Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Joy of Routines

OK, I hear you, "Routines are boring."  Routines may seem boring, but once they are established, they simply work in the background and serve you.

A routine can help you to operate more efficiently, provide focus, make overwhelming tasks more manageable or even give you permission to carve out some quality studio time or "you time."  Routines are a tool that, when used appropriately, can help you to live the life that you know in your heart of hearts is best for you. 

Having a routine can help free up your mind to think about what is important to you.  If you are always thinking about the hundreds of things that "need" to be done, that is a clue that your mind is running you.  Wouldn't it be a better idea for you to be in charge of what your mind thinks?   I used to think this was impossible, but have learned to use a number of tools that help me to do just that.  Today I just want to focus on the discipline of a routine.

As a simple illustration, I no longer have to think, “Its time to brush my teeth…I have to remember to brush my teeth…If I don’t brush my teeth I might get cavities,” etc.  My mind is not cluttered with it on my incessant “to do list.”  Neither do I think I am boring because I have this as a routine.  I just brush my teeth at certain times of the day.  It is a routine I established a long time ago and it works in the background to keep me from having my teeth drilled and filled.  I’d say that serves me pretty well.

Many an artistic person believes that if they follow a routine, that will quash their creativity.  They see themselves as interesting; spontaneous; free-and-easy, light-and-breezy; creative.  Often times these are code words for unfocused, chaotic, and without direction.

Of course, I can speak about this with authority, as it is one of the things I have allowed to keep me from my art.  I have unwittingly either created or attracted chaos into my life, but saw it as some other code word.  To the right is a picture I made on the first computer I ever owned- It is hanging above my desk as a friendly reminder.  I should probably have it tattooed to the inside of my eyelids, though that might be a bit much.

How could I realistically expect to __________ (fill in the blank) if I think I am being creative, but am really being chaotic; if I think I have “many interests,” but actually have too many pans in the fire- a jack of all trades, but master of none?

With an established routine, my mind is more free to create.  I am now creating my next body of work.  The exercise of establishing a routine may give you just the reality check that motivates you to consider making a change.  It may even lead you to more joy.  See my post, “10 Steps to Establishing a Routine ” tomorrow.   These steps work for me, add or delete steps as needed.

More about routines next week. I'll also give you a sneek peek at the painting I am working on.

Writing about routines brings up this question:
“What if there aren’t enough hours in the day?”  That is a topic for another day.

Your thoughts? Click ‘comments’ below to post.


  1. "Nod to the Ikea magnet set above* I use the same one. Very handy.

    As for routines, I have chosen a specific sleep routine. There were many reasons for me to get up at the same time every day, but as I move forward with my art career the routine of it has been extremely benefitial. I no longer have to fret about what I'm doing tomorrow or how much I must plan the day before. I've chosen a relatively early hour which allows me to get a jump start on my day. I am always in my studio by 7:30, which gives me time to go through my tasks and ramp up to the day.

    I also appreciate our capacity to develop new routines and know that this will only help me further my career. So kudos to routine! Having them keeps me quite sane and I wouldn't want it any other way.

  2. faunawolf: Well said! Sleep is number one on the list posted today. For me this is non-negotiable. I am horrid without this as a basic structure in my day.

  3. I have a huge problem with following a routine. Even mindless ones are hard for me. I have always used that excuse that it is because I am creative and creative people don't follow routines or the norm, but that is just not true. You are correct in that it only allows you to be distracted from making any progress in anything you want to do. Thanks for these, I look forward to reading more about this so I can hopefully get into a routine that works for me.

  4. freewheelinlisa:
    You bring up an excellent point: “that it only allows you to be distracted from making any progress in anything you want to do.” I used to think I was 'interesting' because I had so many things going on at once. Now, I can call it what it is: a huge roadblock between me and my goals. When I am able to recognize this, I can then make a conscious choice. If I just stay on autopilot, there is no choice.

    You are not alone, although following a routine comes easy for some, for the rest of us it takes more effort. I think the reward far out-weighs the effort, though.


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