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Are your Routines Helpful or Hurtful?

Routine Thoughts – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly…

For many years, I believed that routines made me less interesting or, somehow, not exciting.

Talk about giving routines a bad name. You could probably say I judged routines by the book cover instead of the contents.

(Un?)popular opinion – Routines are bullshit, aka:

  • Boring
  • Mundane
  • Lack of fun or excitement
  • Repetitive
  • Basically all the “bad” feels…

When you think of a routine, what are your initial thoughts?

Warning, you may not feel the same way about routines. As in, you enjoy routine and find it grounding. That is totally fine. If that is the case, this article might not be for you. But, you can forward it to someone who needs to hear this right now. {wink wink}

On the other end of the spectrum, perhaps you are like me and believe that routines are bullshit. Who wants to be a boring and mundane person? If this is how you feel, you definitely need to read on!

What is a Routine?

Full disclosure, this is my own interpretation of routine….

A routine is doing the same thing consistently. Often time, it is something you have done so many times you don’t give it much thought. For example, going to your favorite restaurant on Friday night. It is just something you do. There is no questioning it. You get in the car on Friday evening and everyone knows where the car is going. So much so, you probably don’t even actively think about which way to drive to the restaurant.

TL/DR: Routines are what you do on autopilot.

Given the bad taste routines left in my mind, I have not had the greatest connection or relationship with routines over the decades. The first glimmer of changing my mind came in my first year of college. At the time, a co-worker of my told me about his shower routine. (I know, random conversation. I don’t know how it started, but we talked about it).

Shower ROUTINE. Where are you going with this?

Jeremy, the former co-worker, had his shower routine completely figured out. It wasn’t just something he did willy-nilly. There was well thought out rationale. Here’s how it went: Jeremy started his shower with washing his hair as a way of washing is hands before washing his face.

Makes sense. Then what?

Next, he followed by washing his body, rinsing the shampoo out of his hair, and then applying conditioner. He would then leave the conditioner in his hair while while shaving.

He also brushed his teeth in the shower, but I believe in reserving this as a sink side activity!

At the time, a shower routine was a foreign topic to me. Having a set routine to follow in the shower seemed like something Rain Man would do.

My ADHD-self knew there were various things that needed to take place while showering, but there was no particular order. One time I’d start by shaving my legs, then the next time I’d start with washing my body or my hair. There was no rhyme or reason to my method!

Well, other than shampoo followed by conditioner… those kinda need to happen in that order. That is unless you accidentally picked up the conditioner first. Tell me I am not the only one who has done this! LOL

Shower Routines are OK, but That Is It!

Here’s the interesting thing – I openly accepted a shower routine into my life to streamline the cleaning process. Jeremy’s logic and rationale for making shower time methodical made sense.

After a couple weeks of playing around with the concept, I came up with my own shower routine… I still follow it to this day.

However, incorporating a routine (intentionally) into other aspects of life… well, that was pretty much out of the question. I would attribute my lack of desire to follow a routine as a result of wanting to keep life spontaneous – synonymous with fun, right?!

Routine, to me, has been the complete opposite of spontaneous and fun. Would you agree?

Flash foward several years later – nearly two decades – and I am learning to have a new relationship with the concept of routine.

COVID has forced me to focus on the benefits of routine. Rather than resisting, now is the time to learn to embrace it.


COVID Brings in New Perspective

When COVID lockdowns began last March, I welcomed the opportunity to slowdown. Bonus, we were able to sleep in because we didn’t have to account for time spent driving to/from school before starting our day.

Initially, everything was great!

Taking back time felt like a huge sigh of relief. We didn’t have to rush from one commitment to another. It was like finding extra time in the day to do more… or to just relax and enjoy some down time.

While the kids were home from school, my husband was considered an essential worker so he was still able to go to work.

Not long after shutdowns started, our lives slowly started to shift. And, then the COVID-Cluster-F*ck Kicked In…

After two weeks of being home and enjoying some “free time”, things changed in an instant – precisely on Monday in April at 8am.

The kids had to resume school.
Online.
At home.
In my space.

You see, for the past four years, my family had gone to school/work five days a week while I stayed home and worked in my office – alone. This meant I’d have upwards of 8 hours a day all to myself. (Oh, those days were glorious!!!)

With everything closed down, including schools, the kids were now in my space all day, every day.

Sound familiar?

COVID F*cked Up My — wait for it — ROUTINE.

You read that right. My routine became messed up as a result of COVID.

And, this resulted in major struggles balancing all the commitments at home… without the ability to engage in the “fun” aspects of life, such as meeting up with friends, working enjoying a cup of coffee at the local coffee ship, or taking the night off from cooking to endulge in dinner with the family at our favorite local restaurant.

At the time, I realized there was something different about my daily life that was causing me to struggle, but I couldn’t really pinpoint it. (A few months later I would be diagnosed with situational depression – completely accurate given the circumstances. This was part of it. However, not the whole picture).

About six months into the whole thing, it finally hit me. Like a bolt of lightening without any storm clouds around…

I made the realization that my ROUTINE had been changed by COVID. More accurately, I no longer had a routine. Everything I could normally rely on to give structure to my daily life had been lost.

