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Let’s talk about rethinking schedules and routines when life changes, specifically creating a daily routine or schedule after a big life transition. This episode comes in the middle of a global pandemic, and since the only constant in life is change, this is very relevant.

We will break down a simple, research-informed and life-tested framework to reclaim your daily routine or reschedule after a big life change or transition in four steps.


Our ability to be resilient and change with the times predicts our happiness, health, ability to thrive, and wellbeing. Big life transitions happen all the time, whether it’s a new job, graduating from school, having a baby, adding a new member to your family, retiring, having your kids move out, moving, etc. Every time there has been a change or transition in my life, I’ve found myself in a weird, in-between place where I have to rethink my routine and schedule. Some of the things that worked before might come with me, but some of them have to go.

I have a four-part framework to help you to think about your schedule and routine, whether you’re trying to regroup from all the changes of this pandemic or if you’re listening at a future date and have just gone through something. It’s not starting over, it’s really meeting yourself where you are and coming up with a game plan that’s going to work, to help you feel really good, and to help you get the things you need to get done, done. But, it’s also about letting the other stuff go so that you’re not constantly feeling guilty or feeling like you’re failing. Instead, you can reclaim this for what it is, which is focusing your attention on what matters

I’ve created a free printable that goes along with this episode, an essential guide to routines. It includes my Four-R Framework and a very stripped-down version of my Simplified Morning Journal.

The framework I’ve created for this episode will help you rethink, reclaim, redesign your daily routine or reschedule after a big life change or transition in four parts:

Phase one: let it be. Over and over, I see this pressure to figure it all out right away. I even found myself going through that during the first week of our stay at home order here in Oregon. I had to remind myself that I actually didn’t need to figure it all out right away. In fact, trying to do so will probably create more work than is necessary, and definitely more stress than necessary.

From a research-based and life-tested perspective, letting things be is the best first step. First, give yourself a little permission to not figure it out all the time, all the way at the very beginning. Take a deep breath, and let it be. I say ‘let it be’ instead of ‘let it go’, a reframe I got from Tara Brach, because the idea of letting something go has always been a challenge to me, especially when struggling with a transition. Letting it be is more approachable, letting it settle. Just reminding yourself that it’s okay to just let it be is really life-giving.

Second, listen to your life. In this more active part of phase one, I invite you to listen to your life, which means being aware of what is actually happening. Not what used to be, not what you wish was, not projecting into the future or living into the past, but really listening to your life. What’s really happening right now? And as much as possible, letting it be. Not judging it, beating yourself up. We spend so much time in that mindset of beating ourselves up, comparing ourselves, or going all or nothing; instead of overlaying that on top, just let it be and listen, having awareness of what’s really happening.

Tactical actions you can take:

  • Practice reflections: You can do this through writing, there’s a lot of research to support that awareness through writing really helps bring our attention to what’s really happening. Another idea would be to practice this by taking pictures, an idea I’ve gotten from my friend Ali Edwards. If you choose to write, it’s not journaling for the sake of it, it’s really about making notes to foster awareness. Knowing that it might be a week-long process or even a month-long process of listening to your life and letting it be, ask yourself:

    • What’s working? So often when we are trying to build a perfect routine or schedule we forget or ignore what’s actually working. Where is the joy? Do you have any joy, currently? Do you feel really energized or depleted when you wake up in the morning? Do you get a burst of energy in the afternoon?

    • What’s not working? There might be really specific things, like trying to get up too early, going to bed too late, or trying to do work at a certain time of day when you’re just exhausted.

    • Is there a natural rhythm going on? You may find that a little bit of a natural rhythm occurs without forcing it. Sometimes there’s more wisdom in the natural rhythm that occurs than trying to force something too soon. (This is harder for those of us who are Dynamos and want to structure everything all the way. Take the quiz to find your Feel Good Archetype).

To summarize phase one: Take as long as you need to let it be, listen to your life, and ask yourself what’s working, what’s not working, and where there may be a natural rhythm.

Phase two: Start with the essential. Work smarter, not harder. Everything does not matter equally. This falls in line with Pareto’s principle, a concept that states that 20% of effort yields 80% of results. A lot of effort is essentially wasted. This idea that you have to get it all done, all day long, is false. The truth is, everything does not matter equally, that some things matter a lot more than others. If you can find those essential things, you can work smarter, not harder and let go of the things that don’t actually matter.

That’s a big mindset shift to make, but you also might not know what the 20% are. It takes some experimenting, trying to focus on a few essential things, identifying what actually matters, and focusing your attention there while letting the rest be.

Tactical actions you can take:

  • Focus on five- to 20-minute blocks in your day: Instead of trying to plan your whole schedule or routine, I encourage you to find a few blocks, maybe three to four in a day, and identify the essential things that you need to spend your time and energy on that are really going to move the needle or make a difference.

    • For me, oftentimes it is getting some movement in, spending five- to 10-minutes to make something nourishing to eat, and making sure I have a five-minute morning and evening routine.

    • It can feel overwhelming to add those things on top of everything else, so the reframe is to start with those essential things, and then add everything else on top. Those are often the first things to go when we feel like we don’t have the time, so rethink the idea that you don’t have time for the things that really matter. Those aren’t extra, those are essential. These are the things that allow you to have the energy to do all of the other things.

