5 essential routines for a sustainable workweek

5 essential routines for a sustainable workweek
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Every first and third Wednesday, our Head of Community Anna Dearmon Kornick hosts a LIVE deep dive into a different time management topic. Then, she opens up the floor for your questions and coaching.

This week we learned how to design a more sustainable workweek by incorporating five essential routines. 

The benefits of routines

What does a sustainable work week mean to you?

For many, it looks like ending the week feeling energized and accomplished. Good routines can make your work week, and your life in general, more sustainable. However, not all routines are created equal.

Routines are defined as a sequence of actions you regularly follow.

Routines differ from habits in that habits require little or no conscious thought, while routines require a higher degree of intention or effort.

The benefits of routines are many. Some include:

  • Decreased stress
  • More restful sleep
  • Improved physical and mental health

While there are many routines you could incorporate to create a more sustainable week, the following five are a great starting point.


Morning routine

Your morning routine prepares you mentally and physically for the day ahead. This could include exercise, breakfast, personal development, or simply getting yourself and your family dressed and ready for the day.

  • Common pitfall: Trying to do too much. When you attempt to accomplish too many things in your morning routine, you can begin to feel rushed and overwhelmed.
  • Helpful tip: Know yourself. Be realistic about what you can actually accomplish before you begin your workday.

Evening routine

Your evening routine prepares you mentally and physically for a restful night’s sleep. The CDC recommends adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Your evening routine could include a specific time that you shut down devices, an evening skincare or hygiene routine, reading or other activities that prepare you for sleep.

  • Common pitfall: Getting lost in the scroll or sucked into a tv binge. When you lose track of time, you can accidentally stay up much later than you intended.
  • Helpful tip: Set a wind down alarm that reminds you to put away your devices and start preparing for bedtime.

Workday Startup

A workday startup routine is like the morning routine of your workday. It helps you transition from “not working” to “working” and signals to your brain that it’s time to focus. A workday startup routine should be simple and only include a few quick steps. A workday startup routine is especially important for remote workers because it signals a change in mindset despite minimal change in your environment. 

  • Common pitfall: Trying to do too much. Just like it’s tempting to pack as much as possible into your morning routine, if you attempt to do too much during your workday startup, you’ll be tempted to skip it and lose the benefit of revving up for the workday.
  • Helpful tip: Keep it simple. The steps of your workday startup routine should easily fit on a sticky note.

Workday Shutdown

Like the workday startup, the workday shutdown routine is a short routine that helps you wrap up your workday and shift from “working” to “not working” so you can be more present in your downtime. 

  • Common pitfall: Not starting early enough. When you look up at the clock and it’s suddenly time to end your day, you’ll be more likely to skip your workday shutdown routine. This can lead to worry about what’s left to finish, as well as the status of current projects.
  • Helpful tip: Put your workday shutdown routine on your calendar. This way you’ll have a visual reminder and time dedicated to shutting down and closing the tabs on your browser (and in your brain).

Weekly Planning Session

A weekly planning session is time you spend each week planning the week ahead. It’s your bird’s eye view of the coming week that enables you to identify obstacles, plan ahead, catch communication breakdowns before they happen, and get a game plan for your week. Whether you conduct your weekly planning session on Sunday morning or Friday afternoon, it’s an essential practice for a sustainable workweek.

  • Common pitfall: Not having a plan for your plan. When you sit down to plan your week, but you haven’t decided what exactly you’re planning for, you’ll waste time spinning your wheels instead of planning.
  • Helpful tip: Create an agenda for your weekly planning session and follow it in the same order each time. This will help you identify what you need to have on hand and close by in order to make your planning session a success.

How to design an effective routine

One of the most common reasons why we give up on intentional routines is because they don’t fit well into our existing default habits. Additionally, we can be overambitious and attempt to create a routine that’s too long or too cumbersome to maintain.

Here are 7 steps to design an effective routine.

  1. Make a list of your “must do’s.” What are the things you absolutely must do during your routine? Common examples include brushing your teeth or taking the dog out.
  2. List your “want to’s.” What are the things you’d like to incorporate into your routine in addition to the things you must do? This might include meditation or exercise.
  3. Estimate how much time each activity should take you. It’s always better to overestimate than underestimate.
  4. Reverse engineer. What time do you need to complete your routine? Once you identify your end time, use your estimations to determine what time you need to begin your routine in order to complete each step.
  5. Make adjustments. Usually once you reverse engineer you realize that you may not be able to fit everything into your routine as you’d hoped. Decide what you can cut in order to make your routine realistic.
  6. Post your routine where you can easily see it as you’re performing each step. This is helpful as you ingrain the routine and help it become a habit.
  7. Practice your routine. Walk through the steps. Notice what works and what doesn’t. Continue to adjust until you land on a realistic routine that works for you.

About the author

Anna Dearmon Kornick

Anna Dearmon Kornick is a Time Management Coach and host of It's About Time, a podcast about work, life and balance. As Head of Community at Clockwise, Anna is on a mission to help the world spend time on what matters.

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