How old is your child? If you don't have a routine of your own (although, you probably do, you just don't know it), adopt your child's. Young children fall into their own routine fairly easily, especially first children. Some things, like teeth brushing, can be easy to schedule since they come at predictable times of the day--after eating or just before going to bed. An easy way (as long as you remember to do it :) is to write everything down as soon as you do it. After doing this for a few days, you will start to see a pattern emerging. That is your routine. Some things will change as your child/ren get older--no more nursing during the night, regular nap times, then no naps, school schedules (whether you sent them to a school or home school), bed times, etc. But the over all routine/rhythm won't change. Get up in the morning/breakfast, lunch in the middle of the day, dinner/evening/going to bed will all follow one after the other. Then there are the seasonal rhythms--spring (Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, etc.), summer (summer solstice, 4th of July, vacations, etc.), fall (back to school, Halloween, All Saint's Day, Day of the Dead, Thanksgiving, voting), winter (winter solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's). Every culture and religion has it's own seasonal markings.
Even if you don't do the same thing every day, most days have a rhythm around mealtimes. You can attach daily activities to mealtimes. In our house, we made a routine to wash up before meals and brush teeth after. Brushing before bedtime was also routine, before storytime. After breakfast can become "outdoor time" and after lunch can become "craft time" (or vice versa). Housekeeping can fit in wherever you like but late morning or mid-afternoon worked well when the kids were small and likely to be quiet for naptime or engaged in a craft activity.
It helps to get into habits attached to daily or regular activities so they are convenient. For example, the daily shower is also a convenient time to give the bathroom a quick clean-up. Before you step into the shower, toss some toilet cleaner into the bowl to sit for a bit. After the shower, give the toilet a quick swirl with the brush. You can also give the shower stall/tub and bathroom counters a quick wipe down to keep them fresh. It only takes a few minutes. Our washer/dryer and laundry hamper are in the bathroom, so I often toss in a load of laundry just after I step out of the shower.
You don't have to do the same activities every day. Having a general rhythm can be helpful, but I wouldn't worry about becoming too regimented, aside from personal hygiene (I'd include daily teeth-brushing here!) and nutrition.
Our routine is fairly simple - wake up, eat, play, eat, go somewhere, come back, eat, nap, wake up, eat and so on :)
More specific things I try to center around our main routine. Like, we brush teeth after play time before we go to bed. Potty time before every nap, after every wake up and before every time we go out. Food time is usually after a wake up time, and then a snack in between then. Bath time is after breakfast.
The *actual* times that these things happen vary, but its usually in the same order.
I also think at night about something that I would like to try. When I can't do it more than one day, its usually because it does not work with us. Like making my coffee first thing in the morning. That just couldn't happen. Hungry toddlers who are soaking wet aren't going to wait around for me to make my coffee.
Coffee, Vintage and Kids. My Life.
Yup, a simple and loose routine is what works for me. Well... actually, now that the kids are in school that kind of sets it's own schedule, but I'm talking about when they were younger.
I mean, a lot of routine just comes naturally. Kids who are still napping usually get sleepy *around* the same time each day, just as they tend to feel sleepy at *around* the same time each night. Our stomachs tell us when they're hungry and it's usually *around* the same time each day. So right there you have a v. basic, loose structure.
I think beyond eating and sleeping you don't really need to be doing "the same things" every day. But I do know that for me and my kids part of staying sane includes getting out of the house every day. And when they were little and took a nap we would sometimes get out in the morning before the nap, but more often it would happen after the nap because I'm so slow at getting going that we didn't get going in time to do much before nap time. Of course there's also the "nap on the go" (in a stroller/carrier/car) which I'm a fan of, but anyway...
At this point I'd just start to recognize the natural structure that your (your kiddo's) eating and sleeping habits have given the day. Then I'd think if there's any other things that should be done every day and think if they fall into obvious places in that "structure" (I'm thinking things like brushing teeth after breakfast, taking a bath before bed, leaving the house in the block of time that's post-nap and pre-dinner, whatever), and take it from there. On top of that a bit of extra structure can be added if you do any outside activities (story hour at the library, swimming lessons, etc), and you will find yourself coordinating your day in such a way that you can make it to those activities.
Kate, mom to 7 year old Djuna and 4 yr old Alden. Missing our good friend Hal the cat who died June 2, 2010