Anyone remember that back-to-school Staples commercial? "It's the most wonderful time of the year!" I remember sitting in the living room with my parents watching it come on. All the school supplies were piled high on the car, pieces of white paper trailing down the road. The adults were gleeful and the children were crying.
Unlike the children in the commerical, I loved back-to-school. Not because of the school aspect, but because of the people aspect. I missed my friends. I missed being around people who understood me, and brought me joy. That was the part of school that I thrived in- the social part! The part of school I was surviving in (and let's be real, I still struggle with) is building the routine of school. The morning routines of getting ready, the homework routine of getting everything completed and the whole process of staying engaged through each lesson. There always came a point in the year that I became so overwhelmed that I would give up.
For me this would look like the time I hid my report card and told my parents there was a glitch and I didn't get one. Or the time that I tricked my high school counselor into thinking that I had dropped Oceanography when in reality I just stopped going. But at home it just meant that when I was asked "Did you do your homework?" I would answer with "Yes, I already did it." I did whatever I could to avoid the lecture, punishment, or restriction. I learned quickly that it was far easier for me to make up a lie or an excuse that be honest and share that I was overwhelmed and struggling.
What I really needed, and honestly I still struggle with, is how to build a routine and structure that works for me. I needed someone to help keep me accountable and cheer me on while learning how to learn something foreign and anxiety inducing. I needed some individual support in learning how to stay accountable and on top of things. As an adult, I have found ways to lean into this process more and more. And today I wanted to share a fresh perspective on how to build a routine that works. So today I am introducing you someone who I have been inspired by, talking about something I struggle with.
Routines! I’m a huge fan of the word and process, but it can make other people run away and scream. That feeling of being boxed in, living your life by your calendar, or having to be super disciplined can seem constrictive. In fact, it’s JUST the opposite. The more structure you have in your day, the more freedom you’ll have in your life.
Maybe this is a good place to introduce myself! I’m Sydney - the founder and owner of Chic Stripes, a full service personal styling company that focuses on helping women create sustainable and timeless wardrobes. I’ve been following MegAnne on Instagram for a while now and when she asked me to write about routines (a subject I’m super passionate about) of course I said yes.
About a year ago, I attempted to adopt a Model Calendar (I learned this method form Rachel Cook). The idea is simple: schedule in self-care, you/family time etc., FIRST, then schedule in your business/work stuff - everything gets a place in the calendar from lunch, to work, to working out. I was in 20 thousand places at one time between freelancing and working in my business and I figured some structure and routine would be good. Well, my attempts were all huge failures, so I just kept running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Flash forward to the end of 2017 and I KNEW I had to get this in place. I used December as my “test” month for how I wanted to frame up my week and then went headlong into this in January 2018 and never looked back.
I use a combo of a lot of different techniques to keep myself sane and organized but one of the biggest is my morning routine which is integrated into my model calendar. So I’ll break it down for you in two ways - one will be big picture of how I structure my week and then micro picture of how I structure my daily, morning routine.
BIG PICTURE - Model Calendar
Mondays = CEO Day (admin stuff and big picture project day)
Tuesdays = Personal Styling client day (in-person sessions, virtual, shopping, working on their style plans, etc.)
Wednesdays = Content Creation (write blog posts, marketing, social media, also I sometimes take a half day here!)
Thursdays = Biz coaching (I coach other personal stylists how to have successful businesses, so I set aside this day for calls)
Fridays = Personal Styling client day (see Tuesday)
I block off each day in my calendar based on the day’s theme and then I go in and schedule all individual appointments for the given day. There is also flexibility built in (if a client just cannot do T or F, we can look at another day for example), but for the most part, these days are sacred. It’s my way of managing all that I have to do while also retaining sanity and freeing up brain space. I know that I don’t have to worry about client projects - they will get done on Tuesdays and Fridays, so no need to stress about them on Monday, Wednesday or Thursday.
MICRO PICTURE - Morning Routine
Now for the juicy stuff. My morning routine! I started a morning routine last fall after learning about this from Danika Brysha. I use Evernote to create a template that I can copy + paste for each new day and it has evolved quite a bit over time so that it stays fresh and can always serve me for where I am in life and business. The basic overview always flows something like this:
Work out - 6-7 AM - either yoga, rock climbing, a run or a walk. Mostly by myself, sometimes with my sister, husband or group activity
Whole 30 style breakfast + coffee / shower / get ready - 7/7:30-8 AM
Self-Care Checklist - 8 / 8:30 AM
Reading - I usually read a paragraph or two from 2-3 books that are inspiring me - usually in these categories: spiritual, personal development, and money.
Gratitude - I will write down three things I’m thankful for and why.
Affirmations - whatever I need to affirm! Sometimes this is the same thing for weeks on end, other times I shake it up.
Daily love letter to husband - I write something I love / admire / respect about him and send it to him in an email.
Future biography - daydream time! This is basically where I create what I want my future to look like. I write a biography about myself 5, 10 years in the future from the perspective of someone else - I write about business goals, money goals, life goals, etc. It’s one of my favorite times!
Meditation - anywhere from 2-10 minutes. I use the app Insight Timer (it’s free!) and I love it.
Tidy house - 8:30 / 9 AM - it’s important to me to have a clean environment, so this includes making the bed, doing dishes, etc.
Work! 9 / 10 AM
When I can check off each of these things every morning, I KNOW I’ll be on track to have a good day. In fact, the day could go to sh*t and I’d still have a good one because I will be grounded - I will have taken care of myself and put me first. I even try to do this on the weekends and while traveling because I know it literally keeps me sane. If I don’t do it, I can tell!
Occasionally I don’t do all of my morning routine in one go - usually I’ll always work out first thing, but sometimes I don’t get to my reading, gratitude, meditation, etc. until later in the day and that is a-okay. It’s not about perfectly checking off my boxes just to check off the boxes (although as a Type A person that is very satisfying), but about making sure I am doing the things that feed me and that I know, from trial and error, make me a better person, wife, sister, stylist, coach and business owner.
So here are my takeaways (make sure to share your in the comments):
1. It's okay to have different variations while establishing your routine. Big Picture/Micro Picture. You'll need to strike a balance between getting the non-negotiable tasks done while staying flexible to life.
2. Putting self-care first is a must. When we try to pour from empty cups it leaves everyone burned out and stressed more. I have felt this 100%. I never do my best work when I'm running on empty. (Remember H.A.L.T?)
3. Creating some sort of visual to help keep yourself accountable through your routine is a must. Too often we put undue pressure on ourselves to hold on to information that would better serve us written down. Like a routine. No need to take up bandwidth creating it from scratch. Write it down, post it up, and check in with it throughout the day!
4. Practice practice practice!!!
If chaos and power struggles are ruling your home- reach out, let's chat. You don't have to do this alone.