Are routines necessary when you’re not busy?

Thursday, February 21, 2013 Permalink

I’ve talked on and off over the past 3-4 months (since taking a break from work) about my lack of routine.

I’ve always been a creature of habit. I am more than happy to eat the same thing for breakfast every day and when I was working I had no problem taking the same thing to lunch day in and day out. And… as I mentioned last week, I tend to cook the same thing week after week.

I suspect that routine and habit helps me feel in control.

But, while I have (hopefully) reined-in my previously out-of-control eating I’m still struggling to get into some sort of routine.

RoutineI often make a plan… But, it falls over pretty quickly. You see, it’sย pretty hard to justify NEEDING a routine as I currently have very few commitments.

I’ve now spent nearly 5 months out of the workforce. Which is kinda crazy. Of course 1-2 of those months involved selling and buying and moving, then there was Christmas, but still, 5 months is a hell of a long time.

I’d always planned to start looking for some part-time work once I’d settled into my new hometown so I’ve started to monitor employment sites and classifieds. I’m not overly desperate as yet, but don’t want to get to that point.

I’m mortgage-free now, but still have hefty bills coming in.

I’ve always known I wouldn’t be able to live off my writing (unless my genius is discovered by some publishing house or magazine wanting me to regularly freelance ;-), so until then I’ll need some money to get by.

My ideal scenario would be a couple of days of work each week. Something to do with writing would be ridiculously opportune, but I won’t hold my breath. My preference is that it has NOTHING to do with my previous life. Sorting mail at the Post Office or stacking shelves would be preferable than a return to the way I lived before (which didn’t seem all that bad at the time!).

It’s strange, this lack of ambition, or perhaps I’m still secretly hoping I’ll make something of my writing. But other than that, I’d be kinda happy just ‘getting by’; making enough money (from my job and writing) to pay the bills and have a few treats now and then. It occurs to me that if ‘this’ is my life, then that’s okay.

Meanwhile, when I find a job and my free-time is more limited I suspect I’ll need to focus more on routines. Plus I’ll actually need to get to work and stuff! Until then I’ll make the most of my life as it currently stands.

Do you need routine?
Have you had a break from work or had to resettle into the workplace?

* I know this post isn’t exactly health / fitness / wellness related but it does focus on lifestyle issues. Plus it’s my blog and I get to write whatever the bloody hell I want to. Oh, and it’s very vaguely a two-parter with a post in Debbish focusing on my writing aspirations (and getting into a writing routine!).

  • Priska
    February 21, 2013

    I’m with you, though it didn’t seem so bad at the time, there is no way that I want to go back to my previous job, I would also prefer to pack shelves at the supermarket.
    But at the time I was so afraid of ‘letting go’. I no longer wanted the stress of my job yet downsizing to something simpler seemed so boring and mundane.
    Now that I am doing all of the things that I’ve always dreamed about (like writing, joining toastmasters & learning what I want) I’d be happy to do mundane because my creative desire is being fulfilled.
    On the topic of routine. For twenty years I lived to a strict timetable which was filled with busyness and the stress of getting to the next thing on my to do list.
    I no longer want that. I also don’t want to procrastinate by being on facebook, surfing the net or sitting around reading trash too much.
    So instead of a rigid timetable I have regular anchors which I attend to each day which keep me grounded. I do them in blocks of time, then allow myself 15 minutes to facebook or email.
    For example my current anchors are: Morning write, midday mediation, afternoon research, late afternoon walk. I do email, facebook etc for 10-15 mins in between. I can switch the main stuff around when I please, for example decide to walk first thing and write in the afternoon. None of this is done by clock time, I’m over watching the time.

    • Debbish
      February 21, 2013

      I like the idea of anchors Priska. Until I’m working I don’t have enough ‘definite’ things to fill my day. My ‘to-do’ lists seem to go undone.

      I didn’t say this in the post, but my days are either super-productive (I spent 8hrs straight at my desk writing and get chores done!) or I do SFA and accomplish nothing!


      • Priska
        February 21, 2013

        Hi Deb,
        I developed anchors for that exact reason.
        They were simply to make sure I did what I felt was important and stick to it without being hard on myself.
        At the beginning it was important to write each morning for half an hour and walk each afternoon for half an hour.
        It only took an hour out of my day and kept me grounded.
        The rest of the day I could be as slack or productive as I liked.

        • Debbish
          February 22, 2013

          Yes, I definitely like that idea Priska. (I’ve started doing some morning pages – which has been the routine I’ve wanted to develop this week… not sure if you know what they are / have read “The Artist’s Way”?) The walk idea is also a good one!


  • Char
    February 21, 2013

    I definitely need routine. How else would I get through the day? And how would I know if I was really on holidays or not? I just feel lost and aimless – and just a little depressed when I don’t have things to do. I guess I need to feel like my life has some point to it besides eating and sleeping.

