Routines: Are you for or against?

Do you like having a routine? Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with them. I see the usefulness in them, and when I follow a routine I’m more productive and don’t forget things as often as when I don’t have a routine.

However, I’m a bit like my mother. She loved routines, in theory, but after three or four days of following a routine she would find herself getting dizzy, as if her brain couldn’t cope with being so ordered. While a routine doesn’t make me dizzy, I do find myself looking for excuses to get distracted.

Of course, there are different types of routines to consider. There are regular practice routines, such as exercise, writing, or meditation. And then there are daily routines such as:

  • 7:00 Get up and have breakfast
  • 8:00 Go to the pool
  • 9:00 Write an article for Unclutterer
  • 10:00 Clean one area of the house
  • 10:30 Do some quilting and watch an episode of favourite TV show
  • 11:30 Go for a coffee and do some creative writing
  • 12:30 Prep lunch and tidy the house
  • 13:30 Eat lunch
  • 14:00 Leave for work

The first type of routine works for me. It focuses my mind. It creates momentum. It’s self-motivating. The second type of routine, however, while on paper seems like a great idea, always ends up depressing me, for two reasons: there’s never enough time to get everything I want done and it feels like being in the military or in a super-strict boarding school. Life is not so orderly — it’s spontaneous and unpredictable. Trying to squeeze it into a rigid plan just creates stress when the plan can’t be completed.

That’s why I like using the Bullet Journal system. It focuses more on the idea of regular practice and there’s no pressure to do everything in a single day. By having the “permission” to move tasks forward with a simple arrow takes away the stress of having too many tasks in the to-do list.

But when it comes to deciding how you feel about routines, don’t just take my opinion. Check out the book Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind, with contributions from Unclutterer’s Editor-at-Large, Erin Rooney Doland, as well as Seth Godin, Leo Babauta, Gretchin Rubin, and 17 other experts in the field.

4 Comments for “Routines: Are you for or against?”

  1. posted by Anne on

    I have morning routines that cover the first hour, more or less, that I am up. This allows my brain to get in gear slowly since I am not a morning person. I do track it to the minute, not rigidly, because that helps me get through it. I also have routines for leaving for certain kinds of events that we regularly do. So my routines cover things that I do that require some precision in the preparation for whatever they lead to and they allow me to have everything I need without having to think much or make many decisions.

  2. posted by Susan on

    I feel like I needed routines more before I decluttered and minimized. Now it’s so easy to keep the place clean that I just kind of do whatever tasks and chores I want on a daily basis. Some things are habits and never really changed, like washing the duvet cover and blankets on the first laundry day of every month, emptying the dishwasher or the dish drainer each morning, and sweeping the hallways, kitchen, and entryways daily.

  3. posted by Kenneth in Virginia on

    My routine is very similar but the differences at significant.

    I rise at 4:00 a.m., out the door and on the way to work at 5:30. Back home at about 6:00 p.m. I eat, tidy up the kitchen, read a little and then go to bed by 8:00.

    There is no pool. I’m able to do that by cutting out television, do no creative writing, do no quilting and eliminating just about everything else. The weekends are spent house cleaning, and either mowing the lawn, shoveling snow or raking leaves, depending on the season. Late Sunday afternoon is reserved for preparing the basic food for the rest of the week and the rest of the weekend is spent mostly sleeping. It’s a simple life. It will be changing drastically and dramatically in about five weeks when I retire (at age 71). That means I’ll have more time to sleep.

  4. posted by Megpie71 on

    I’m on the autism spectrum, so for me routines are something of a cognitive short-cut, meaning I don’t have to spend my limited executive function resources in trying to organise my day-to-day tasks. The key ones I have at present are early morning routines (get out of bed; deal with urgent biological interrupts; take my medication and set the exclusion timer[1]; make my bed; sit down and write up the day’s schedule – it’s more of a to-do list, but with specifically timed articles at the top of the list).

    I use a variation on the bullet journal system (A4 notebook for weekly, monthly and annual scheduling; A5 notebook for daily stuff, new page each day) because it seems to be working for me at present. I started off doing the daily stuff in the A4 notebook, but discovered it was making me squirrelly. One of the advantages of using the A5 notebook is I can fit about a day’s items on the one page, and then I can turn it over so I can’t see the previous day’s list, which prevents incomplete items from the previous day from triggering my jerk!brain into a fit of the guilts.

    [1] I’m on thyroxine, which needs two hours to settle before I can have dairy products, anything containing calcium, and iron supplements – or in other words, breakfast!

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