Importance of a routine

Students may think the transition from high school to college or university is simply a change of physical location and living situation. However, it is often the first time students are away from home, their families, and living on their own or with friends or roommates, which brings on a whole new set of challenges.

In high school, students were required to show up in the morning by a certain time and then stay at school continually for the rest of the day. As soon as school ended, all moved to extracurricular activities, whether sports or drama or clubs or heading home to help out with younger siblings or start homework for the next day or a part-time job. The routine was the same for most school-aged children and teens, and while varied year to year, was essentially the same throughout high school.

In college or university, there is no set daily structure like in high school. A college student can be required to move seamlessly from one class to a part-time job, to another class or lab, to the library to study or write a paper, to help plan an event with a fraternity or sorority, and ending the evening with a date or party. The combination of possibilities is endless, and each day can be vastly different than the day before.

The new surroundings and environment may leave many feeling like there is no structure or maybe that there is too much free time. That is where a routine can come into play. 

Benefits of routines in college

Creating a routine and some new habits can help you feel like there is a structure in the many options available for your time and attention. A routine can set you up to have a successful semester and help keep any stress and anxiety at bay.

Routines and consistency can play an important role in maintaining a student’s mental health, both in things to do and things to look forward to.

Getting things off your to-do list

Blocking out time for your “need to do’s” lets you get them done first thing, and frees up time later in the day for anything you may spontaneously want to do. Having a plan and a list means you are more likely to accomplish it, and completing the items you might not be most excited about but need to complete can help you feel accomplished early in the day.

Mental health benefits

When you are left with too much free time or, alternatively, too many things to do leaving you feeling chaotic and frantic, both scenarios can lead to unnecessary anxiety and stress. A routine eliminates the guesswork, and the structure can leave you feeling accomplished and in control, eliminating the anxiety and stress from your day.


A routine means getting the mundane and everyday tasks out of the way, leaving you with more time to self-reflect and relax. For those who need downtime to reset, this is something to look forward to each day.


Procrastination is a trait that many students struggle with, but in college, it can be especially attractive to put off the items one needs to do until the last minute. With so many things vying for your attention, many students believe the last-minute pressure makes their work better. However, making a plan and having time set aside to accomplish certain things in your schedule and routine makes procrastination less likely and leaves you the time necessary to truly do your best work. By having a routine of when you need to accomplish certain tasks and having a set time to work on them, procrastination can become non-existent.

Ideas for planning a routine


Use a calendar, either on your phone or an actual pocket or desk calendar, to write down when all of your assignments are due, when your exams are scheduled, meetings you need to attend, and any other appointments. Every evening, or at a regular time of your choosing, check your calendar for the next few days so you are aware of what you have coming up, and update any reminders you may need to have popup at certain times on your phone.

Plan your week in advance

Once you are aware of what is on your calendar and what needs to be accomplished, set out a plan and schedule for your week. This way, you can be sure to get in your daily routine items and meet all of your obligations, as well as schedule any downtime that you may need. Knowing that you have all of your bases covered should help you to sleep even better at night.

Get into new habits

Some coaches advise jumping right into multiple habits you want to change. Others may suggest adding in one or two small things until those are habits, then adding additional ones. Pick whichever speed and path work best for you and your lifestyle. Establishing morning and evening routines will make some of the mundane tasks effortless and part of your everyday habits, just like brushing your teeth or taking a shower.


Alarm Clock

Using your phone for an alarm clock makes it very easy and tempting to start your day looking at your phone, either emails that have come in overnight, or opening social media and starting to scroll when you first wake up. Take away the temptation and get an old-school alarm clock, and get out of bed and start your day immediately.


Starting your day off with a few minutes of meditation can help you clear your mind and start your day relaxed and calm. If you are new to meditation, several apps can help guide you through meditation, including Headspace or Calm apps.

Coffee/tea while you journal or do a crossword puzzle

Sitting down with a nice cup of coffee or tea of your choice in the morning can help you start your day with intention. Journaling down your thoughts or doing a crossword puzzle can make this a part of your day that you look forward to, just you and your thoughts.


Making time for your health should be a top priority as you transition to the college setting. Get your workout in and completed for the day instead of dreading it at the end of your day. Including a workout in your daily routine can help keep you fit, healthy, and energized.

Eat breakfast

Many college student diets consist of coffee and late-night pizza. Making the time to eat a healthy breakfast can set the tone for your day, keep you full and satisfied, and help fuel your brain and body.

Stay in touch with friends and family

With all the new and exciting things happening on campus, it can be tempting to let the call home to your mom or dad slip. It is important to keep in touch with your family and friends to keep yourself grounded. These relationships can be vital during hard times that may come. Additionally, be sure to add time to reconnect with those back home on a routine basis to your calendar, as there may come a time when these relationships are a lifeline to your mental health.