Create an amazing Routine • Cat Morley

With so many distractions in day-to-day life and work, it can be hard to stay on track while remembering what you were supposed to be doing. Recently I've started sticking to a routine to help me stay focused and it's changed everything. Not only do I know what I'm supposed to be doing when, I'm confident that I'm getting everything done and not spending too much time procrastinating.

There used to be a Crunchy Nut Cornflakes advert, where a White House assistant would look at his watch and predict what the President was doing at a particular time, knowing that he stuck to his schedule like clockwork. "9.15, he's in the shower… 9.22 he gets dressed… 9.30 he has his cereal... ". I would act out this advert in my head as I got ready for school in the mornings, dreaming of a day when my life would be equally as efficient. I doubt that anyone had a schedule quite as accurate (except for maybe Anna Wintour) but since I started my routine, I feel more productive than ever. There are still days when motivation doesn't kick in but at least I can slug through what I know I'm supposed to be doing rather than fretting about the unknown.

The most important thing about creating a routine is that it lets you focus on the bigger picture, guaranteeing that you're completing tasks which will lead you towards your dreams and goals. Even better, it lets you know when you're done for the day, which isn't always clear when you're freelancing or your own boss, so you can pack up with confidence and go have fun. With those things in mind, it's time to get started creating your very own routine...

1. Make a checklist

You may remember having to work to checklists in science classes at high school. They may have seemed a little tedious or unnecessary at the time, but they're actually the perfect way to keep on track with work, while giving you the peace of mind that you're not forgetting anything.

Start by making a list of all the things you have to do in a day, with everything from making the bed and posting a blog to checking your calendar and charging your camera batteries. Include everything you can think of, big and small, and don't feel you have to limit it to work-only tasks. Please note that it's important not to confuse a checklist with a to-do list. A checklist should only include repetitive tasks that you do everyday. You can store this list digitally on your computer or phone, or physically in a diary or on the wall - whatever works best for you. Just make sure it's on hand, so that you can access it quickly. My routine changes a lot, so digital works better and I have it as a Text file, in a bullet-point list, open on my desktop.

2. Schedule your tasks

Schedule your checklist so that it starts with the tasks you do when you first wake up to the last tasks that come before heading to bed. Keep this list as close to the order you're likely to do the actions in real life but don't be tempted to put a time next to each task - this shouldn't be a time sheet and we're not trying to be like the President. You need to keep it flexible enough so that it works around distractions and things that come up - everyday is different, so it's impossible to predict what will get in your way each day. I like to multi-task, so as I work through the checklist, I highlight 4-5 tasks (with my cursor) to work on at one time. When I complete the first set, I move on to the next 5 tasks. This system works really well because if I get distracted or lose focus, I can just glance back to the checklist and clearly see what I was in the middle of.

3. Time yourself

Another great tip is to time how long each task takes. Have you ever wondered how many seconds it takes to get dressed, prepare lunch or answer all of your emails? Get a stopwatch (or the timer on your phone) and take a note of how long it takes for you to complete each thing on your checklist. You may be surprised by how much more time, or less time, each task takes! Sometimes I look back after a long day and find it hard to pinpoint where all of my time went. With this, you'll know exactly how long all of your work takes and how much time you spent procrastinating or looking at cat videos on the side. The real value in this task is that it will help you to schedule ongoing. If you've got a meeting that's going to take a chunk out of your day, then you can work out how much earlier you need to start to make up for lost time.

4. Prioritise dreams & goals

It's so easy to get caught up in day to day chores that you lose sight of the big picture and find you're not getting any closer to your dreams. A routine is the perfect way to change this, making your goals top priority and making you work to get a little bit closer to your dreams everyday. I'll talk about achieving your dreams more in a future article, but the best way to hit big goals is to do a little bit everyday. I have five goals, which were my resolutions that I set at the start of the year, written at the top of my routine. They're in a large font and take pride of place, so that I can see them at the start of everyday.

Another little OCD thing I like to do is colour code each of my goals. I can then use the same colour to highlight each of the tasks that co-ordinate with these goals. It works well because I can see from afar that I'm dedicating the right amount of time to each of my goals everyday.

5. Daily tasks vs. weekly tasks

As well as a day-to-day checklist, I have individual checklists to correspond with each day of the week. For example, on Monday, I have to launch a new Crafty Superstar and on Tuesday, I need to remember to put out the recycling. This may not work for everyone, but I like to divide my work tasks across the week, focusing on one area of Cut Out + Keep for each day of the week. Monday is Crafty Superstars, Tuesday is the blog, Wednesday is Snippets, Thursday is contests and I take a chance to review everything and finish off loose ends on Friday. I take this same approach for all of my personal projects too.

6. Review your progress

To make sure you're working to the best possible routine, it's important to review your checklists every now and then to make sure that they're up to date, all the tasks are still relevant and that they're working for you. Incorporate any new goals or dreams you have as you get them and continually look for ways to streamline your system and be more efficient. It's always great to talk over your routine with someone else, in case they have a good idea for how you can improve or suggestions for new tasks to add.

For more tips and advice on routines, check out these links:

Good luck setting up your own routine and let me know if you have any questions. I'd love to hear how you keep yourself organised or any tips which might help me improve my system.