A common theme in self-development advice is breaking free from routine. Routines stifle us, say the lifestyle gurus say*. Break out of the rut and set yourself free! While it can be true that blindly following a routine can be limiting, what about the flip side? What if you don't have a routine at all?
Without the demands of children or a job to structure my days, I'm left to decide how to fill the hours. Particularly when mental resources are low, decisions can be taxing, and there's a danger of sliding into the easy, tempting option of browsing the internet. So many interesting things!
I have a problem with hours disappearing as I follow links from facebook, read blogs, and look up the answers to various questions - either prompted by claims on facebook or things I was just wondering about (Can we really live on potatoes alone? What acids are produced in kombucha? No, and acetic and gluconic acids, respectively).
The thing about routines is that they make things easy. This is why it takes effort to break out of them. That's not to say that they're easy to establish; it takes a while before you get the thought popping into your head,
Now it's time to do X. Of course, you don't have to make a decision every day while you establish the routine, just find a bit of motivation.
I didn't think it was realistic to construction a whole day's worth of routine all at once and in any case, I wasn't sure I even needed all of that. My main goal was to stop losing entire days on the computer. I've been piecing it together over the last year, and I think it could do with quite a lot more tweaking (as I still spend far too much time on the computer), but this is what I've got so far:-
- Get out of bed and go to the bathroom
- Fuss cat
- Get dressed into underclothes and soft trousers
- 10 min worth of exercise
- Change soft trousers for jeans
- Breakfast WITHOUT switching on computer. Read something in Welsh instead.
- Wash the dishes. Listen to the radio (also in Welsh) if I feel like it
- Tea break. If I listened to the radio, the computer is switched on by now, so I'll probably look at it.
- More tea
- Prepare, then eat, dinner
You'll noticed that George has added one item to this list. He gets plenty of attention at other times of day, too, but it's first thing in the morning that he's most interested. There are also little jobs that get done at this time, like kneading bread dough or putting laundry in the machine.
The ten minutes of exercise was inspired by my sister and her husband, who've taken to doing a brief workout every evening after the kids have gone to bed and before dinner. My sister said that if she had my lifestyle, she'd do it first thing in the morning, and I agree. Whereas they're focusing on strength and fitness, I have problems with tense muscles in my back, so I'm doing a bit of half-remembered chi gong and some stretches.
I was going to write do something in the gaps between meals and tea breaks, but if I'm honest, that doesn't always happen. That's the idea, anyway. Stuff I need to get done is so varied that I can't include it very specifically in a schedule, but if I have chunks of time when I'm expecting to get on with whatever project is on the go, then hopefully I'll make some progress. Even if I don't, at least the kitchen is less of a bombsite these days, which makes me feel a lot better when I need to use it.
With this blogging challenge, I was hoping to find a time of day for regular blogging, and maybe manage to shoehorn other computer stuff into that time slot, too. As you'll have noticed, the challenge has suffered a bit of a setback lately. We went away for a few days and it was more difficult to get into a writing frame of mind. I could have done it if I'd had some posts lined up before we went, but I'm not that organised. Before that, though, I was starting to find that the afternoon tea break felt like time to start writing a blog post, so hopefully I'll get back to that. Maybe I'll even resist looking at the computer earlier in the day, but that takes will power, and the whole point of a routine is to avoid needing to rely on will power too much. Hmm, needs more work, I think.
* At least, they used to. Judging by how difficult it was to find an article to illustrate this point, I guess this advice may have gone out of fashion.