, these are the things and activities that you tend to forget about while juggling the rest of your responsibilities.
Be very clear about what you want your routine to do for you and how.
If you want to feel more relaxed or reduce your anxiety, research habits and routines to help you achieve that.
Or, if you want to be more creative, keep that in mind.
For point 2:
What are your non-negotiables?
These are the “rigid” parts of your routines and the ones you’ll want to schedule first and then everything else around them.
For point 3:
These are the things you want to keep doing because they are good for you in some way.
8-Step Daily Routine Framework to Build the Perfect Routine for You
The areas this routine covers are:
- Waking up
- Mental health & cultivating gratitude
- Physical health & nutrition
- Personal growth/Learning & Hobbies
- Before work
- During work
- After work
- Going to bed
Here’s how to build a daily routine that works for you:
- Download the routine builder here.
- After reading this post, place the activity you want to do below each category. Fill the fields Do it before, Do it after, and Frequency.
1. Waking up: Wake up at around the same time every morning
Waking up at around the same time every day will give you a sense of structure, AND it’ll help you get rid of your alarm for good.
I won’t tell you you need to wake up before dawn to make your day count because that’s BS.
You don’t have to wake up before everybody else in your time zone.
You must get enough rest and wake up energized, not wake up before everybody else does.
Because the truth is, not all people can wake up at 5 a.m. every day and feel great.
According to Matthew Walker, author of Why We Sleep and sleep scientist, some people are wired to wake up later than others.
Basically, according to Walker, the whole world is divided into “morning larks” and “night owls.”
So, there are people who thrive in the mornings, while others can’t go to bed before 3 a.m.
Ideally, you’ll want to respect your own cycles and have your own schedule, but a schedule nonetheless.
Pay attention to when you’re the most productive and do the best you can to respect your biological rhythm.
If you have a traditional 9-5 or kids, this can be hard to do, I know, but at least try to stay true to your own rhythm and find ways to make it easier for you.
Set times to go to bed and to wake up that allow you to get 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep and stick to it.
2. Mental health: Meditate/Journal for ~ 5 minutes + Gratitude list
In my experience, it’s essential to do something nice for your mental health as soon as you wake up.
My daily routine in the morning includes skincare, stretching, and a 5-minute meditation.
I’ve been meditating on and off for around four years, and I can confidently say that I’ve seen a significant difference in my attention and anxiety levels when I’ve been consistent with it.
You don’t have to believe me; multiple research shows that meditating frequently can:
There are different types of meditation, and here’s how you can figure out which one is best for you.
But, whether you choose to use a meditation app, meditation music on YouTube, mindful walking, or body scanning, start small so that you can stay consistent.
Sit for 3-5 minutes a day for the first week and notice how you feel.
Something that works for me is meditating as soon as I wake up.
Before meditating, the only thing I do is pee, stretch for 5-10 minutes, and wash my face.
Doing it that way is what has helped me stay consistent for the longest period of time.
Journaling & Cultivating Gratitude
Journaling can help you:
- cope with stress better,
- know yourself better,
- solve problems more effectively,
- and reduce physical pain.
What’s great about journaling is that you don’t have to stick to it for long periods of time to notice the difference.
You’ll feel better right after your very first journaling session.
Another great thing you can do for your mental health is to write a gratitude list as soon as you wake up or right before bed.
Write a list of three things you’re grateful for that day.
Research shows that making gratitude lists can help you:
What do YOU want to do for your mental health?
There are other activities besides journaling and meditation that can help you take care of yourself mentally.
For some people, going for a run is their way of blowing off some steam.
For others, going to therapy or to a therapy group is exactly what they need.
What do you need right now?
3. Physical health: Stretch/Exercise/Eat nutritious food
Taking care of your physical health is a must if you want all of the other areas in your life to function.
If you’re not eating the right foods, if you’re not exercising at least 30 minutes a day or showing your body love in some way, it’ll affect you mentally.
If you sit on a desk for multiple hours a day, you need to prioritize stretching.
A couple of years ago, I was so stiff from sitting and typing all day that I started to feel a tingling sensation and pain in my hands.
It turns out my neck and shoulders were so stiff they were pressing a nerve on my spine.
It was awful but physical therapy, and regular stretching helped me recover completely.
That’s when I understood the importance of stretching.
- increases your range of motion,
- improves your flexibility, which can help prevent injuries,
- increases the blood flow to your muscles,
- helps calm your mind and relieve stress.
Stretching first thing in the morning will help you feel more energized to face the day ahead.
You don’t need to do anything fancy, and you don’t even need to get on the floor.
Focus on areas like your neck, shoulders, upper back, and lower back.
Stretch in a way that feels natural to you. Listen to what your body needs at that moment and do it.
Take breaks from sitting to stretch a little bit.
Move your head in circular motions while sitting to prevent muscular tension.
