My complicated relationship with routines
When I was growing up, my dad was big on routines. This only intensified after he retired from full-time work and started doing more private teaching and volunteering. Every night he would lay out his clothes, set the table for breakfast, and get his stuff ready for the next day [usually immediately preceeding him putting on his pajamas at 7:30 p.m. and watching the game].
He always encouraged me to try to do the same thing – get my books together for school, finish my homework before dinner, lay out my clothes after I checked the weather – but I thought it was super-lame. I wanted to be spontaneous! After all, how was I supposed to know what I wanted to wear the night before I wanted to wear it? The fact that I was perpetually forgetting my leotard at home, or hardly ever had time to eat a proper breakfast, didn’t matter to me – I wasn’t hearing this crazy talk about “routines” and “prepping in advance.” [Plus, my tendency toward excessive organization didn't manifest until my mid-to-late teens. That's when the listmaking really started getting out of hand.]
Now that I’m working all the time at my new gig and still maintaining an active freelance practice, I’ve had to retool a lot of the routines I developed during my year and a half or so of full-time work at home [namely, I have to put on pants of the non-yoga variety]. I’ve got stuff I do in the mornings, stuff I do after work, and stuff I [usually] do before bed, plus a whole other set of stuff to do on Sunday nights.
Why I like it
All the stuff that I don’t like doing or always forget to do is built into a time-based habit, so after I get into the habit, I don’t have to self-motivate every time I did it. This sounds dumb, but here are some ways it works for me:
- going over my finances [this has a dual motive: I go over money stuff on Sunday nights, and not only does it force me to evaluate where I am each week, it also gives me an incentive not to stew about money and mess around with Mint.com for the rest of the week]
- laying out stuff that I used to have a tendency to forget the night before [phone charger; snack]
- taking a vitamin [i lay it out w/ my breakfast settting]
This means that less of my stuff is left to chance.
It’s easy for me to know how much work I can take on, because I have a finite amount of time to deal with it. It’s always tempting for me to say an enthusiastic “YES!” to every work responsibility and freelance project and favor that comes my way, because I love doing what I do. However, if I did that, I’d be at risk of serious burnout within a few short weeks. As a result, I’ve built my schedule so that I’ve got specific time periods that I work on freelance work, and I try superhard not to take on more work than can fit into those blocks, lest everything suffer. This is also useful in helping me estimate when things will be done – if I have a WordPress install + theme customization for a client, I can say without even looking at my schedule that I’ll have it done in two to three weeks.
It’s easy for me to know when I’m emphatically not supposed to be working. The schedule pretty much the same from week to week, and I tend to work on the same things at the same time each week. This means I know that at 3 p.m. on Sunday, I have to be done for the weekend, even if I’ve still got other work I could be doing. Another way for me to avoid burnout. Sometimes I get creeping guilt when I’m not working, but we talked about this before – all work and no play makes Amanda Lee a dull girl [who writes crappy markup, eats too much garbage trying to stay awake, gets snippy with her friends, and eventually falls asleep while sitting at her desk].
I have time built in for screwing up. My schedule used to be completely full to the brim of stuff that I wanted to be doing, because I was intent on packing it with as much gym time/work/hobbies as possible. I don’t do that anymore. I specifically stop working at a given time, and I’ve tried really hard lately to get rid of the habit of joining things or picking up new hobbies. This way, if I have an honest-to-gawd legitimate emergency [of the hospital-visiting/dog-vomiting/car-breaking-down variety/server-hacking variety], I can deal with it without completely mucking up the rest of my week’s work.
I’m taking better care of myself. Yeah, I still oversleep and eat at Dunkin’ Donuts sometimes, and work-related urgencies get my pulse racing. But in general, I’m eating better and exercising more than I’ve ever been able to with a full-time job. Which is progress, I think.
I’m working on a cool infographic-y poster of my weekly routines. I’ll get it up here next week.
In the meantime, what kinds of stuff do you do every day/week/month/weekend? Or what kinds of routines/habits do you wish you had?