Routines: The Key to Academic and Athletic Success

How many minutes do you spend trying to refocus your student to start an assignment, pack their uniform, or make their bed? These are common frustrations for parents and can cause a lot of tension throughout the day, especially when it can cause everyone to be late. To prevent this, you can develop routines with your student to shift their focus to everyday tasks and events. By implementing structured routines, you can minimize daily distractions and roadblocks to help them succeed.

 Why do routines matter?

Here at Untapped, we’re big supporters of Navy SEAL Jocko Willink. He coined the phrase “discipline equals freedom.” The consistency that routines bring helps to create freedom for your students. Lack of routine (and the discipline that comes with it) causes disorganization, inconsistency, and usually a little chaos. Creating and following routines helps students improve their time management skills to best use their energy toward the things that matter. Make sure to emphasize to your students that after they complete this routine – homework/practice/chores/etc. – their time is their own, and they can spend it doing what makes them happiest.

 How do you implement non-negotiable routines?Creating morning and evening routines is the easiest way to implement habits into your student’s life. They must complete these non-negotiable tasks either first thing in the morning or right before bed. We’ve created four simple guidelines to build strong routines to help you and your student streamline daily tasks.

  1. Set a time. 

Students juggle many weekly activities (i.e. sports, clubs, tutoring, music lessons). By establishing a specific time of day to complete a task, you will reinforce the tasks as routine and help integrate that habit into your student’s everyday life. Make sure to consider their existing schedule. For example, if your student wakes up at 6:30 am, start this routine first thing, from 6:30-6:45 am. This time can include tasks like brushing their teeth, getting dressed, making their bed, and eating breakfast. When creating an evening routine, consider when your student sleeps. If they head to bed around 9 pm, try to begin the nighttime routine an hour before then and see what works.

Once you have the morning and evening routines down, you can incorporate other routines into your student’s day. For example, if your student gets home from practice at 5, schedule “Academic Time” from 5-6 pm daily. (Note: we designate this chunk of time as academic time instead of homework time because even if there’s no homework to do, your student will take this time to study, read ahead, etc.)

  1. Designate the setting for the routine. 

In addition to establishing a specific time and location, ambiance can help a child adjust to a routine. Let’s use “Academic Time” as an example. Academic Time lasts from 5-6 pm every day. During this time, your student sits at the kitchen table with a mug of tea and classical music playing in the background. Every day, help your student set up this space so they are comfortable and focused. Repeating these small details will help your student acclimate more quickly to the routine.

  1. Write it out.

Write out each of the tasks for this routine concisely and clearly. Children often need a concrete visual of the routine in a list format to know what is expected. For a simple, non-negotiable routine, 3-4 tasks are best. This list should include short phrases, one sentence at maximum. For example, an evening routine could look like this:

  • Pack backpack
  • Brush teeth
  • Wash face
  • Lay out clothes for the following day

We encourage your student to check off the tasks as they are completed. This act can stimulate the part of their brain that feels accomplishment and keeps them accountable for completing the whole list.

  1. Consistently enforce the routine. 

Routines only work when they become a part of your student’s daily life. Like sports, you won’t be as successful in-game time if you stop practicing a skill. Ensure your student solidifies the routine as a habit in their brain by consistently ensuring they complete the tasks. Keeping your student on track can be challenging as daily life gets hectic. Set an alarm for you and your student to help you both remember that it’s time to set down what you are doing and start the routine. This simple reminder will help you both stay accountable and disciplined.

Remember, the discipline of routines can help create freedom for you and your student. By following these four simple guidelines, you can implement non-negotiable routines that will increase productivity and leave more time for the things that bring your student joy.

Parenting a student-athlete comes with a lot to balance, and helping your child thrive both in and out of their sport can be challenging. Let Untapped support you in helping your child achieve success on and off the field. 

For More:

The Importance of Routines in Learning

Routines, Rituals, and Performing Under Pressure

Daily non-negotiables

The Importance of Routines

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