Friday, January 30, 2015

Routines, rhythms and habit.

Routine can be our friend..
Can I start with a confession? Much as there are times I dream of ditching the day job and being spectacularly successful at whatever my current obsession is, deep down I secretly know that the regular working routine I'm in is probably good for me (although I don't like to admit to myself).

Firstly, it gets me up and out of the house in the morning (otherwise I'd probably drive my family up the wall), I get some exercise running to and from the station (which in itself is good for creativity - some of my most creative thoughts come to me on my morning or evening runs).

On the train I have some reading time, or the opportunity listen to a podcast. At work I mainly spend time with good people who challenge and inspire me, whilst mainly doing things I'm skilled to do, as well as earning the pennies to support my family. I get to work in a city rich with history and the largest public library in Europe, which usually has at least one copy of whatever obscurely titled book I'm keen to read next.
"The truth is, whether we like it or not, routines can be really good for us."
Being in the office I have a constant supply of tea, and I find myself more able to make better food choices by bringing in my own lunch and being away from aimless snack temptation. I'd be the first to admit that I would make terrible food choices and overdose on Jaffa Cakes and Pringles if given the opportunity - no joke. And whilst I'm sure I could fill my weekdays with cool stuff if I wasn't working, I have a sneaky feeling that by being in a routine I generally make more of my evenings and weekends in a way I might not do if I wasn't in the same routine. I am incredibly blessed to have health and employment, much as sometimes I grouch about the daily grind.

The truth is, whether we like it or not, routines can be really good for us.

So how can you make your routine work better for you? And I'm not talking about cramming every moment of your day full of some task or stimulation. But how can you make room in your routine - in your "normal" - for some of those things that you aspire to? How can you normalise your aspirations and step closer to the things you really want to do?

Routine helps me avoid these..
So often, especially at the beginning of the year, we attempt a wholesale change of routine and formation of new habits. Maybe it's doing more exercise, or avoiding the Jaffa Cakes and Pringles, or learning a new language.

Sometimes this works but in my case it usually doesn't. The things that have worked for me have been when I've maybe switched one thing for something else in my existing routine. I saw a great quote this week from Nathan W Morris:

"It's not always that we need to do more but rather that we need to focus on less". 

We live in a world that's full of distraction, but I think the secret to a fulfilling routine is to focus on one thing at a time. On my desk at work I try only to have the one thing I am working on that that time - whether it's a report I'm reviewing, technical drawing I'm checking or something completely different. I find that physically having a clear desk helps me give the task more focus.

It's the same in my workshop - I'm able to work better when it's less cluttered. In my inbox I'm an advocate for having as few emails as possible - as demands come in I write tasks down then file the email in the relevant place. For me this really helps me to prioritise on one thing at a time, and get better at giving it my full attention.
"It's not always that we need to do more but rather that we need to focus on less". (Nathan W Morris)
Sometimes a good way to get into a positive routine is to have others around you. Peer pressure can be really positive when you're trying to lose weight, or get fit. Even writing this blog regularly is helped by a community of blog buddies I'm part of - we set each other titles to blog to each week, which is a really helpful routine to be in. Can you find a tribe to help you with an area of focus?

What is it that you need to focus on in the days and weeks ahead? Are there things in your routine that have become unnecessary habit? Perhaps your life feels overcluttered. If so, it could be time to focus on less if possible.

Our routines can often be a rhythm, and there's much to be said about the benefits and blessings one gains from routines and rhythms of prayer, although I'll save that for another post (check out Chapter 8 of my book Life Space as a starter on this, link below). So I want to end with these encouraging words of Jesus, reminding us that for all our striving and straining, there's grace to be received when we follow His footsteps:

"Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace." (Matthew 11:29, Message translation)


Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on routines, rhythms and habits! If you've enjoyed it why not share it with your friends on social media?

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My Random Musings


Leyla [Thisdayilove] said...

I think routines have their place but so does not planning

Luke Strickland said...

It's a balance isn't it Leyla! Thanks for dropping by!