written by Sara Arey
How do you feel when you hear the word “routine”? Do you feel trapped or the sense of doors closing? Do you think, “Boring!”?
I had a client who hated the word. Routines, schedules and systems felt like a cage to her, locking her in. They felt hard, cold and confining.
This client is a very creative person and believed that routines smothered her creativity. She believed that keeping a schedule would be the end of her spontaneity.
Once we cleared those thoughts and fears, she saw routine in a whole new light. She saw how structure and systems could actually support her creativity by helping her stay organized and in a comfortable rhythm.
Another great thing about routines is that when you’re having one of those days – and we ALL have them! – your routines can be the thing that saves you. You know which days I mean, right? The ones when you want to trade it all in for chocolate and a glass of wine. When you feel overwhelmed, discouraged and like you’re just spinning your wheels. When you’re ready to give up on your dreams and yourself.
Routines help us on these days by:
Keeping us moving.
Taking the first step – or even the next step – with anything can seem so daunting. When you’re already feeling down and lethargic, it can seem impossible. By following our routines, we’re already moving. We can then use that momentum to help propel us into the next task.
Giving us a feeling of accomplishment.
The majority of the time, when we’re having “one of those days”, it’s because something didn’t work out like we’d hoped or we need to do something that feels hard, scary or overwhelming. We know we can do our routines. We do them every day. Successfully carrying out our routines can give us the boost to then tackle something else on our list.
Giving us a feeling of familiarity.
When things feel scary or uncomfortable, we seek the familiar. That’s why favorite clothes and comfort food are especially appealing at these times. Having a familiar routine can also give us that sense of comfort and safety.
With the potential power of routines, don’t just have any old boring routines.
Here are 3 tips to make yours rock!
— Choose and perform your routines consciously.
We fall into unconscious habits and routines all the time, not even realizing we’re doing it. Then we’re living our lives on autopilot. Instead, decide what routines you want to have. Be deliberate.
And when you do your routines, give them your attention. If you walk outside for exercise, notice your surroundings. Enjoy being in nature. If you play a computer game to relax, focus on it. Enjoy your relaxation. Then when you finish the game, turn it off and move on.
— Have a routine that nurtures each of the following:
This can be anything that calms and soothes your mind, like reading, meditation or playing an instrument. It could also be something that challenges and invigorates your mind, like doing a crossword puzzle or playing a game like Scrabble.
There are so many routines that address the needs of your body. Exercise is one. Others include spending time outside, eating a healthy lunch, stretching, drinking plenty of water and sleeping 7-8 hours a night.
What feeds your spirit? Doing something fun? Having dinners without electronics? Meditating? Playing a musical instrument? Taking a bath with candles? Whatever it is, do it with intention and attention, fully absorbing all the richness it holds for you.
— Appreciate yourself when you complete a routine.
Congratulate yourself on a job well done. Feel good about having kept your routine. Notice the positive affect your routines are having on your day, your health and your disposition.
There will be times when you won’t want to do your routines. That’s okay. Start the activity anyway. Do it for a few minutes and then see how it feels. Inertia can be a very powerful force. If we opt out of a routine every time we don’t want to do it, it’ll quickly disappear from our agenda.
Only add one routine at a time. It’s tempting to jump in and start 4 or 5 routines at once. Doing this will just leave you feeling overwhelmed and more likely to quit everything. Start with the habit that will make the biggest difference for you. Do it until it feels like a natural part of your day. Then add one more.
What routine has made the biggest difference for you?