On Routines

Routine is despair’s sly assassin.

This is one of my momma’s favourite mantras. By extension (and repetition), it’s becoming one of mine too. Sure, it’s a little dramatic, but pretty effective in getting the point across. Without following my routines, I feel all discombobulated, unproductive and (my turn to be dramatic) chaotic. I know there are many who prefer to take each day as it comes, but structure is a very important part of my life.

Note: I actually wrote this, not just for this post. My real thoughts.

At this stage in my life, I’m constantly trying to develop new skills, improve, better myself, and experience new things. I find that without a plan/routine in place, these self-improvement goals for myself fall by the wayside. Yes, in the moment it can definitely be a little annoying to have to set aside time to write a novel/take a picture/exercise, but in the long run I am always, without fail happier if I’ve accomplished what I set out to accomplish. Seeing the Project365 collage grow or the checkmarks adding up on my exercise chart is enough to reinforce these habits for me.

I know that if I didn’t make certain things into a goal or routine, I just wouldn’t do them. Without routines, I spend my spare time watching TV. With them, I read books, bake/cook new things, edit together videos, learn to knit, exercise, blog. I have absolutely zero doubt that setting a (pretty large) number of routines for myself has a big, positive impact on my happiness. Here are a few of them:

  • 750words.com: Every morning, first thing, I type my 750 words. I use that space to work through anything that’s making me anxious, focus on the day to come, let go of anything that happened the day before, make an action plan. This is one of my all-time favourite habits.
  • Slow-carb breakfast: Sautéed broccoli (chopped as soon as I come home from grocery shopping, otherwise I’d never eat it) mixed with a big spoonful of cottage cheese and egg whites.
  • 30-60 minutes of exercise, 5 times a week: I go to a power yoga class twice a week, it lasts an hour and is a great workout, both in terms of cardio and weight exercises. The other three days, I usually go for a brisk 1/2 hour walk outside. As much as I dislike winter, I’ve loved breathing in all that cold, fresh air almost every day.
  • Project 365: Since 2012 started, I’ve taken multiple photos every day. Sometimes it’s discouraging, because I feel amateurish or have nothing interesting to photograph. Other days (and when I look at my progress) I feel furiously happy that I’m carving out time every day to try and practice a skill I love.
  • Blogging: I’ve made it a goal to post at least twice a week, and over the past year or so it’s become non-negotiable. I love love love this space on the internet, it’s given me back so much. I’m trying to work up to posting 5x a week, because I love blogs that do that.
  • After-dinner studying: The block of time between dinner and bedtime is usually dedicated to doing readings, assignments and studying for school. It’s usually supplemented with a cup of decaf tea, another comforting ritual.
  • Journaling: Oh, nobody make fun of me please. I almost always cap off my night by writing a page in my journal. What’s the difference between this routine and 750words? Not much, actually. It’s just another place to process, and write things down in an otherwise busy day.

I also try to fill my days to bursting by visiting with friends, reading a few pages of a non-academic book, doing a little knitting, and maybe Skyping/calling my family or friends. And guess what? Having all these routines in place really does slay most of the sadness or loneliness I might otherwise be prone to feeling. Routines keep me calm, they help me feel balanced, they bring me peace.

Are you the kind of person who loves routines? Or do you loathe them? What are some of your favourites? 

  • Rin

    I would die without routines and goals! My routines:

    +turn on my Gilmore Girls DVDs while I get ready in the morning. There’s nothing like a little humor, drama, and romance to wake you up.
    +listen to Blue Collar Comedy radio on my way to work. I literally laugh out loud all the way to work. What better way to start the day?
    +read during my lunch break. I know a lot of teachers who work through their lunch break, but I need the time to breathe. I always eat and read from my Kindle during lunch to relax for a few minutes.
    +listen to music on a rather high volume on the way home from work. It helps me decompress and let loose.
    +have a quick snack as soon as I get home, and immediately exercise. If I don’t, I’ll never do it. The only exception is Wednesday nights, when I go to Zumba at 7:30.
    +read a chapter before bed. Right now I’m reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Because it makes me happy and relaxed. Even if I’m going to bed late, I’ll read for 15 minutes. Otherwise, I have an awful time falling asleep.

    • Stephanie

      I love your routines! They’re so inspiring! I want to start a few of them. Reading on a lunch break is such a great idea – I usually do that when I’m working, but not when I’m in school. Also, reading before bed is something I want to start doing more of. I love the idea of listening to/watching something fun in the mornings. I usually have very quiet mornings, but why not do some laughing?! Thanks for sharing. :)

      • Rin

        When I lived in my own apartment, I relished my quiet mornings to sip coffee and eat breakfast slowly while watching the news. But since I’ve moved home, those quiet mornings are gone. So I settle for a energy-inducing, and laughter-filled morning. And it totally works for me.

        • Stephanie

          Right now, I have more of a quiet morning, but unfortunately I’m pretty bad at waking up early so it tends to be quiet but rushed. I don’t like it at all, and I’m trying to extend my morning bit by bit, but normally I only have time to do a few key things in a hurry before getting out the door. Glad you’ve found what works for you! I’m still in progress. :)

  • I have changed my daily routine too many times to count, searching for the perfect one that balances school, writing, family time, and all those little things I need to get done every day. I am still on the hunt! I work best with routines. It makes everything flow smoother and cuts down stress so much.

    • Stephanie

      I know, right! I’m still trying to perfect my routine too. There’s still so much I want to do each day, and I’m positive that a few more tweaks will make me even more efficient.

  • Laura

    I absolutely despise routines. After following a routine for a few days, I begin to feel like I’m stuck in a rut and my life lacks excitement. I like each day to be different. The only good routines are sleep routines, but let’s be honest, a student lifestyle doesn’t allow you to sleep on a regular schedule!

    • Stephanie

      Ha! It’s funny how different we are. For me, routines help me actually increase excitement in my life, simply because everything becomes more streamlined, leaving me more time to do what I want. For example, without a semi-structured reading routine, I don’t think I’d read anything during the semester, which would totally suck! It’s the same for other activities too. Of course, I don’t plan out every second of my day cause that’d be no fun either. :) But some consistency is always good.

      As for sleep – yeah, that’s something I do NOT have down to a routine yet. Gotta work on that. :)

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