The Slow way to make your routine work for you not against you

Posted on Feb 1, 2014 | 0 comments

The Slow way to make your routine work for you not against you

This is something I never thought a non-conformist fond of change and exercising creativity like me would admit – routine is important. More so if no one else (such as an employer) is providing the structure for you.

I had overlooked just what effect waking up every morning and being able to what I wanted, when I wanted, would have. I guess I had assumed that I would get to work 9-5 just like before but in a different location. Boy was I wrong.

What are the implications of a lack of routine? The main issue is that using your limited pool of conscious effort to make decisions about things other than your important tasks means that you are significantly less effective than if you devoted the majority of your Slow Thinking daily quota to your daily priorities. As discussed here, your Slow Thinking system appears to draw from the same limited pool of available effort as willpower.

Looking at routine as a subject for the project was not what I thought I would be focussing on in the early days. But following the realisation about effectiveness and its relationship with routine I had to quickly redress the balance of structure in my day before I flittered away too much time (and yes this does sound like someone for whom Slow does not come naturally. The purposeful part of Slow does for me, but not the patience part).

Having a consciously chosen routine means your mind is freed up to focus on what is important. Being on autopilot is not Slow, but deliberately choosing what to allow routines to take care of in order to stay purposeful, is.

Much like my journey with living with intention, this is all a work in progress but thought I would share some lessons as I go:

  • Things like eating well and exercising are important, especially for someone like me who values health extremely highly. But I also go overboard with focusing on this and spend too much effort making decision about what and when I eat and exercise. Don’t let one of your values have too much sway over your routine – it will crowd out other values you hold, in this case my value of ‘contributing with purpose.’
  • Think about what time of day works best for you to complete certain activities, create and stick to a schedule so you no longer need to think about what you do when. For example what works for me is doing some form of centring and contemplative practice when I get out of bed,  exercise, then going into the most important task I have to complete that day that involves mental effort.
  • Similarly, use natural rhythms and cycles to find the right routine, not just any routine. Getting myself to bed earlier is the main habit I’m working on because our melatonin/seratonin cycle guides our sleep and waking patterns. Seratonin is highest just before sunrise and melatonin at sunset; being in sync with the earth’s circadian rhythms has many benefits (sleeping better, reducing sugar cravings, increasing optimism and pro-activeness to name a few).
  • Having a routine in terms of how you structure your day helps you keep in mind what your intent is for each part of the day. Use this, don’t multitask, limit distractions.
  • Goals versus systems – using systems (routines) to achieve progress to desired outcomes is much more empowering and enables you to focus on the small steps which lead to success. For more on this topic here is a great blog post by James Clear

Do you have any tips for making your routine work for you not against you?

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