C4 Innovations

Crafting a Daily Routine to Ease Stress & Work towards Goals

By Amritha Anup (she/her), Youth Advisory Board member

Entering high school, college, a recovery program, or the workforce can be a dramatic shift in a student’s life and is a period of significant self growth and personal understanding. It can be overwhelming to navigate a new lifestyle, friend groups, and activities while managing time efficiently and staying on top of your workload and goals. I certainly felt this way when I started college and tried using different resources and reflection techniques to ease tension and document personal growth. Here, I have put together some resources I have found most useful for dealing with anxiety, better understanding myself as a person, and planning actionable steps towards my goals.

Goals, planning, and documentation

Everybody has goals or desired outcomes they would like to achieve. With social media, we are continuously staying up to date on what others are doing and sharing our own accomplishments to wider circles. However, it is just as, or even more important, to carve out sacred time for personal reflection, goal progress, and troubleshooting. Documenting the journey to reaching goals is helpful for personal discovery and becoming conscious of one’s own story.

Speed date yourself to identify values that are important to you
This is an idea and resource from the blogger Elizabeth Filips; it involves the classification of a list of values as 1) important, 2) non important, 3) very important, or 4) surprisingly important or unimportant, examples of values being Creativity, Wealth, and Kindness. Here is a template with a chart and instructions on how to complete the activity, or you can adapt this activity to a format that better suits your needs. I’ve gone through this exercise once so far, and it has been helpful for me to think about projects to pursue as well as career/lifestyle planning. I plan to repeat it in a few months to see what, if anything, has changed.

Journaling – 10 minutes of continuous writing
I try to do this exercise every morning, and it has been an effective antidote to writing perfectionism. Not only did I find this technique to alleviate symptoms of writer’s block (the horror of staring at a blank page, waiting for a ‘perfect’ sentence to come through); I found it surprisingly helpful for my personal statements as well. Since these writing sessions happened in the mornings, it was easier and more likely for me to write raw, unfiltered statements about what I enjoy and why, who I want to be, things that are important to me, why I am looking to pursue X career, and why I am great fit for project Z.
Fellow YAB member Isabel-Kai recommended a resource called “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. In it, there is a description about “Morning Pages” which involves 3 pages of stream of consciousness writing each day right in the morning. The website contains many more resources that help with recovering creativity.

Homework for life
Homework for Life is an idea that author and presenter Matthew Dicks describes in his book “Storyworthy.” This homework involves logging a memory you would like to highlight for the day and then doing this every day. Once you have been doing it for a while, you will have a long list of storyworthy life moments you can cherish, share with friends/ family, interviewers, etc. This may seem like a simple thing to do, but it has truly encouraged me to appreciate life moments more genuinely.

Time logging
The other day, I came across an article that was talking about the life changing activity of logging how much time it takes for one to do daily tasks (from getting out of bed, to eating breakfast, to exercising etc). This may not immediately seem like an appealing thing to do – it definitely did not to me – but I found it to be useful to pinpoint unintended time sinks. There were several moments where I spent significant amounts of time thinking about what to do next, even if I was in the middle of finishing something up. To shave off some of this time and put it to use towards taking a break, engaging with a hobby, or starting a new project, time blocking really helped, which is the next tip.

Time blocking / boxing
Consists of blocking out times in your calendar for specific activities for an upcoming day. This is a great way to be realistic with your goals and have confidence that there is a time set for all the things that you prioritize to get done. It reduces the chance I get distracted during the middle of the day by thinking about what to do next. Here is an Asana article that has more information.

A note on time logging and time blocking: I logged my time first. This helped me identify areas I wanted to edit the amount of time spent. Then I proceeded to block ideal schedules in my calendar app.

calendar with time blocks

A snapshot of my calendar during a week in February