Trying again. Hopefully today’s thoughts will not get unceremoniously deleted.
Laura and I are actually recording a podcast episode today about getting out of ruts, which spurred my interest on this topic. Because my first instinct was HEY, I LIKE MY RUTS. And upon further reflection — I still like my repetitive rituals! I really do. And generally therefore they do not feel rut-like to me.
There is a blurry line between routine + rut and I’m sure that some who are less routine-inclined might view people like me as living overly boring lives. Someone mentioned the 4 Tendencies as a possible influence on the preference for routines, but I think it may also go deeper than that into how prone a given person is to novelty seeking.
(I would guess I am not entirely averse to novelty, but probably more averse than average.)
I also truly enjoy ritual and repetition. Classic example: when I run, I typically choose the same (safe! comfortable! repetitive!) routes over and over again. And in recent years, two forces have conspired that have probably allowed me to deepen the grooves of my routines even further:
a) The kids are getting slightly older! Which means they sleep a bit more predictably, can enjoy screen time together on occasion, etc. Certain routines I enjoy now would have been impossible in certain toddler/baby years.
b) Pandemic, obvs. Nothing like uncertainty to cause many of us to want to take comfort in things like a daily walk, meditation ritual, etc.
Some Current Routines
(many of which have strengthened over the course of this year, for the reasons noted above):
Reading. Starting every morning with some non-fiction. This basically feels automatic now! I’m still reading Medical Apartheid because man, is that book long. But important. By my calculations I will be finished in ~16 days or so. Before bedtime, I usually read novels unless Josh and I are watching a show.
Skincare. This routine took me years to build up; now it’s very automatic. After brushing teeth / flossing (letting the water warm up during the latter step), wash face. Put on some active (vit C, lactic acid, or retinol oil depending on what feels right). Slather with super-rich barrier forming moisturizer. Wash hands + take out contacts. Finish with copious hand lotion. Sigh with contentment because everything smells good and feels nice. Heh heh.
Takeout night. Every Saturday. I am not sure if we’ve missed any. Of course, we vary the actual takeout, choosing different restaurants and cuisines. That would be next-level routine if we didn’t!
7 pm TV . . . This one is new and yeah, sometimes i feel a little guilty about it. But most nights I’ve been letting the kids watch a show from 7p – 8p after cleaning up their toys (this is highly motivating to them!). Mostly they have been watching Pokemon. This buys me an hour of relaxation between postwork kid time and Bedtime Stories etc. I have been using it to read, do my organizing, complete my 5 year journal, relax. Sometimes G loses interest in TV and I will play with her.
Walking. I try to walk at lunchtime or during an afternoon meeting almost every day, though if I’ve done a longer run and feel tired I may skip. But especially when I’m seeing patients at work I’ve really craved getting outside for 20-30 minutes between my AM and PM sessions. (I also have a rule I cannot go until I’ve finished my morning notes, so it motivates me to stay focused + efficient).
Weekends. I feel like this is where routines get kind of controversial. That said, I don’t feel like weekends are all the same around here. Call schedules introduce automatic variability! But the basic template sort of is stable, which is lately:
Try to sleep in until ~7 when kids are up
Work out (Josh and I taking turns, optimally)
Outdoor outing of some kind; C goes to soccer on Saturday
Home for lunch
Lazy screen time in afternoon (weekends are when our kids get to play video games, primarily Minecraft but now also Toka Life, some crazy car/soccer hybrid games, etc)
Takeout night Saturday // cook or eat leftovers Sunday
I do think as we feel more comfortable doing more things we will venture out for longer day trips and shorten the video game sessions. Perhaps to the kids’ dismay . . .
I don’t think we’re approaching monk level yet. But I don’t feel like overly constrained by any of the above (plus others); I’d say I pretty much enjoy them! I’m very curious about how others’ routines have evolved and whether there have been significant chances (craving more or less novelty?) through pandemic times.
PS: Routine & Things is a podcast all about routines — check it out if you haven’t!