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“When you don’t have much time, a routine helps you make the little time you have count. When you have all the time in the world, a routine helps you make sure you don’t waste it.” —Austin Kleon, author of Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad
From the daily routine to begin the day, making steelcut oats for breakfast, a two egg omelette, pouring a hot cup of lemon water and sitting down to enjoy the first meal of the day while playing a mini crossword puzzle to the work routine of what posts are written on which days of the workweek, how I organize my thoughts for the weekly newsletter and ideas for the weekly This & That, to when to turn off my technology, creating a routine that enables each of us to tend to the necessary responsibilities, but also savor our days, is a necessary component to a life lived well.
Recently, I have received questions from readers about my own routine, and while I have shared posts in the past which share glimpses into my daily routines, even sharing my full routine here, I was inspired by Austin Kleon’s latest book Keep Going to talk more about the value of creating a routine that is tailored to the lives we want to live. The truth is, routines, when they are of our own making, can be that magical special something that elevates the overall quality of our lives.
For some reason, in many of our lives, the word routine has received a negative connotation. Most likely, the negativity was infused when the word became associated with a routine that did not work for our benefit or pay attention to what would work well to, in any way, enable us to enjoy the routine that was established to complete a must-do task. To be fair, unless we had a role in designing the routine, how would someone else know what would be best for us to ensure we both enjoyed and felt productive at the end of said routine?
Part of knowing what routine to choose is knowing ourselves, and this takes time and conscious attention. As you will see in the list below, we need to actively pay attention to not only what we have to do and want to do, but how we feel when we do certain activities – paying attention to the negative energy and the positive energy we feel – and truly getting down into the nitty gritty of why we are feeling each emotion (aka strengthening our EQ – Emotional Intelligence).
Once we do the detective work, then we can begin to solve the puzzle of designing the best routine for our daily lives.
While Kleon’s book shares much more about maintaining the creativity we have attained, it was the five pages about establishing a routine that immediately had me nodding my head in agreement. Here is why:
1.There is no one perfect routine, only a perfect routine for you
While we can certainly draw inspiration from others who live lives or have similar temperaments as ourselves, no more can one snowflake be exactly like another as we cannot do exactly what someone else does and feel our best.
That is the beauty and the up-front effort required when it comes to routines. However, the good news is that the initial effort required is temporary, and once we have correctly identified what we need to do in order to live the way we want to live, the energy required is greatly reduced because we do not have to expend mental fuel or physical fuel unnecessarily.
2. Observe our days
In order to determine what routine would work best, Kleon suggests looking logically at your day. The responsibilities the have-to, the free space and how it is managed, the time restrains and what makes it so. Planning our days is to build our days as a tailor would a couture gown – taking out the stitch to put it up higher or lower or letting down the hem or lengthening the sleeve. The goal is to feel comfortable and at ease in our days so that we can most fully enjoy them and feel productive at the end of them each and every time the routine is followed.
3. Observe your moods
From rituals that bring you calm or deep evanescent pleasure, to materials you need around you to noise you cannot have around you, what elevates your mood, what opens you up to be free to receive creative ideas? Answering questions such as these, paying attention to your days and simply observing how you feel doing every small or significant task will lead you to the routine that will work best. For me, stepping outside and enjoying nature and physically moving my body on a daily basis while being with my dogs is an instant mood lifter and therefore, a must-have in my daily routine.
4. Boundaries can actually set you free
“A little imprisonment —if it’s of your own making — can set you free. Rather than restricting your freedom, a routine gives you freedom by protecting you from the ups and downs of life and helping you take advantage of your limited time, energy and talent.” —Austin Kleon
Many times people will look at the structure to my days and assume I am confined, but the truth is, I set my mind free when I have a routine. And when my mind is free, it is able to be open and available to see ideas when they are presented and observe all that is around me in any given situation. As well, I am able to conserve my energy, work smarter, not longer, and find all of the free-time that is possible outside of my have-too to balance my days with self-care moments.
5. The non-routine days become all the more interesting
I especially appreciated Kleon’s quote above in #4 because it is true. When we step out of our routine, much as I did the past two weeks from my blogging schedule (see picture below), the annual holiday, as much as I love blogging 5-days a week and sharing what I discover, the time away is electrifying all the more. Not only am I ecstatic because I have a job I love to do 51 weeks out of the year, but I also have time to just be and dance with the world wherever I choose to go and choose to do. But it honestly is the fact that I have a routine that I enjoy that heightens these days or weeks off when they arrive: not only do I enjoy being liberated from them, but I enjoy and appreciate having them because I know they work well to cultivate the life I love living year-round.
6. The best work can manifest
When you are no longer burdened by the weight of energy, responsibilities and the stress of not knowing how you will get everything done, your stress levels drop and your creativity rises. You may not have an awesome, masterpiece idea everyday or even every week, but the strength of a muscle of a routine is that it gradually produces exceptional work as you have polished your mind to be able to find the ideas and work with them well when they are presented. No longer are you distracted unnecessarily and losing your “flow”, no longer are you just thankful to have completed every task on your list. Instead you have time managed well, your stress levels are lower on a regular basis, and the quality you produce soars.
A routine is a gift to yourself and the life you wish to live and share with others. Take some time this first month of 2020 and jot down your observations of what you days’ rhythms are as well as what your moods are throughout your day and with each activity. I am confident you will be able to discover when you need to give yourself a breath (for me, it is in the afternoon), and when you can become even more creative and how.
Have fun along this journey, and below are a few posts and episodes that may spark even more ideas when it comes to cultivating a routine that you love having in your everyday life.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~34 Inspiring Daily Rituals to Ignite Your Creativity, episode #255