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Wake Up & Smell the Routine

"With consistency and reps and routine you're going to achieve your goals and get where you want to be." -Mandy Rose

As I flip the page in my planner to reveal a brand-new month, I find myself reflecting on the themes and goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year. Themes of mindfulness and health (both physical and mental) broken down into goals of identifying my personal needs and changing my environment to better support a more productive, enriching life. We have all dealt with our fair share of emotional exhaustion and mental health slumps due to the pandemic. Loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, financial stress, changes in plans for major life events, isolation…the list goes on and on as we each face our personal journey through these unprecedented times. All we can do is our best.

Declutter Your Space, Declutter Your Mind

Over the past month I have started to change my perspective, letting go of the things that I cannot change and focusing instead on the things I can change. I began by thoughtfully observing my surroundings, taking note of the areas that were causing me the most stress and concentrating my energy into making these spaces more functional. By keeping my major goals for the year at the forefront of my mind I was able to visualize re-working my living space to best support these goals. I approached each section of our 700 square foot apartment with a mindset of "how would I like to use this space” and took the time to be honest with myself about all the things that we had laying around that we NEVER use.

One of the things that brought me the biggest sense of relief and accomplishment? Editing and re-organizing our kitchen cabinets! Kitchen storage and counterspace are definitely not terms that would be on the listing for our apartment. Overtime this has resulted in cluttered counters, constantly moving things around to get anything done, and storing things I use daily in a separate room. With one of my stepping stone goals for improving my physical health being more consistent meal prep, not having a functional kitchen space was a huge hurdle standing in my way. Why do we need 8 wine glasses in our main cabinet when I am the only one here who drinks wine? Why do we need 6 coffee mugs when I only ever use the same one? Why do we need a whole stack of old souvenir cups that we haven’t used in months? WE DON’T! It’s not like we are currently entertaining friends or hosting large dinner parties. By simply packing away the items that we don’t need or use on a daily basis I was able to not only make this cabinet more functional but also open up space for the things I do use. Now my Pyrex containers are within arm’s reach instead of in a whole separate room and my mixing bowls are no longer taking up space in my “pantry cabinet”. It’s a beautiful thing. With just a little time and effort I was able to transform my tiny kitchen from a source of stress into a place that brings me joy.

Similarly, I finally cleared out all the clutter that has blocking off my small office/workout space. Accessibility is EVERYTHING! And yes, there are now neatly packed boxes piled up on the opposite side of the apartment and my “walk-in” closet is pretty much just a storage unit at this point but the things I need and use daily are now easy to get to and set up to meet my goals. Who needs access to their whole wardrobe now a days anyway? I think sometimes we truly don’t realize how much our environment can affect our mental state until we take the time to make some changes and see how they feel. By changing the spaces around you, you can set yourself up for success in building routines that fit your current needs.

Benefits of Building Routines

Now that I had created a functional, decluttered environment my next step was to start rebuilding a solid daily routine. Whether you are someone who thrives on a structured schedule, someone who prefers the freedom to see where the day takes you, or a little bit of both, we can all benefit from creating daily routines that work for us. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, I challenge you to evaluate what you are currently doing open and honestly. Are your current habits and systems allowing you to be your best self? It’s okay if they aren’t. Pat yourself on the back if they are. Use whatever realizations you have about your current routines to drive you forward. If it’s working for you then continue to work it. If you find you aren’t satisfied, make the commitment to yourself right now to do better for yourself.

Some proven benefits of building a daily routine include decreased stress levels, an increased sense of control, and improvements in your focus, organization, and productivity. The biggest benefit is that by scheduling the things that you NEED to get done each week (work, household chores, errands) you will have more time for the things you WANT to do (exercise, reading, a nice relaxing bath). It is important to mention here that when you create your routines, set aside time for self-care and follow through with it. Don’t let your self-care time become expendable if other things don’t go as planned. Everyone always associates health with the physical…here is your gentle reminder that your mental health is just as important! The biggest roadblock to self-care is usually “I don’t have the time” but by building a routine you can make that time. Start small! Is your ideal self-care reading or writing each day? Start by carving out 5-10 minutes daily for this activity. Don’t have time for an hour-long workout at the gym? Try to fit in a short morning stretch or a short walk during the day. You will begin to see that when you make these 15-20 minutes each day a priority it gets easier and easier to fit them in.

Start Today & Keep Going Tomorrow

Creating (and sticking to) a new routine may seem like a daunting task, because it kind of is. Just focus on consistency and be kind to yourself throughout the process. Your future self will thank you! The easiest way to begin building a routine is to make a general list of all the things that you NEED to accomplish each week. You could even spend a week simply writing down what you’re already doing day to day in real time. Once you have a basic idea of the “musts” for each week, now get to work on the “wants”. Next, begin arranging the tasks into a weekly schedule. This part of the process will be trial and error and will take some time and effort.

A great way to figure out how to arrange your routine to best fit your needs is to begin paying attention to the natural flow of your energy throughout the day. Are you a morning person? Try to put all the tasks that require the most thinking first in the day, then as the afternoon rolls around and your energy is dipping utilize that time to “re-charge”. This will be different for each individual…maybe a short walk, maybe listening to some music, maybe a nice cup of tea. With your more challenging/high-priority tasks out of the way and a little time for yourself you can now tackle some of the monotonous tasks on your list such as household chores and meal prep. If you’re more of a night owl then flip this list around. Some simple things that I started with included set wake times and set mealtimes; going forward I want to focus on a more structured bedtime and set time for writing. Whatever you do, make it work FOR YOU!

What have you been doing the last month to work towards your goals? Did you start the year strong or do you find yourself struggling to gain momentum? We would love to hear from you!


Sarah Targonski

Newest member of the Nora team

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