    • Debbish
      February 21, 2013

      I think I really grappled with that in the New Year Char. Oct – Dec were a bit of a blur with the selling and moving and stuff, but then Christmas finished and people went back to work, then kids to school and I suddenly realised that ‘holidays’ had finished.

      Weekends are a bit of a blur for that same reason.

  • Jess
    February 21, 2013

    I have actually never been good at routines. They make me feel trapped and bored. However, my lack of routine skills has definitely been a downfall, because I think most people like to operate with them. I think routine is naturally more effiecient and helps the day flow. Obviously I do follow routines too at times, because work etc requires some kind of routine. But I’m definitely less consistent then most.

    I know as a mum that my kids work better with routines and I try to give them structure as much as possible.

    I get why you would want to do something less challenging for work! Your main goals and challenges are really focused on what you want to do with writing etc. So if you’re heavily invested in outside employment it is hard to do that!

    • Debbish
      February 22, 2013

      It must be difficult Jess, as someone who doesn’t prefer to have routines, to HAVE to have them for your kids’ sake. I completely understand how they’re necessary for children.

      On the work front… I guess I just want my life to be / remain different to how it was before. I can’t promise that I won’t stress about whatever it is that I’m doing, but at least I can try to ‘feel’ like it’s not the most important thing in my life for a change.

  • Miz
    February 21, 2013

    for me they are MORE NECESSARY the less busy I am.

    • Debbish
      February 22, 2013

      Makes sense Carla. When you’re super busy the routine kinda defines itself I guess. I’m way more focused and productive when I’m busy. I’ve always worked better under pressure. Even now with my ghost blogging / writing for others, I set myself a deadline which makes me stop pfaffing about and get it done.

  • Julia
    February 22, 2013

    Why do you have to apologize for writing posts that aren’t explicitly about diet/exercise? You are right – THIS IS YOUR BLOG! Write about whatever you want! Own it!

    Your attitude about work is really great, you have a few different plans to fall back on. Have you visited the local newspaper to see if they need anyone to write for their various sections?

    • Debbish
      February 22, 2013

      Before moving I’d thought of approaching the paper re their website to see if they wanted anyone to do some blogging. I also had other ideas about being proactive etc, but as it happens I’ve found I’ve struggled with that. I’ve been to a local networking meeting etc but haven’t actually approached anyone for writing work yet. Not sure if it’s a confidence issue or a ‘not sure where to start’ issue!

  • Neen
    February 22, 2013

    I swing back and forward with structure. I love routine and I’ll set one up and stick to it for a bit. But then I start to feel overwhelmed by lack of spontaneity and I want to be free ๐Ÿ™‚ Haha. However! I’ve done a lot of reading on this and it seems that most successful people are routine people – as a general rule.

    I have to use the pomodoro technique to get things done. Have I told you about that ?
    Do you know of it? To motivate myself both at work and at home, I try to do block of work. A 25 minute block, 5 minute break, 25 minute block, 5 minute break for two hours. Then you have a big lengthy break and go at it again.

    Totally works for me!

    • Debbish
      February 22, 2013

      I’ve heard of the Pomodoro method as a writer I follow on Twitter uses it and has written about it. Once I’m on a roll I’m fine – obsessively so and can manage to sit at my desk for hours – finding myself shocked when 2-3hrs have passed. It’s more that I’m all or nothing. (Again – and unsurprisingly.) Perhaps moderation might help me as well!

      I was like that at work and (this is too much info) but would get to the point that I was BEYOND needing to go to the loo. I’d be sitting there jiggling my legs to stop myself and continue with what I was doing for a while!

  • Satu
    February 22, 2013

    Routines (I prefer the word structure) are even more important if you have all the time for “yourself”. I basically do it the way Priska described – I have a list of particular things I’d like to do that day and I write and work in time blocks using a timer.

    And I think it’s way to early to tell whether and how much you make money with your writing. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Debbish
      February 22, 2013

      I like the approach of just scheduling in the big things as well. As you could tell from my ‘timetable’ I struggled with everything else.

      I’ve actually done okay and met all deadlines to date. It’s blog reading and occasionally my own blog writing I struggle with.

      As for the writing, I commented earlier that I had to admit I’d actually done NO pitching and approached no one about wriitng / blogging opportunities. The ones I’ve had (sponsored posts, paid posts and the ghost writing) have come to me. I need to be more confident and proactive!!!


  • Kek
    March 11, 2013

    I’m very late catching up on this post, Deb, but I am SO with you on the lack of ambition front. My current job has a fair amount of responsibility (and is consequently well-paid), but I have no ambition to be promoted. In fact, I am hanging for retirement in three years and slightly less than nine months…at which time I will find myself a responsibility-free job two or three days a week.

    I feel like Kevin Spacey in American Beauty – when he’s interviewed by the teenage manager at a fast food joint and he says “I’m looking for a job with the least amount of responsibility possible”. Yep, that’s me. ๐Ÿ˜€

    And when I don’t have time constraints and deadlines, I’m hopeless at sticking to a routine. Too many distractions…