I struggle to wake up on time most days of the week, and this (pandemic) winter, I’m doing no better. I’m always working on something to improve myself, but an intentional routine that goes beyond the absolute necessities and sets me up for a great day is a win that still eludes me.
My most dependable saving graces are that I am blessed with work, I love to work and I love my work. I use it, with its exciting ideas, challenging briefs and a somewhat steady stream of deadlines, to pull myself out of bed. That’s typical of what human nature author Gretchen Rubin calls The Obliger Type: Determined to deliver on every commitment we make to others but regularly falling short on the ones we make to ourselves. [I’m also a Myers Brigg’s INTP, and, unsurprisingly, thoroughly fascinated by personality typing.]
Problems stated and personality laid bare, you’d think I would love routines. I clearly need them, and I seem predisposed to their logical, ordered character. I’m told that, at least at first and usually from a distance, I appear very organised and ‘on it.’ Being human makes that true and not, at the same time. I have always felt connected to creativity, to discovering and expressing it, but I always saw it as incompatible with the very idea of routine.
Being drawn to creative pursuits in general and the world of design in particular, I bought into stereotypes and saw my square traits more as problems to solve than tools to wield. I envied abstract free thinkers, people predisposed to colouring outside the lines. Their naturally spontaneous nature seemed key to making compelling creative work. My few years of work have taught me better, that I could find my own way and use what I have, and suddenly, an idea I’d resisted my whole life seemed like the answer to all my problems.
Understanding how this has been holding me back pushed me to dedicate this year (not my first attempt) to simple disciplines. If I achieved nothing else, I would adopt this small daily discipline and reap its benefits: Establish morning and evening routines and stick to them. That was before March 26th. Before... well, everything. It’s been a challenge, to say the least, but I can tell you that just submitting to the idea has made a difference, primarily by making it mine.
Much like eating your vegetables as a kid, routine is good for you, and only miserable if you refuse to embrace it. It’s a way to free up your mind for all the wonderful ways you want to spend your time, not a barrier that keeps you from them. You build it practically and with knowledge of yourself, and you form habit one day at a time. If you’re an obliger like me, you pretend you’re doing it for your other self, because you owe her that and she’ll thank you tomorrow.
Like much of life, routines are great when they align with who we are. I think those of us who resist routine do so because we associate it with old rules and regulations that never seemed connected to anything we cared about. Thankfully we’re grown now, and sometimes, we even know what we’re doing. Goals are ours to set, and routines ours to build around them.
Maybe it’s this Unprecedented Time™, but knowing and holding that has been helpful to me, and might hold some help for you too. Put into currently inconsistent practice, my baby routines already feel like a makeover waiting to happen. I’ve got my reminders set and my fingers crossed for a great before & after.
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