Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. -Albert Einstein
I needed something to break up my routine, and an excuse that forced me to do it. So we decide to go see some music.
The band is good but we leave before the encore songs. It’s a ‘school night.’ I half-expected the band to say, “Is everyone having a good time tonight? That is, except those two stiffs leaving early from the balcony seats?”
I appreciate the change of routine, but within limits. I need to get to bed as it’s late and my sleep is precious. I am acutely aware I have to get back to my own schedule. I’m sure most of the audience also has a routine to get back to, but it likely doesn’t end for a few more hours, or probably start until 9 or 10am.
I am a pretty organized person. By that, I mean I like a routine and structure. Every day of my calendar has something written on it. Who wants to miss out on garbage day and then have that to contend with? I know what is going to happen when, and where I have to be. (My kid, who’s 6, now also has a calendar where he writes his own schedule in it. Mostly it just says “school”, but apples falling from trees… )
A routine creates comfort and predictability in my life. Things get done when they are scheduled. I know how to plan for the expected. I don’t do so well in surprise situations; I’m not a ‘throw-a-bag-together’ kind of gal. No, if you want me to leave the house for more than a day, tell me a few weeks in advance. I gave birth to both of my kids at home so I wouldn’t have to pack a bag for the hospital.
I also force myself to do things for my routine. I have forced myself when the rewards are better than avoidance (running when tired, running when it’s rainy, running when I am sore, etc) but also because this is how I had dictated my time would be spent. When I want to do something over and above the usual, I need to borrow time from something else. And ‘something else’ is usually sleeping or eating. Otherwise it doesn’t happen.
Ethnomethodology is the study of everyday methods which subjects use to create order: the routine. Our process of making a regularized response can affect our patterns in a day. We need the structure, but how much is too much? A routine can help us stay organized and on task, and it can improve productivity. We get our project finished before a deadline; we get to doctor appointments on time. We dedicate ourselves and our time to a thing, instead of procrastinating or avoiding, to achieve completion. We even schedule our down-time. (Really?)
A plan without a goal is just a wish.
It can also be restrictive. Routine can kill spontaneity, cause us to miss opportunities outside of our regular pattern, or cause stress. We become neurotic clock-watchers; in the ten minutes before we leave the house we try to do every last thing at once. We are not a doctor’s office where we can just “double-book” appointments and hope that everyone understands. We can walk around in a rut, every day feeling as though the path is getting deeper.
We do the same things: we choose known experiences (comfort) over an unknown change. Maybe the fear that disruption will be too much to handle has us clinging to a routine, even if it is a bit of a hole.
Granted, not everyone is like this. Some people are much more ‘laissez faire‘. Good for you people. For the rest of us, how do we force change into our routine?
1. Go somewhere else. A change in scenery from our usual surroundings can help break up your routine habits, and it’s easier to
start something new lessen your grip when you are away from the familiar. Go big: leave town. Or, chose a different bus route or a different coffee shop. Maybe the coffee will be better.
2. Make substitutions. Do something that rewards you in a different way in the same amount of time. Instead of the book club, go try kick boxing.
3. Do less. Find something that is mostly time-filler or is just busy-ness in your day. Blogging (ahem) can be like falling down the rabbit hole. Lovely, but where does the time go?
4. Get help. Sometimes you need help to get it all done. Use your people resources. Hire the babysitter for a few hours on the weekend, push the boundaries of your relationship with your neighbour beyond the “I’ll feed your cat and you feed mine” routine. Invite them over to rebuild your staircase, ask them to paint your second story window trim. They are taller than you; they should be able to reach.
5. Let go of expectations. You’ve built up this way of being. Give yourself permission to be different. If it’s not totally working, it’s also okay to change your mind about it.
Thanks for taking out the garbage, honey!
How structured are you? Do you get it all done? How would a little less routine feel in a day, or over a week?