I’ve held an aversion for the word routine for quite some time.
The word routine for me conjured up the same feelings as the word schedule-restricted, limited, reduced creativity, permanence, and unchanging.
All those feelings made me feel chained down. I wanted feelings like freedom, spontaneity, unlimited creativity, openness, and abundance.
Having all those lovely feeling and a routine couldn’t coexist, could they?
But then Amy Dingmann, author of The Homeschool Highway wrote a wonderful post about routines which made me think about routines in an entirely new way.
She said routines are really no different than traditions. We all have traditions we look forward to –where we do the same thing, in usually the same way, on the same day of the year or in the same season.
And it hit me…..she is so right!!!!
I love traditions. I look forward to the day after Thanksgiving every year when we pick out our tree and put it up for the first time. I love the traditions and rituals we do each season…caroling at Christmastime, swimming once a week at the outdoor pool during the summer, and bringing a much requested cauliflower dish each year to Thanksgiving dinner.
So why should I loathe routines so much? They’re not really that different from traditions, are they?
The more I thought about it, I already had a number of routines set up in my life that were working beautifully.
I always do all my weekly laundry on Saturday or Sunday, along with changing the sheets on the beds. I also read stories and books with my kids at lunchtime for 45 minutes to an hour every day we are home. We’ve done this since they were six months old. I have quite a few other things I do either the same day of the week or during the same times of the day.
After much pondering and writing to make sense of why I loathe the ideas of routines so much, I came to the conclusion that my idea of a routine was very limited. I had placed it into the same category as a fixed schedule, instead of looking at is as the flowing, free-form structure that it is.
I came to see that by using the free flowing nature of routine in my life I could actually achieve greater freedom. I could build in time for creativity so I wouldn’t let errands and housework and other things cut into my daily time of writing and creating new worlds.
Here are 5 ways routines can actually lead to a more creative, spontaneous, and passionate life.
1. Routines allow you to focus your limited time on those things that are most important to you and your family.
We all have the same amount of time. To some extent we do not have control over it. My husband was overnight in the hospital this week with a major head concussion, so any plans I had made went out the window. Being with him was the most important thing I should be doing at the time.
But usually, we do have a lot of control over how we spend our time. We can control how much time we spend on doing things that earn money, playing with our children, creating things, doing housework, errands, hobbies and dozens of other things we need or want to do.
But many times the things that are most important -spending time with family and developing your interests and talents, get pushed aside for other things that are in your face screaming for attention- dishes, making appointments, taking on more work for pay.
Routines make sure that your most important priorities do not get overshadowed by “crises” disguised as distractions.
2. Routines help develop habits that can lead you closer to your dreams.
When you develop routines you develop habits. Doing those things become a part of your lifestyle. You become used to doing them. You feel strange and a little off when you don’t do them on a fairly regular basis.
I’ve recently started the routine of writing a minimum of 250 words every day sometime in the afternoon. I don’t have a fixed time, but rather a window of time in which to get it done. It’s important for me to carve out this time. Some days it’s not easy for me, but it’s becoming more of a habit already so that it’s just something that’s a part of my lifestyle now.
Your children can see that when they develop certain habits, it really will help their dreams to come true. They may not see big progress from day to day, but looking over a larger period of time, over months and years, they will see how those regular periods of time devoted to reaching a big dream or goal will pay off.
3. Routines allow you to do things you might not enjoy as much so you have more time for the things you love.
I’m new to setting up routines for the things I love to do like daily writing, but I’ve been a longtime fan of routines for things that I don’t love to do that much (which is probably why I was viewing routines in a negative light. Hmmmm. I love how writing and reading helps me clarify my thoughts!)
I have routines for doing laundry, making the grocery list, cleaning up after meals, exercising, and other housework. I don’t have to put them on a to-do list because doing them at certain times and days have become so natural to me.
They’ve become such a part of what I do that they really aren’t something I dread that much anymore. I don’t have the temptation to put off doing them because it’s something I’ve been doing for quite some time and it’s become a habit for me.
And now I’m working on doing the things I love, especially those things that will bring me closer to a big dream or goal, at a similar time each day, so it becomes a habit for me too. I’m hoping it will help fight off the distractions of Facebook, and looking at recipes on Pinterest, or reading that awesome new book.
4. Routines allow your family to learn and grow and live in ways that are best for each family member.
You can’t give someone a routine to follow. You can give them a step-by-step schedule, but a routine must be very personal for it to work.
Routines have to come from a place of comfort, of optimal time, of a connection with your natural rhythms.
The routines that I have in place come from what feels right- what works best for me. They help me do things I don’t want to do at the time, like housework, in a way that doesn’t make it feel that difficult for me. It brings me closer to my larger goal of having a fairly clean and orderly house.
Our hour of reading together during lunch is very precious and welcome for both me and the kids. They enjoy the stories, and it’s a time when I don’t feel pressured with other things I “need” to do.
We’re also developing a routine of doing activities together in the morning, and having time for my writing and their independent play and projects in the afternoon – if we are at home. It’s worked because it’s the time of day that works best for all of us to do those things- not just me.
The kids have always loved to watch DVDs or shows on Netflix after eating lunch while curled up on the couch. After they get their full, they are ready to make up their own games.
I write best in the afternoon. I’ve experimented with different times of the day. When I write in the afternoon it goes much faster and the words flow smoothly- not so much in the morning or evening. If I need to I can shift that time to morning or evening on certain days when we have something else planned.
5. Routines allow you to be more spontaneous.
You might be asking, so how the heck can following a routine help you be more spontaneous?
My simple answer is that by following a routine most of the time, you have more flexibility and freedom to break that routine whenever you need or want to.
When I follow my routine for cleaning or organizing, when I miss a day or even a week, the house doesn’t descend into chaos.
When I break my routine for writing, I know that I’ve made a lot of progress on my writing and can take some time off. The time off usually brings with it lots of inspiration, new ideas and a spike in my creativity.
You can also have a routine or time set up to be spontaneous. It can be several hours during the day where you are completely free to work on or do whatever feels right in the moment. And when you have those hours you can feel completely guilt-free to do whatever you like. You know that you have other times when necessary work like buying grocery, doing laundry and making appointments are done.
Just like our budget helps us know for sure that it’s ok to go on a big trip- that we don’t have to worry whether we’ll also be able to pay for food or other expenses, so having time during the day when I take care of those daily things that must be done or other responsibilities, leaves me time when I don’t have to worry if I’ll be missing something “important” that needs to be done.
Photo Credit: Dave Dugdale
What routines do you have that allow you and your family to develop your interests and talents? Do you like the ideas of routines?
Share on Facebook