From what I’ve heard, when it comes to routine, there are two different kinds of people: people who like routine and people who prefer spontaneity/variety.
In Myers-Briggs speak (because you know that I can’t talk about personality without talking about the MBTI), this is P(erceiving) vs J(udging). P’s (like me), lean more towards spontaneity and shy away from routine. J’s have this really annoying tendency to adhere so strictly to routine that they insist you get everywhere 10 minutes early — with no consideration for my preference of being fashionably late! Or even awkwardly on time!
That dichotomy may be true in a general sense, but I would definitely fall into a third category: people who find that routines are the only way that they get things done, but as soon as they create a routine, they are immediately and constantly tempted to break them.
Seriously, I find that certain routines really help me to get my life together and keep me on task, and others just make me like an angsty teen who wants to sneak out of the house at 2 am. Just kidding, I’ve never been awake past 11 pm…unless it was by accident or I was scared awake by something I saw on the internet.
I have never had a rebellious bone in my body, but for some reason, routines are just hard not to break. Several times in the last three years, I’ve tried to get up early to exercise in the mornings, but literally, as soon as I feel an inkling of falling into a rut, I start coming up with excuses. I’m too tired…none of my exercise clothes are clean…Mercury is in retrograde…literally any excuse I can possibly come up with becomes a very valid reason to break a habit that I am just starting to form.
I am so terrified of routine that, when I occasionally realize that there will be things that I will always need to do regularly (brush my teeth, eat breakfast, pee, etc), I start to panic. What? You mean I’ll never be done peeing?!?! For some reason, the idea of doing anything indefinitely scares the piss out of me (see what I did there?).
I recently took Gretchen Rubin’s Quiz: The Four Tendencies (as taking personality quizzes is one of my favorite pastimes) and was told that I’m an “Obliger,” which basically means that holding myself to a routine is tough, but having others hold me to a routine keeps me in check.
I highly recommend taking this quiz so that you can also see how you are motivated to do things! And any other quizzes that might seem fun and helpful…like the Myers-Briggs or any BuzzFeed quiz that tells you what kind of potato you are…because obviously, nothing is more indicative of someone’s personality than how they identify with food.
When others are depending on me, I’ll go to pretty much any feat to make sure that I’m a dependable friend/daughter/partner/etc. Being reliable is one of the values I find most important, so I try my best to be as dependable as possible. When I try to keep a routine for myself, however, I can’t help but to break it.
Therefore, as an obliger, I’ve found that my most successful routines are those that I have built around obligations that I have to other people.
For example, my best friend Stephanie (who you all know by now) has come to my house every Monday night for literally years. While there are times that my depressed brain tells me that I shouldn’t be socializing, I never want to cancel our standing appointment. Our relationship is just too important for that nonsense. I’d rather sit next to her with us both silently on our phones than not see her at all!
Also, I finally find myself going to yoga regularly after work. Which class do I always make it to? The Monday night class that I go to with Steph, obviously…because she needs to go to yoga, and I need to make sure she gets there. Any other night where I need to motivate myself to go internally is kind of a crapshoot. Making Dan go with me usually helps, but oddly enough, when he is too tired to go to yoga, suddenly I’m too tired as well. Weird, right?
The second easiest class to go to is the Friday night gentle yoga class. It can be difficult for me to get amped up to do any sort of strenuous exercise after work, so starting with the Friday night class was an easy transition to add to my routine. It started as one weekly class to center myself at the end of the workweek, and that was enough for me.
Creating a habit for yourself takes time, and trying to completely uproot and change your entire schedule at once is not only challenging, but leaves you prone to relapse back into your old habits. Adding yoga to my schedule was easy because I added one class at a time, and made sure that I could regularly commit to one class before adding another to my schedule. I would cement one class into my routine until it felt weird not to go, and then I built on my new normal from there.
Besides accountability buddies and taking it slow, I’ve found that another thing that makes forming habits easier is to create them around routines that I already have every day. Things like going to work and going to bed are not really optional, so if there is something I would like to do regularly, I try to do it around those.
If you’ve read my New Year’s Blog Resolutions post, you know that reading more was one of my resolutions for 2019. The way that I’ve successfully been able to do this is to schedule reading time for myself before work. Every workday, I get to work 15-20 minutes early to read for a bit. And it really helps to make me feel calmer and prepared to start the day!
I have to admit (begrudgingly) that at the end of the day, routines really do work. Our brains like patterns and predictability, and when you’re too tired or depressed to function, sometimes the idea that your days vaguely look the same is the only thing that will let you get out of bed in the morning. Sure, spontaneity gives you adventure, but routine provides comfort. And sometimes, all that you want is to have a day with no surprises, you know?
Routines can help us to accomplish all that we need and/or want to do regularly, even if we sometimes have to trick ourselves into adhering to them.