As we approach the last few months of the academic year and the workload begins to intensify, I’ve found myself getting dangerously close to a point of burn-out. Unfortunately, this slump is fairly common, and you may be feeling it too.
Through navigating these feelings, I’ve discovered just how important creating routine can be. It sounds simple, but with a timetable that differs day-by-day and everchanging deadlines and commitments, a routine can offer some much-needed continuity. I feel much more productive, less overwhelmed, and generally more in control of my life when I implement some structure.
Remember, everyone is different and what works for me may not apply to you. Nevertheless, by sharing some steps to my own routine, I hope to inspire you to start creating yours.
Wake up at the same time each day.
I know what you’re thinking, there’s no way you’re waking up at 9am on a Saturday. I hear you! This is a routine I implement loosely, but I’ve found that at least during the week, setting an alarm for the same time every morning has been really valuable.
Some days I don’t have any commitments until the afternoon, and on others I have to be at a lecture for 10am. I find it so hard to make my early classes if I’ve got into the habit of sleeping in later, so now try to wake up around 8:30am every week day regardless of my schedule. This routine has definitely improved how I feel physically, and although going out does definitely knock me off track a little, I find it really useful to aim for.
Prepare the night before
This is quite self-explanatory, but by packing my bag, laying out my outfit and preparing breakfast and lunch the night before, I find getting out of the house the next morning so much easier. As simple as this sounds, I think this routine makes a big difference and is a great starting point to adding some more structure to your days.
If you need some inspiration, I usually make overnight oats for breakfast, which can be heated up in the microwave in the morning or eaten cold on warmer days. I eat this while catching up with the news, which I’ve found to be one of my favourite parts of the day because it is a well-established and relaxing routine. There are endless meal ideas online!
Make a daily to-do list.
If you know me, you’ll be familiar with my obsession with Microsoft To-do. This isn’t an ad (I wish!), and there are so many methods of making a to-do list, but I notice that doing so has a really positive impact on my mental health.
I write a list every weekend of everything I need to do for the week ahead, which includes all of my lecture and seminar readings as well as work for any deadlines or non-University related tasks. This really helps me to feel less overwhelmed.
I then write a smaller one every morning as soon as I arrive at the library, or occasionally the night before if I’m feeling really overwhelmed. These consist of choosing tasks from my larger list that I plan to complete that day. Sometimes I list tasks in order of when I want to do them, or other times I list them randomly and work through the list as I feel.
I can’t stress enough how much this method helps to ease my mind and increase my productivity, as it offers some direction and clarity to what I actually need to achieve.
For many of us, University is one of the only times in our lives where we will not be tied down to a full-time job, live nearby this many friends or be able to be as spontaneous. This is such a privilege, and although routines are great, they shouldn’t stand in the way of making the most of this time.
Within reason, it’s great to say yes to plans, even if they disrupt your routine a little. It’s a hard balance to strike, but keeping yourself on track whilst being able to adapt your routine around your life is a really powerful skill.