Tuesday, September 13, 2022

R is for Routine?

TaniaRose via Pixabay

 Yesterday, I made a decision to step off the merry-go-round. 

No, I'm not retiring. I'm revising. 

Not a book this time but, rather, my insistence on a routine.

Despite the fact that I've been an educator for 34 years, I spend the first month of every semester trying to settle into some sort of routine. During this time, I waffle between flexibility and rigidity, never completely happy with either one. 

It's frustrating. I keep thinking I should have this down, but every new semester brings a slightly new to-do list. 

This is, in fact, one of the things I like about my job. 

But, somehow, the "real" job (teaching) always manages to nudge the "other job" (writing) not only off the table, but crashing down onto the floor where it splinters into a thousand pieces. By then, I'm too exhausted to make sense of the splintered remnants, so I sweep them away, hoping the next day will be better.

I've tried tracking my time. That gives me a headache and depresses me because everything always takes longer than I think it will.

I've considered setting business hours. But, when I don't complete the things I deem necessary for the next day within that established time frame, I break through the frame and keep on working.

So much for business hours.

Yesterday was a challenging day for reasons I still can't identify. All I knew was it wasn't a "nose to the grindstone" sort of day and that I felt "out of sorts," as my mom would say. 

So I took a new approach. I taught my classes at their allotted times and, when I got home, I decided to choose my tasks one at a time instead of trying to blow through a to-do list. All afternoon, as I completed a task, I determined what to do next by pausing and asking myself one simple question.

What do I want to do in this moment?

I found it so helpful that I wrote a post about it for this Thursday's Organizing by STYLE blog. I thought I was reporting on a single day but, when I got up earlier than usual this morning, I decided to adopt the same attitude with today's "found" time.

It felt good. Very productive, and not routine-like at all.

I actually wrote about this -- or something similar, anyway -- back in January. It sounds like such a simple (and possibly indulgent) thing to do but, for those of us who've adopted a work-before-play philosophy, either wittingly or unwittingly, it's a hard sell. The "what I want to do" gets swept away in a sea of "what I should do." And, when we "should" ourselves, we can suck the joy right out of anything.

Yesterday, simply by choosing what I was doing, slowing down a bit, and focusing on my chosen task (easy because it was what I wanted to be doing), I not only enjoyed the tasks more, but I got a lot done. 

Clearly, this relaxed routine has something to recommend it. 

I don't know if my choice-based system will stand the test of time. Will I do all the stuff I love and ignore the rest? Then again, might that tell me something about the value of what never gets done? 

I do know that I felt a lot better by the end of the day yesterday than I did early on. And, when given a fighting chance, my writing -- which has been languishing under a pile of shoulds -- rose quickly to the top of the "what do I want to do in this moment?" list. 

And that's a win.

Step aside, rigid routine. Relaxed routine to the rescue.

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