How to Make and Keep a Routine

How to Make and Keep a Routine

With kids, a great way to create accountability is to do what some teachers do: Fill up a jar with small rocks or coins, or add stickers to a chart for each accomplished task. If they have completed daily tasks or chores, then perhaps your children can be rewarded by picking the movie for movie night, or choosing the dessert.

“There’s a reason we see teachers in kindergarten through third grade using this,” said Corinn Cross, a pediatrician and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “It’s motivating.”

Sleep is what frames our days. “Our day starts when we wake up, and ends when we fall asleep at night,” said Jennifer Martin, a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. She suggests figuring out a wake-up time that works for you, and sticking to it six or seven days a week. “This might mean getting up a little earlier than you want on the weekends, but it will set you up for good sleep the next night,” she said. Keep a consistent bedtime, too.

Meals can also provide a framework. “Understanding your own individual eating schedule can optimize the way we structure our day by letting us know what times would be best to do other activities — like exercising, sleeping, or work,” said May Zhu, founder of Nutrition Happens, a nutritional counseling service.

Cooking is also a great family activity, Ms. Zhu added. “By blocking out a set time to cook before a meal, you have the opportunity to get the kids involved, and give them a sense of control, to learn more about food and making healthy choices,” she said. Experts also suggest using dinner as a way to structure screen time for kids, like agreeing to one show before or after dinner.

While you might be great at creating a schedule for yourself, you need to consider whether it is actually working.

“Check in and reflect on the routine that you’ve established,” Ms. Dokun said. “That’s the one piece that people often miss.” It may take as long as three weeks to really develop a rhythm. If you still haven’t hit your stride by then, it’s time to make adjustments. “This kind of ‘failure’ is helpful in illuminating your true beliefs about your rhythm and revealing blind spots that keep you from being successful,” she said.

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