Routines vs. Schedules

Which works best for you?

"The secret to being organized in your day is not in your to do list,
it is in your routines."
krystal kleidon

lesson 1

What is a routine?

Often routine and schedule are terms that are used interchangeably, however they can have a significantly different impact on how you manage your day. 

I was first introduced to the idea of a routine when I started working shift work and had to figure out how to sleep effectively during the day between night shifts (a skill I still haven’t perfected). Rather than just hoping I’d be tired enough to sleep, I created a post work routine that I completed whether I finished day shift or night shift and it allowed me to switch to a ‘relaxed’ vibe and sleep better. 

So, what does this have to do with managing your day? 

As you may have worked out, a routine is a set of tasks that occur in a particular order or sequence that can be repeated at different times. 

For example, your morning routine may be that you wake up, make your coffee and read emails, do your workout, have a shower and get ready, then make kids lunches/breakfast, get kids ready, then head off for your day. This routine could happen if you wake up at 5am or 7am, it could allow for a 10 minute workout or a 30 minute workout, the whole routine could take 1 hour or 3… 

The point with a routine is that the time it takes to complete a task or the time a task is started isn’t as important as the sequence in which the tasks are completed. 

One of the major benefits of a routine is that you have consistency and predictability while having some degree of flexibility which is great for people who need to be a little more flexible with their time. 

A routine also means you don’t have to make as many decisions. You don’t have to choose whether or not you have your coffee before your workout, or if you shower before getting breakfast for the kids. 

You do the same tasks, in the same order, therefore reducing decision fatigue (and making your day so much easier). 

One of the downfalls of a routine can be that the flexibility it provides might mean you don’t have enough time to achieve everything you want in your routine and you may have things ‘drop off’ from time to time. 

lesson 2

What is a schedule?

A lot of people talk about a schedule, when what they are really referring to is a routine. However, for some, a schedule is exactly what they need. 

A schedule is like a routine, in that you have tasks that are set in a particular order, however a schedule takes it a step further and you have a set time in which these tasks are allocated. 

For example, your nighttime schedule may be that you always eat dinner at 6pm, dinner is done by 6:30pm and the kids are in the shower while you’re tidying up. At 7pm you read a story and at 7:15pm it’s bedtime. 

Schedules can be beneficial for people who need more structure and thrive with detailed organization. 

However, one of the downfalls of schedules can come when there are deviations to plan, or unexpected things come up, and the schedule can’t be maintained. This is why some degree of flexibility or ability to modify a schedule can be good too. 

lesson 3

How To Determine what Suits You?

When you’re deciding between a routine or a schedule (or a mix of both throughout your day) you need to ask yourself what it is that you want to achieve? How do you want to feel? And what type of person are you? 

For example, you may want to achieve a more organized night, with more consistent bedtimes, so your children are well rested for school the following day. In this case, a schedule could be more beneficial.

It would provide structure for you and your children (particularly older children) and you could even create printable charts that help your young ones to understand what is expected at particular times and get them involved too. 

However, if you’re wanting to make less decisions of a morning, feel like you’re in control, and still get all the key things ticked off your list each morning, then a routine may be more beneficial.

You might want the flexibility of having the same morning routine regardless of whether it’s a week day, a work day, or a weekend. Every morning is the same, the time you start your routine just varies. 

There are a lot of benefits to both, and it can also come down to how you want to feel. Do you want to feel fully structured and in a set schedule? Does that make you feel more in control? Or do you prefer the ability to move things around if needed? 

Ultimately, you may find that it takes some trial and error to find what works best for you. 

lesson 4


Just because you start out with a particular routine or schedule doesn’t mean you have to stick with it. Your daily plan, your daily organization, your routine, and your schedule are all every changing, just as your needs are.

Be sure to reassess every now and then and as yourself ‘is this still working for me?’