As the co-founder of Clique Media Group—the parent company of our four content brands—Who What Wear, Byrdie, MyDomaine, and Obsessee—I’ve had many funny realizations as we’ve grown our company from two people to a team of over 150 within the past decade. In addition to reluctantly admitting that I can’t have coffee after 11:30 AM (gee thanks, insomnia), I’ve also finally embraced the fact that the more responsibilities I have, the more routine my life is becoming—and that’s not a bad thing.
Somewhere along the way, I discovered that the key to having a successful day—both at work and off-duty—is to create structure that’ll allow my days to run more predictably and calmly. Yes, on a good day, having these routines in place means it’s all smooth sailing (and who doesn’t love that?). But on a rough day, a day when everything goes wrong, these small daily steps often save my sanity.
1. Get (Enough) Sleep
When I first started my career, FOMO meant that burning the candle at both ends was standard operating procedure. But just because you can get by on a few hours of sleep and endless cups of coffee doesn’t mean that you should. The easiest way to set yourself up for a great day is simple: Sleep well the night before.
If falling asleep doesn’t come easily to you, it’s well worth figuring out your own best practices. Dr. Frank Lipman, an internationally recognized expert and author, got us in the habit of practicing an “electronic sundown.” Yep, it’s exactly what it sounds like: no phones, computers, or TVs for at least a couple of hours before bed.
Sure, you’ve heard it before, and yes the “no screentime” policy might not make sense for you. However what everyone can (and should) do is figure out how many hours you need to sleep per night and how much time it takes for you to wind down before going to bed. (Literally) rest assured, getting enough quality shuteye will make your life so much easier, it’s well worth not answering emails into the wee hours of the night.
2. Do the Proper Prep Whenever Possible
There’s so much going on when you wake up in the morning: Your inbox is filling up, your dog needs to go for a walk, it’s raining and you can’t find your one working umbrella. Give yourself a break by doing as much as possible the night before: Pick out your outfit, make your lunch, get your work bag together, put your keys where you know you’ll see them.
The big takeaway here: Make as many decisions for yourself the night before so you don’t suffer from decision fatigue before you even get to the office.
And when you do get to the office, the prep doesn’t stop. In fact, that brings us to:
3. Find a To-Do List System That Works for You
There’s something so satisfying about being able to check things off a to-do list , but that’s not the only reason I start my morning by creating one. It really helps set my intentions for the day and keep me focused. Personally, I love handwriting a list in my go-to notebook, but if I don’t have time for that, I make a list in Evernote, which is basically my best friend.
However, that might not work for you. That’s why so many choices exist. If you’re currently not having any success with pen and paper, try downloading an app . And if an app’s only distracting you, try sticky notes. Somewhere, out there, is a method that’ll make your life easier—however no one can find it besides you.
4. Schedule Like Your Life Depends on It
Similar to the tip above, one way to make sure you’re staying focused and accomplishing as much as possible is to know what you have coming up on a given day, week, or month. (Oh, and this might seem obvious, but have one place to keep all this information—whether it’s an old-fashioned planner or Google Calendar.)
In my iCal, I’ll set aside specific hours to respond to email, devote chunks of time to certain projects, and use the timeline I create to ensure everything pressing gets done. Will certain to-do items get pushed due to unforeseen emergencies? Of course, but having a record of them makes it easier to bump them to another day or week.
5. Take Breaks When You Need Them
When you’re trying to solve a problem or come up with a new idea for something, and the answer isn’t appearing, don’t sit at your desk stressing out. Sometimes you just need to take a break . Getting up from your workspace, enjoying a little change of scenery, and just moving around sometimes gives you the perspective you need to get inspired and tackle the issue that’s been stumping you.
And, like everything else, this break should be whatever works for you: Go for a walk, talk to a co-worker, grab coffee with a colleague you never see outside meetings, eat lunch away from your desk, check out a cool site . It’s amazing how much more perspective you can get on a situation when you step away from it for just a little bit.
So here’s the thing: Like rules, routines are made to be broken, and inevitably some crisis will disrupt your finely planned routine. Don’t worry about it too much; just try to get back on track again tomorrow, and, in the meantime, that’s what happy hour’s for. Or so I hear. Do you have your own routine that makes your day go smoothly. Tell me on Twitter @HillaryKerr .