It's easy to shrug off having structured routines as being boring. And not living freely and spontaneously. But there are actual benefits to going about your day in a more structured and orderly manner.
Those with anxiety (me) thrive with routine. When my day isn't planned it tends to throw me into a slight panic. My anxiety level builds leaving me feeling a little out of control. And sometimes in a state of fight or flight.
Kids seem to behave better when they have a routine. And know what is to come from their day. It provides them with a feeling of safety.
My elderly grandparents have had a set routine for many many years which they barely break. It's perhaps a little too structured, but they are in their late 80s and managing on their own in their own home without too many dramas. My grandmother tends to the cleaning and inside of the house. My grandfather to the garden and the cooking.
I do think that to build resilience we need to throw ourselves out of routine from time-to-time. And kids also. Life is like that and we need to know how to handle things when they don't go according to plan.
But there is truth that routine (for the majority of the time) helps keep us balanced and calm. We are creatures of habit. Having routine and structure help us feel steady, safe and gives us a sense of purpose.
"The most successful people in history–the ones many refer to as "geniuses" in their fields,
masters of their crafts–had one thing in common, other than talent:
Most adhered to rigid (and specific) routines."
– Brianna Weist, 101 essays that will change the way you think
It's demonstrated in literature about the happiest people in the world. They all tend to share a commonality in that they have a fairly consistent routine. They have a close group of friends that they see often. They may have a vegetable garden they tend to or a consistent activity each day. They might go to church consistently on a weekend. And many Europeans traditionally would gather with loved ones for a big lunch.
Routine also helps us enter a state of flow. We are better able to enter flow when there is routine in place. Where time is allocated to specific activities. And we are mentally prepared to enter that activity.
When we ease off from a structured routine, that's when life can get on top of us a bit and feel overwhelming. Our work load begins to build, our email inbox becomes full, our healthy eating and exercise can slacken off. Our life in general can gradually become off balance when we stray from routine.
Some love a 'ready for anything' state. Many do not. If you prefer the later then set a few routines and stick to them for a while. You might find doing so helps you feel calmer and in control.
Set a morning routine
I find that if you have an idea of how your day will begin, then it helps keeps the morning calm. Which is essentially what we want to happen going into our busy days. This is the challenge I have currently as our children wake at random times (between 4am and 5:30am usually). So the morning routine isn't as structured as I wish it was. But loosely this is what it involves, and what I'm working towards.
6:30am: Make lunches
7am: Get kids dressed & play until school
8:20am: Drop my son to school
9am: Home with daughter, give her morning tea, down for a nap
9:15am: Coffee & write
Set an evening routine
Equally important. It helps you ease into a restful night when there is a little consistency. My evening routine as an example:
6:30pm: Bedtime routines for both kids
7pm: Tidy kitchen, clear emails
7:15pm: TV or computer work
8pm: Read in bed
9pm: Lights out
And then there are ways you can create routine in your workday. Or weekends. And this is where organisation can help. To do lists, weekly meals charts etc. can help keep you on track and able to stick to routine.
But doing it all at once can be a bit too much. It helps to work with one element at a time. For example exercise. Focus on bringing that into your routine for the first week or two. And then in the second or third week work on bringing in another element.
And reward yourself. For example, I love running at sunrise and watching the sky change colour. For me that is a reward in itself. Or getting to bed by 8pm to read. I have a book I look forward to. And I slather myself in a nice body balm before getting into bed. Sometimes I'll light a candle. Create an experience and it can become incredibly enjoyable and help you stick to routine more easily.
It is easy to fall out of routines. And we all do. Life throws challenges and we get tired and stressed. I think it's important each month to sit down and take a look at your life as a whole. And work out which areas are off balance. And then come up with solutions and an action plan on how to regain balance again.
When we have a calm mind, we are more likely to feel much better in our day-to-day lives. And go about our time more productively. So we have time left over to simply enjoy.