How do I maintain self-regulated routines?

I really struggle to maintain routines and only do things when I get "inspired" or feel time pressure. I struggle to shower regularily, and often result to shower only if I have something important that day, like meeting a friend or a concert I wanna look good at (going to school is not counted as important in my head). I rarely ever clean my room unless my mom forces me or I feel inspired to do so in a wave of sudden desire to "improve my life". I moved in May last year and have vacuumed my room a total of two times since that. I rarely ever work out, again I rely on these surges of inspiration where I really want to learn a choreography or try a routine or "improve my life" again. Home school has also resulted in me realising that unless someone gives me spesific meal times, I struggle to eat regularily and enough, and I also really struggle to get out of bed unless I'm in a hurry for something, thus resulting in me never eating breakfast at home or having time to do anything but dress up, grab my pre-packaged lunch from the fridge, brush my hair and then run for the bus that I'm already late for. On weekends, I often just lay in bed for hours after waking up, scrolling social media, reading, watching videos or playing games. This is also an issue when it comes to studying; I can never manage to study in time for something, and I always end up cramming everything or writing an entire project just a few days before the test. There are of course exceotions, routines that are embedded so thouroughly into my life that I just always do it, like brushing my teeth, putting on my invisiline once a week and I can also manage to prepare lunch the night before school as I know I'm not going to have time the next morning, but those three things are pretty much every exception I can think of right now. So my question is basically, how can I help myself maintain routines and instead of doing everything in the moment and then forgetting about it, rather have the caoacity to give myself time to do things properly, and then continue doing things that need to be done multiple times? And especially when these are things I don't really want to do (it's not fun cleaning your room or going to school no matter how great it is to have a clean room and meeting your friends and learning new things).
Asked by Pandora
Answered
12/05/2021

Greetings and thank you for your question with detailed background information. Based on the information you provided, it seems as though your struggle to maintain routines and complete tasks is chronic. Meaning, it has been ongoing for some time. I applaud your courage for asking this question to cause a positive change. To answer your question regarding how you can help yourself maintain routines, instea do doing everything in the moment and forgetting about it; I suggest starting small and growing upward. Start by making a list of all the tasks you need to accomplish - this list initially may be overwhelming. Then select 2-4 tasks and make them goals for the day or week and work on them. As you accomplish the task, check them off the list. This can be a good and rewarding feeling! Mission accompished! Honestly, there are tasks that most people do not like doing but must get done. For example cleaning the bathroom/toilet bowl. Most people prefer to not touch. However, they must get it done, so they are scheduled and completed. For you, when you start, I suggest not focusing on being "inspired" and having a strong desire to complete the task. Instead, view it as a task and complete it. It sounds as though you are not moved by rewards or the outcome/benefits of a tidy environement. Hence, we will not place a significant value on that. Please note that food is fuel. I read that you stuggle to eat enough due to lack of energy and motivation to fix food for yourself. Plus, in the mornings you are often running late and do not have time to fix breakfast to eat later. Based on your struggles with accomplishing tasks, the bigger question and my thought is that you be evaluated for possible signs/symptoms of depression. I suggest you talk further with a counselor regarding your symptoms, duration and intensity for further evaluation. My recommendation on how you can do things you do not want to do is to put the task in perpective and be honest with yourself that you do not want to do it. However, for health or whatever reason, it must be done. Much of your work has to do with changing your thought patterns surrounding completing tasks. I suggest you engage in mindfulness practices: Box Breathing, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, 3X3 Focusing activity, Aromatherapy (laveder oil). These practices will help to ground and center you to focus on a task. Allot time to complete a task:20-30 minutes and follow thorugh by completing the task. It is possible that you may not finish the task. However, you have started. Better than you were before. Presently, you may be experiencing exclusive thinking: all or nothing. Work to allow some flexibility in your thinking. Dedicating some time to completing a task and ultimately completing that task is more productive than waiting to gain the energy to complete it. It may be helpful for you to engage your support system (family/friends) to serve as your accountability partner to accomplish tasks/thoughts. Tell the idenified person your goals and ask that they check-in with you within a specified time. Knowing that this person will be contacing you to follow up may add a pep in your step to completing the task. I suggest you work on your time managment skills. Do not put off things to the last minute to get done. Allow more than enough time to get things done and be at scheduled places. This prvents you from constantly rushing and not being able to meet your basic needs (for example - eat) prior to to leaving or on the way. To addres your time managment needs, set multiple alarms to awaken you and work to be ahead of schedule. In summary; start small, and grow, track your progress with accomplishing tasks, use your support network for accountability, change your perspective regarding things to get done - they must be done regardless of how you feel and address your time managment needs.  You an do it! Baby steps - one day at a time - one breath at a time. I hope this response has been helpful to you in answering your questions.

(PhD, MPH, MSW)