Research shows that moving your body and sweating for 30 to 40 minutes a day can help balance out 10 hours of sitting still.
If you haven’t built the exercise habit yet, here’s what you can do to start making it a part of your routine:
- Find the perfect activity for you. You don’t have to go for a run if you don’t like running; you can also try dancing or yoga.
- Start small. If you want to give running a try, start with 1 minute and build from there.
- Find the perfect kind of music to listen to while you’re at it. Some people like rock, others like reggaetón, some like trap, and some get in the mood by listening to Britney’s greatest hits. I’ve found that the music I listen to can make or break my workout session. Choose wisely.
- Experiment with different schedules. Try doing it as soon as you wake up, right before work, right after work, or whatever other moment of the day. Research shows that working out at night can affect the quality of your sleep, but if you want, you can try it out and see how you feel (and sleep afterward).
EAT NUTRITIOUS FOOD
Food is the fuel of the body.
If you’re not eating the right foods, you can’t expect your body and brain to function correctly.
Giving your body all the nutrients it needs can make all the difference when it comes to your concentration levels, for example.
I’m not a nutritionist, so I can’t advise you on this.
What I can do, though, is recommend some books about nutrition that can help you eat better and feel better:
- The Inflammation Spectrum: Find Your Food Triggers and Reset Your System
- Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual
- Intuitive Eating for Every Day: 365 Daily Practices & Inspirations to Rediscover the Pleasures of Eating
4. Hygiene/Skincare: Take a shower/Skincare routine
You can take a shower right after bed, put on lotion afterward, and you’re done.
But if you like taking your shower at a different time during the day, then at least dedicate 5-10 to doing your skincare right after bed.
It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.
Wash your face with a high-quality facewash that suits your skin, put on serum, and top with moisturizer.
It’s important to make taking care of yourself part of your routine.
Dedicating a couple of minutes every morning and evening to take care of your face makes a huge difference in how you look and feel.
5. Before work: Planning + Setting priorities
I recommend having some sort of pre-work ritual, whether you work from home or not.
This ritual should help you organize your tasks for the day, set priorities, and clear your head so you can be as effective as possible.
Take 5-10 minutes before starting to work to organize your to-do’s for the day, set priorities, and postpone whatever needs to be postponed.
Here’s how to write a better to-do list from now on.
6. During work
Research shows that sitting for long periods can put your health at risk.
So, during work, practice chair yoga and take 10-minute breaks every hour.
These minutes are for you to rest, relax, and recharge batteries to get back to work.
7. After work: Personal Growth/Learning/Social Life/Hobbies
In my opinion, this is the perfect time to devote to a hobby, your social life, learning, or taking care of your space.
But remember, try with different schedules and see what works for you.
Having a hobby or taking time to discover new things you like can help you fall in love with your life and feel happier.
Depending on how much time you have left after work, you can choose an activity like:
- drawing or painting
- going out with friends
- cleaning around the house
If you’re anything like me, chances are sometimes you’re super tired after work and just want to lie down and do nothing.
But I’ve found it’s important to make extra activities a priority too, not just work.
I started taking drawing lessons a couple of months ago and dedicating 20-30 minutes to doodle after work has made a massive difference in my skills.
Drawing every night has become a ritual to me, and I’d do anything not to skip my drawing session.
Before my drawing phase, there was nothing like this in my life.
If I finished working early, I hadn’t much else to do and that felt sad, so I just kept working until dinner.
This is, in my opinion, the perfect time to make room for activities you tend to ignore or neglect.
8. Going to bed
Turn bedtime into a whole ritual.
Stretch, read a book, meditate, listen to soothing music. Or do whatever you need to do to feel sleepy and relaxed.
If you had a rough day and there’s a lot on your mind right before bed, I highly recommend journaling for 5 or 10 minutes.
Putting your thoughts down to paper will help you clear your head and get a good night’s sleep.
If you’re overwhelmed or frustrated with work and are thinking a lot about what you need to do the next day, take a couple of minutes to write a to-do list.
What I usually do before bed is watch TV.
I’ll be honest with you… I love watching an episode or two of The Office before bed. It makes me laugh and relax a lot, plus watching TV makes me sleepy.
They say we should avoid screens at all costs before going to sleep, but this works for me!
If you notice that watching TV at night negatively affects the quality of your sleep, then avoid it.
What works for YOU? You’ll have to figure that one out on your own.
Daily Routine Example
Here’s what my routine looks like:
- Wake up at around 6:30 a.m. – 7:30 a.m., no alarm.
- Do my morning skincare routine (facewash + serum + moisturizer).
- Stretch for 5-10 minutes. I usually go with whatever I feel like doing, but here are some simple stretches you can do in your bathroom if you want ideas.
- Meditate for 5-8 minutes with Insight Timer. It’s a free meditation app that I love because it allows you to customize the timer to your liking.