Can you see my 19-year-old-self rolling her eyes?


Lacking Structure with a Calendar Full of Cancelled Events

My oldest daughter no longer had volleyball practice on Tuesday/Thursday nights. All my lunch dates or coffee meetup with friends and professional contacts had been cancelled. We couldn’t go out to dinner on Friday nights to get a break from the monotony of cooking dinner and doing dishes.

Our weekends were no longer filled with travel all over the state to volleyball tournaments. Instead, we would binge watch Netflix… because we couldn’t go anywhere or do anything.

I don’t know if you know this, but when people are home all day, every day… well, that means you’ve suddenly got a whole lot more cleaning (and dishes to wash) on your hands. Right?!

Just months before this, when the kids would go to school, I could pick up the house and enjoy the neat, clean, and orderly house for HOURS! But, as their school work took over the dining room table and their extracircular activities were taking place in the living room, our house felt like it was in a constant state of disarray. And, the walls were starting to close in on me.

At this point, you are probably wondering…

You Actually had a Routine? Even Though You Were Against Them?

Yep. I’m just as shocked as you!

While I had been incredibly resistant to implementing a routine into my life because it would make life mundane. And, somehow make me boring in the process… I actually had a routine.


Elaborate, please…

My routine had been built largely around external factors or events. As in, school, sports, and socializing schedules. I filled my time and created a routine based on all the things that happened in the lives of my family.

Talk about a mind blowing moment.

I had actually followed a routine without even realizing it. This meant, I could follow a routine if I tried without somehow being boring. Right?!

However, the routine I had in place was not one that was setting me up for success. (Mind bowing moment #2!!)

As in, I wasn’t being proactive with my routine to create an atmosphere to work toward my goals and dreams. Taking ownership here, I was limiting my own success… good ole self-sabotage.


Are Your Routines Helpful or Hurtful?

Recapping what I said earlier, a routine can be defined as a collection of habits often done without much thought and followed in a particular order.

The question(s) for you

Are your habits/routine helping you to:
– get closer to your goals or dream? Or,
– preventing you from living the life you truly want?

Sometimes we can use different default habits (or routines) that keep us stuck. These can include, but are not limited to:

  • using food as a coping mechanism,
  • numbing yourself through shopping, exercise, watching TV, or excessive working.
  • avoiding life through drug or alcohol use, or
  • other detrimental behaviors…


Actionable Steps to Implementing a Positive Routine into Your Life

We are going to keep this list limited.

Why? Because taking on too much change at once is a recipe for disaster. And, it will also make it so your new routine implodes overnight.

Really, the goal of this post is to create awareness and introduce the concept of creating a positive routine. As in, helping you to take an active role in your life to create success. So, let’s make sure we stick to that.

Getting started with a new routine:

  • Start with ONE adjustment to your routine.
    • Do not – Repeat: DO NOT – adjust everything about your routine in a single day.
    • When thinking about what you want in your new routine, focus on how you want to feel! A routine is not about forcing yourself to do something you do not want to do. A positive routine is all about making yourself feel good!

Here’s an Example of Implementing a Positive Routine

Do you make your bed everyday? If so, why do you? Or, why do you not? Does it come from a negative or positive motivating factor?

For myself, I’ve been told many times in my life to make my bed. My associations with making my bed have been pretty negative. As in, it was a chore, an expectation, and something that had to be done regardless of how I felt.

However, with the pandemic (and moving in the midst of the global chaos), I needed something I could control in my life. In July, I decided I needed to take control of my environment (and life) by creating a consistent “happy space” – aka my bedroom.

Remember, this is the time when my house was in disarray with the kids home all day, every day, and my only “safe space” was my room (except for when my youngest would try to sneak in to binge watch YouTube while I was distracted on a conference call).

Anyway, I started making my bed every single day. Instead of thinking about making my bed as a “required” task, I thought of it as a way to ground myself or a small success first thing in the morning (You might even call it an act of radical self-care).

My mindset toward making my bed was to look at it as something that I could control when there was very little I could control due to COVID.

All the Positive Feels with a New Routine

Slowly, over time, my morning routine has evovled to include meditation, coffee, getting ready, and other things to help me feel like I am starting my day off right.

There have been a couple of times I didn’t want to make my bed, but I did anyway…

Why, you ask? I focused on how a neat bed made me feel. The answer – at peace, a sense of calm in my room after a day full of choas, and serves a reminder I have control over my own environment (regardless of what is happening in the world).

As I thought all about how making my bed made me feel later in the day, I was compelled to follow through with the task. While making my bed, I continue to remind myself that I am starting my day off with a success. And, that helps to set the tone for the day.

All that said, making my bed every day has been the biggest success for me during this pandemic. It seems so simplistic, but profound at the same time.

My new routine of making my bed has given me so much more than I could have ever expected. And, I am sure my mom is happy that I have been making my bed!

Important note: At no time do I guilt myself into making my bed. It is intended to be a positive practice only. If you find your self-talk negative, then it is time to reconsider your new routine practice. Seriously, I mean that!

So, my question for you: What is one small thing you can implement into your routine to help you to have a small success first thing in the morning?

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