This blog post was inspired by a recent podcast episode of Little Chapters. In the episode, Kayte and Jessica discuss their relationship with routine and how it serves them. This made me wonder. What is my relationship with routine and how can I improve it?
The internet loves routines
The media bombards us with the message that routines are wonderful. The immensely popular book The Miracle Morning teaches us that we should perform the SAVERS routine each morning. (Savers stands for silence, affirmations,
It alleviates stress
Research has found that routines can help manage stress and anxiety. This is no wonder, because the sheer amount of decisions that are available to us in modern-day life can leave us easily overwhelmed. Do I go for a workout, call a friend or watch an episode of Friends? It might seem like a trivial question, but for anxiety-sufferers, it can be an impossibly difficult question to answer. By sticking to a routine, you take away the stress from having to make decisions about trivial aspects of your life.
It increases productivity
The other major benefit of routines is that it aids productivity. It is easy to see why. When you implement a steady routine, you take away the time you would normally have to use on making decisions and fighting of distractions. Creative people often have some form of routine because many creative endeavours do require some level of productivity – think writing a book or producing an album. Although we often see creatives as free-spirited people who would shun routines, scheduling time each day to work on a new project ensures they actually produce a body of work.
Does it always work?
So far, so good. Routines can help us get reduce anxiety, increase productivity, and prime our mindsets. But what happens when routines do exactly the opposite of that? A year ago, I tried sticking to the SAVERS routine for a few weeks. I would get up an hour earlier each morning and do the different steps of the routine. And instead of getting happier, more productive and less stressed, each day I was just getting more tired and more frustrated that this ‘stupid routine’ didn’t work for me. The routine was putting me in a straight-jacket each morning and took the joy out of all my favourite activities – meditation, reading, writing.
Breakfasts and walking
Do you know what I do each morning without a fail? I have breakfast. Having breakfast has been a part of my morning routine since childhood. I cannot leave the house before sitting down for 30 minutes to slowly savour my bowl of food. And I will happily get up a little earlier for it. Do you know what else I do each day without even thinking about it? I walk. On weekdays, I walk to and from work and on weekends I go for a walk in the nearby countryside. I don’t even have to think about taking a walk. A day without walking is like a day without breathing to me, so I do it without giving it a second thought. It is truly part of my routine.
And that is the crux of routines. They should work for you. I wholeheartedly believe that routines can be helpful. Even the ones that are a little more forced. In January, for example, I did a 30-day yoga challenge. Although there were definitely days that I didn’t want to get on the mat, sticking with the routine for 30 days was incredibly beneficial. But we need to ask ourselves if our routines let us be in control or whether our routines are
A routine excercise
So how do we know if a routine works for us or not? A little exercise may help with that. Try doing something that you want to add to your routine for 30 days and ask yourself afterwards how this made you feel. The following questions can be helpful to think about:
- Does this routine make me happier overall, even when some days I don’t feel like doing it?
- Do I rush trough the routine or do I enjoy the activities in the routine?
- Do I feel like a failure, because I cannot seem to nail the routine?
- Is the routine making me more stressed, because I have to perform it on top of everything else that is going on in my life?
- Am I actually more productive – or calmer, or happier – because of the routine? Or do perform the routine on automated pilot without any actual results?
I have done this exercise twice now. In January, I did yoga every day. In February, I meditated every day. I found that doing yoga every day was incredibly beneficial and made me overall happier, even if I felt like skipping it on some days. Daily mediation however felt very forced and each day I couldn’t wait for the 10 minutes to be over. This made me realise something. I love meditation, just not as part of a routine.
There are so many different activities we can put into a routine and so many different timeslots in which we can perform a routine. Just because the SAVERS routine works for some (very loud voices on the internet), doesn’t mean it has to work for you. Find a way in which routines can empower you (like my flexible self-care routine), and you will see that they can indeed become that amazing tool that the internet is drooling over.
Do you have routines? Do they work for you?