Listen to episode 12 on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

Effective yet flexible rhythms are one of the key building blocks in a sustainable and intentional lifestyle. But trying to copy a guru’s routine, whether for work or home life, quickly becomes overwhelming. There are dozens of “best practices” out there, so where do you start? How do you decide what you need in your personal rhythms?

Create a rhythm for your unique lifestyle

In this episode of the podcast, you’ll get long look into how each of us approaches our morning and evening rhythms. Although we all have similar values—and we’re even in similar stages of life—each of our rhythms look different.

Here’s the thing about rhythms: they have to be crafted for your lifestyle, congruent with your season of life, and based on what you and your family value. I remember listening to a podcast years ago that said that “‘should‘ is not a sustainable why.” This idea holds true for rhythms. Feeling like you “should” get up before the kids, will not be a strong enough “why” when your alarm goes off at 6am. But if you begin to know in your core—because you’ve taken the time to reflect on your personal experience—that getting up before the kids sets you up for a better, more peaceful morning, this core knowing can easily become a very strong “why.”

Alternately, you may learn through experience that getting up at 6am actually works against your peaceful morning, and that beginning each day with the kids snuggled up against you in bed is exactly what your family needs. In this case, your “why” evolves against getting up early, and will become strong enough to drown out the “should” that throws unnecessary shade on your mornings when you hear your favorite guru talk about how she can’t imagine a lifestyle that includes regularly sleeping in.

The rhythms that work for your family in this season work for you. And that is enough.

Building personalized, sustainable rhythms does take time and mental effort to work out in the beginning. Because you’re not going to be taking a copy-and-paste approach, you will have to put in the work to figure out what you uniquely need in your rhythms. It will take some discipline to put your rhythms into practice, problem-solve the tricky areas, and continue to refine them as seasons change. But all this work is 100% worth it. With practice, your rhythms will eventually require little to no mental effort to carry out. As key things areas of your days are tended in the intuitive flow of your daily rhythms, you’ll find that you’ve established an extremely valuable framework for the rest of your intentional lifestyle.

How to Build Your Rhythms

When starting to think about your rhythms, the best thing to do is to sit down and have an effective brainstorming session. Grab a bit of flex space in your Evergreen Planner and work through these questions:

  • What do I have to have done each morning to set up the rest of the day well?
  • What do I have to have done each evening to set up the next day well ?
  • What’s working well in my morning/evening right now?
  • What not working well?
  • What is inflexible (commutes, drop off and pick up times, lessons, weekly appointments, etc.)?
  • What is predictable (wake times, meal times, nap times, etc.)?

Once you have worked through these questions, use a pencil to start sketching out the different elements of your morning. You can do this in the time-blocking section of your Month booklet, or if you don’t have your Evergreen planner yet, you can download the free Quickstart Your Planning Guide and use the free planner pages included.

(This is a good time to mention that if you are familiar with Quickstart Your Planning method, you know that the first thing we recommend is to “pencil in what you did.” This applies to developing new morning and evening rhythms, too. For a few days or weeks, track what you do each day. You’ll end up with a wealth of knowledge about how your days normally go. Use this knowledge when forming your rhythms. If you’re interested in learning more about this, then go ahead and download the free guide!) 

Label your timeblocking section beginning with when you typically get up, and work from there. Fill in the items that are inflexible or predictable. Those things are what we call “anchors”, and you build your day around them.

Next, look at that list of things that need to get done in the morning to set up the day well. Now look at your morning and figure out when you will tackle each item. Will you tackle an item before breakfast or after? Before the kids wake up or after? How can you batch similar tasks? (Now is a good to time to evaluate and make sure these are the truly critical tasks, and not just a wish list. It’s important when first building your rhythms that you start with the essential items, and then work your rhythms around those before you get into your wishlist items.) 

If there are trouble areas, brainstorm some possible solutions and begin testing them out. For example, if packing the kids lunches is often last minute and stressful, list a few potential solutions and test them out. You could pack lunches in the evening, so they’re ready to go in the morning, or perhaps you could do more planning and prepping at the front of the week, so you know exactly what you’re packing and it’s only a matter of putting things in bags. Pinterest can be your friend here, so long as you keep “should” in exile. Test out whatever solutions you think could work until you find the one that clicks with your needs.

You can utilize this same process for your evening rhythm. Start with the inflexible and predictable items, and go from there. Look at your task list of things that absolutely need to happen for a peaceful lifestyle every evening, and figure out when you can fit them in. Remember that the best way to start a new habit is to tie it to an existing anchor (this could be an inflexible and predictable item already in your schedule, or another habit that is already firmly established). I had great success with this when trying to form a routine for taking my supplements. I already had the set habit of grinding and prepping our coffee every evening after dinner. I anchored my new evening habit of taking my supplements before grinding the coffee, and made sure to store my supplements near the coffee so I would see them before I started the coffee prep. Voila! Suddenly, I was consistently remembering to take my supplements each and every evening.

For the first few weeks of establishing your rhythms, it is helpful to write them out and keep them in sight every day. You can write them in the flex space on the day page of your planner, or write them on a bit of cardstock that you move from day to day. You will continue to refine what is working and what needs adjusted. Pretty soon, you’ll find you don’t even have to reference your list because you will intuitively move through all the things that need to be done each morning and evening. Your rhythms will become such an integral part of your day that you hardly have to give any brain space to them because they flow so well. Of course, you’ll still have off days or weeks, but you’ll soon feel the tug to get back to your rhythms because you’ve seen how helpful they are for creating the sustainable and intentional lifestyle you love.