Our routines can weigh on us. At first their consistency can be a comfort, but over time it tends to grow into something we dread. You can try shaking things up, but inevitably many aspects of our lives become routine.
Now I actually crave routine, but it’s far from fulfilling. It’s just a way to most efficiently work my way through the day. And the more I fall into my own routine, the more I worry that my life is becoming something I mindlessly stumble my way through.
Rather than trying to shake this, I’ve been trying to combat the negative aspects of routine by looking for little moments of ritual within it. Rituals are the parts of my routine where I can find or create a deeper more meaningful experience. This combination of ritual and routine helps me get through what needs to happen, but does so in a way that encourages me to continually to strive for more. These moments of ritual will be different for everyone, but here are just a few of my own:
- I recently decided to start a far more complex coffee routine. The few minutes spent every morning making my wife and myself a cup of Aeropress coffee creates an opportunity to stop running like a crazy person to get out the door and offers a moment to reflect on the possibilities of the day.
- My commute, rather than a moment to best myself in Angry Birds, has become a time to write, to enjoy a podcast, read a book or catch up Instapaper queue. It has become my daily opportunity to give myself a healthy mental breakfast. To start the day off with something that inspires rather than distracts.
- When I sit at my desk, I pull out a brand new page of David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner. The ETP provides a 30,000-foot view of my day. I determine what I want to accomplish and figure out how to best achieve my goals.
- Carrying my oldest daughter to her bed at night is a chance to whisper a little story in her ear. She’s usually out cold at this point, but I like to think they help her sleep just a little bit better.
- The time after my kids go to sleep was once squandered mindlessly tuning out in front of the TV. It is now one of the more productive times of my day. More often than not, I’m working away on posts for this site or doing what’s needed for various other projects.
The difference between routine and ritual is likely a semantic one, but I’ve found it to be a useful distinction. Separating the things I have to do every day from the moments I want in my day has dramatically improved my happiness. There are some who can find meaning in everything, but since I’m not one of those people who will ever be able to appreciate or be mindful while brushing my teeth, I’ve had to actively create more these moments within the day. And since I’ve started this subtle practice of seeking out my little rituals, I have to tell you that the daily grind no longer feels quite so routine.
How do you keep your regular routines from getting you down?