Quote by Robyn Conley Downs

Phase three: Four-R Routine Framework. This framework helps organize your brain and simplify what you probably already know, focusing on your wisdom and what you know is going to work. This comes from my Four-R daily, mini-routines that I have a worksheet for. It’s a framework that divides your day into four parts, each with a mini-wellness routine. It started with creating a five-minute morning routine, instead of feeling pressured to have an hour-long morning routine. I’m including a free, stripped-down version of my 5-minute morning journal, which I use every morning to ask myself what I want to focus on, how I want to feel, and what I want to let be.

Having that five-minute morning has made a huge difference in how I feel, in my attention, in my productivity. I didn’t need more time, I just needed focused time in the morning. This was something that mattered because when I did it, everything else was better. I thought about how I could recreate this throughout the day, so I created the Four-R Framework.

For the Four-R Routine Framework, first, find pockets of time and place them throughout the day. One is in the morning (‘refresh’), a second is during the midday (‘revive’), a third is in the afternoon (‘reset’), and a fourth is in the evening (‘rest’). It’s not about more, it’s just about doing that 20%.

Tactical actions you can take:

  • Come up with a Four-R Routine using refresh, revive, reset, and rest. You can do this over and over again, after a transition, after a big change, you can even do this on a monthly basis.

    • What five-minute thing can you do during these pockets? You can be creative here, there’s no right or wrong, it doesn’t have to be serious, it’s about having these pockets of care for yourself, kindness for yourself, and doing the things that will help you accomplish all of the other parts of your life more efficiently and effectively.

    • Depending on your Feel Good Archetype, you might be drawn to create more of a structured schedule, or you might prefer more of a timeframe and a menu of ideas, there are lots of different styles, find what feels better for you. You’re in control here, you get to decide.

Phase four: mindset. Mindset is the place where people get tripped up. Mindset barriers are the reason that long term success with wellness routines and schedules don’t happen. We tend to do a few things that derail us and prevent sustainability.

The first mindset block is perfectionism (listen up, Dynamos). Coming up with a daily routine or schedule is not a perfect practice. You won’t get a gold star or award for having a perfect routine, yet I see people beating themselves up for not accomplishing it all, feeling like they’re failing.

Tactical actions you can take:

  • Meet yourself with kindness and self-compassion, the antidote to perfectionism, especially when it comes to your schedule. Your self-worth is not how well you can follow a schedule. The point of this is to take care of yourself and find wellbeing. If in the process you’re beating yourself up, then you’re kind of missing the point.

  • If you’re feeling like your schedule or routine has to be perfect or is a measure of your success, flip the script to kindness, self-compassion, and understand that you’re a human being and going through a change may be really difficult, but you’re doing the best that you can.

Quote by Robyn Conley Downs

The next barrier is all or nothing thinking (listen up, Seekers).  All or nothing thinking is thinking that it has to be go-big-or-go-home, and if you can’t follow it you might as well not do it at all.

Tactical actions you can take:

  • Get really honest with yourself. When you’re working to create a routine or schedule, is that coming up for you? That it has to be a certain way and if not, it’s ruined? If so, find a middle ground, start with the essential blocks, the essential daily 4-R Routines, that’s kind of a middle ground.

  • Don’t get stuck in the trap of falling off the wagon because you didn’t do it exactly the way you set out to; nobody is doing it the way they set out to these days. Give yourself a break and meet yourself in the middle.

The third wellness mindset block is comparison (listen up, Cultivators). I see people online comparing one another on who is better at quarantining or who has a better self-isolation schedule. But that’s not what it’s about, no matter what the life changes or transitions. Your version of this is not going to look like anyone else’s, and that’s not because you’re doing it wrong, it’s because you’re doing it the way it works for you.

Tactical actions you can take:

  • Start with gratitude. Gratitude doesn’t mean thinking positively all the time it means focusing on the parts of your life that are really unique to you that you can find some joy in.

Quote by Robyn Conley Downs

To summarize this framework for creating a sustainable, beautiful routine or schedule following some kind of transition or life change:

First, let it be. Listen to your life and reflect on what’s working or not working. Find the natural rhythm.

Second, start with the essential. Everything does not matter equally. Find those five- to 20-minute blocks and start there. Focus on what you want to feel and what you want to let be.

Third, the Four-R Routine Framework. Divide your day into parts, think about whether you want to time block or have a menu and then go for a (1) morning refresh, (2) revive midday, (3) reset afternoon, (4) rest in the evening.

Fourth, you have to get your mindset right. If perfectionism is derailing you, focus on self-compassion. Be kind to yourself. Stop telling yourself that you’re a failure. You’re not failing, this is a really hard time. Focus on the little things you can do, one of which is being kind to yourself. Let go of all or nothing thinking. You’re not falling off the wagon, just find some middle ground. Let go of comparison, focusing on what works for you and infusing gratitude.


Feel Good Archetype Quiz

FREE printable to rethink, reclaim, redesign your daily routine or reschedule after a big life change

How (And Why) to Tell Your Wellness Story with Ali Edwards

Finding Real Health in Real Life: Feel Good Effect Success with Ali Edwards

Tara Brach meditation on letting life be

Simplified Self-Care for Your Evening Routine

My Five-Minute Morning Routine

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