A few weeks ago, my daughter and I had a conversation about routines. She’s studying abroad this semester and distractions loom larger than ever in a place where she has not yet established a routine. At school, she knows where to go if her dorm gets too noisy, whom to hang around and whom to avoid if she seriously wants to get work done, and how to budget her time. In a different country, with different roommates and even a different philosophy about a student’s role in the educational process, she’s having to re-establish all of the habits she’s come to take for granted. The push to create a sustainable routine is at odds with the pull of exploring and taking advantage of all a semester abroad has to offer.
Though my daughter has always been a routine-oriented kind of kid, I thought I was pretty flexible and that, for me, routines were more of a choice than a necessity. Then, this afternoon, I sat down to work on my blog posts and spent half an hour trying to get a working Internet connection. Because I am an adult, I did not throw a toddler-style temper tantrum, but if you can picture a hungry two-year-old who has missed her nap, you have a pretty good idea of how I felt on the inside.
Several restarts and a phone hotspot later, I got back on track. But by then, instead of being motivated and energized, I was grumpy and feeling pressed for time. Both my routine and my flow had been interrupted and I could practically see time ticking away.
Sometimes, routines are the things we get stuck in. We’ve-always-done-it-this-way thinking squelches both novelty and creativity and the same old same old can become mundane. Monotonous.
Other times, routines are the things that save us from ourselves and the distractions that threaten to be our undoing. Not doing what we’re supposed to be doing feels awkward and just plain wrong, so we stay on the path, follow the yellow brick road.
Get stuff done.
As much as I like to think I’m laid back and flexible, it’s become clear, to me at least, that I need some semblance of a routine. One element of proof is how much more on track I feel now that my classes start at the same time every day. Though I’ve always loved having at least a little variety in each day, starting at the same time creates a rhythm I find helpful and, some days, even soothing.
The need for routine is a key part of temperament. Some people thrive on routine, while others are more go-with-the-flow. Circumstances can tweak this but, as is currently the case with my daughter, they rarely reverse our natural tendency.
As for me, I like a little bit of both. Without some sort of predictable flow to my day, I fear I won’t accomplish what I set out to do, but I also feel trapped when a day is so regimented as to not leave itself open to pleasant surprises. Most days, I try to adopt an “I am where I’m supposed to be attitude” and employ a little patience.
At least until the cable goes out.
Copyright 2019 Lisa Hess