- Change to workout clothes. I work from home, and I’ve found that staying in my pajamas makes me sleepy, while changing to different clothes helps me feel more ready to tackle my to-do’s.
- Make breakfast. My meals always include high-quality protein (like eggs, chicken, or fish), carbs (like corn tortillas, cassava, or potatoes), fat (like avocado or almond butter), vegetables (like mushrooms, zucchinis, spinach, or others), and a piece of fruit (in the mornings). Sometimes I drink coffee. Sometimes I drink tea. Sometimes I don’t drink anything.
- Journal for 3-5 minutes if I’m having a regular day, but sometimes I journal for a little longer if I’m sad, angry, or frustrated.
- Make a list of 3 things I absolutely need to get done that day, in order of importance. I usually start with what’s most urgent, but I’ve tried starting with the most challenging/annoying/tedious task like some people recommend, which works as well.
- Work. I take 5-10 minute breaks every 45 to 60 minutes. I don’t like sitting for too long as sitting is terrible for your health, and I know what it’s like to face health issues. And I hate it. I don’t want more of that.
- Outdoor workout. I usually go at around 11 or 11:30 a.m. because that’s when the weather’s the nicest, and I love working out under the sun where I currently live. When I worked out at the gym, I usually worked out at around 7 a.m.
- Drink a protein shake + take a shower.
- Make lunch + eat.
- Sometimes I take a 20-minute break after lunch to read or play video games, but other days I just get right back to work.
- Work, taking 5-10 minute breaks every hour or so to walk around or lie down on the couch and read, but I usually don’t sit again during my breaks because they’re meant to give my body a break from sitting.
- If work is light that day, I work until 4:00 or 4:30 p.m. If not, I work until 7:00 o 7:30 p.m. but usually no later than that.
- Draw/Paint or watch video courses for one hour or one hour and a half if I’m not hungry yet.
- Make dinner + eat.
- If it’s early, I’ll paint some more. I recently discovered my love for digital painting, and I love it so much I always find the time to paint for at least 30 minutes every night.
- Evening skincare routine.
- Watch 1-2 episodes of one of these shows: The Office (my absolute favorite), Scrubs, or Everybody Hates Chris. I know they say you should avoid screens before bedtime but watching TV makes me sleepy, and these shows make me laugh and help me relax. So, yeah, my habits aren’t perfect.
- Sleep at around 9:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
Why Are Routines Important
Following a daily routine:
- gives you structure,
- benefits your mental health,
- helps you get everything done,
- can make you happier,
- frees your mind from having to think about what to do next, which helps prevent burnout,
- and can even help you live a healthier life.
That’s why I believe that building a routine that helps you stay productive will help you reduce anxiety and avoid feeling painfully bored with life in general.
Structuring the day like this sounds overwhelming and even rigid for some people.
But when you’re sure you’re dedicating enough time to everything, you’ll actually feel more at peace and free.
Plus, it liberates you from having to make decisions day after day.
Besides, creating a routine and a schedule doesn’t mean you have to follow it to the letter day after day.
Life happens, and sooner than later, you’ll realize a routine is less rigid than it sounds.
If you nail your daily routine, you’ll have enough free time to do things you enjoy instead of spending each day of your life juggling a bunch of responsibilities.
4 Simple Tips to Make This Work
1) Pay attention to how you feel
Some people prefer to work out first thing in the morning while others prefer to go after work. Some prefer to read before bed because it helps them sleep better.
What do YOU like?
Do you prefer to meditate in the morning, before going to sleep, or both?
Do you like journaling before starting your workday? Or do you prefer to journal… I don’t know, after lunch?
There’s no right or wrong here. Remember that what’s important is that you build a routine you love.
2) Start simple
Starting can be exciting, so that’s why many people implement a bunch of changes at once but burn out shortly afterward and end up quitting.
You don’t want that to happen to you. You don’t want to feel that level of frustration.
That’s why it’s really, really important that you implement small changes at a time.
Start small, and you’ll build more solid foundations for your routine.
3) What works for me won’t necessarily work for you
I like to practice my drawing and other hobbies right after work, but maybe you prefer to wake up earlier to do it.
Or perhaps you don’t like journaling (how could you not? 😮) and prefer to do a breathing meditation before work instead of spending 5 minutes writing on your journal.
You do you, but make sure what you’re doing works for you and takes you closer to your goals.
4) Creating the perfect routine for you is a process that never ends
You’re not the same person you were a year ago, and a year from now, you won’t be the same person you’re today.
We change and evolve, and for your routine to work, it has to evolve with you.
Be mindful of the things you stop liking, of your new responsibilities, and of your new way of getting things done.
Adjust your daily routine accordingly and make it grow with you.
The Bottom Line
Routines aren’t set in stone: always pay attention to how your routine makes you feel.
Make any adjustment you think it’s necessary, but go slow and take it easy; trying to change too many things at once is a recipe for failure and will leave you frustrated.