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The less routine the more life -- Amos Bronson Alcott

>> 29 April 2009

ROUTINE a course of normative, standardized actions or procedures that are followed regularly, often repetitiously.

You get up in the morning, prepare and eat breakfast, brush your teeth, dress, take the car and drive the same way to work. Routine. It is safe. It is a no-brain activity.

Those of you with children know that such a peaceful routine hardly ever exists in the morning. Child does not like the jam on the bread, wants the bread cut in small squares, shoes are missing, runny nose needs to be wiped... But a routine gets created that plans in for these unforeseen little things. So it's still a routine.

What happens if you have to go on a training course in a different location than your workplace? What happens if your partner is on a business trip and you have to do his part of the morning routine as well and also drive the kids to daycare?

Little changes that can bring on a lot of stress.

Usually when I drive to work, my mind is already at work. I am thinking about what I have to do, by when etc. I hardly notice the road. It's the same as every day.

This morning I drove to another location due to a training. I left too early to make sure to be on time (what with the unfamiliar itinerary and all) so I had time. And I noticed the trees in bloom, a new construction site, a field where there used to be a building, the sun shimmering through the forest...

I was much more aware of things. I was not thinking of work or of the course ahead.

I started thinking about routine and the many forms of it we have in our lives. And whether routine is good or bad.

If a routine works because it saves you time, does it still allow you to notice things?
Could there be a better, maybe even faster way of doing things but you're so set in your ways that this possibility never even pops up?
Do we stay in the routine because it's safe?
How much routine is needed? How much is good?

When I link routine to creativity, I know that you need to set up a certain routine to create. You need to have a schedule that sets the time to create. Whether what you create is good or bad or bad doesn't matter.
You don't wait to be in a 'working mood' to go to work and do your job, do you? You go and you start doing it. Creativity is the same.

However, if you are too set in routine ways, you tend to notice things less. You tend to be less open to new things and ideas 'because that is just the way you do things'.

So here's a few tips to try and break the routine from time to time:

  1. Brush your teeth with your non dominant hand.
  2. Drive another way to work.
  3. Go two nights in a row without television/pc.
  4. Re-arrange the location of your furniture (for a day or for longer).
  5. Get up early in the morning to watch the sun come up.
  6. Go for a walk when it's raining.
  7. Let your child wear what HE-SHE wants to wear (whether it's color coordinated or not).
  8. Change your hairstyle (for from curly to straight or vice versa for a day).
  9. Smile at strangers.
  10. Talk to a person you would normally not even notice (the janitor, the mailman, ...).
  11. Sleep on the other side of the bed for one night.
  12. In summer, spend a night in a tent in the garden with the kids. Make it an adventure.
  13. Go to see someone in person instead of writing an email.
  14. Watch a show on television which is the opposite of what you'd normally watch.
  15. Eat dessert before the meal.
  16. Eat with chopsticks for a change.
  17. Make up a story instead of reading a book to your kids.
  18. Leave the mess for a day instead of cleaning it up immediately.
  19. Treat your colleagues to croissants for no reason.
  20. Go 'complaint-free' for a day.
  21. Learn a new skill.
Changing your routine brings new water in your pond.

It energizes you.

Try it.


Lance 30 April 2009 at 10:55  

Hi Mimi,
This is a wonderful reminder on the importance of breaking routine sometimes, and the many positive benefits it can have! And I love the list you've shared. In fact, it reminds me - reading it - about this past weekend. I went out for a short jog - and about halfway through it started to rain. And as it did - I just soaked it fully in - it felt so good. And then I found myself really noticing the sky all above me, and the rain as it landed on my outstretched hands, and the droplets on tree leaves. Everything around me seemed more "noticeable". And I really felt one with nature at that moments. So, I can attest to this fact that changing routine - can have a very profound impact - and make us look differntly at the world around us. Mimi, thank you for writing this - it has me thinking again of how much this was a moving experience. And now, also, about routine, and how good it is to mix up routine sometimes!

Mindful Mimi 5 May 2009 at 16:40  

@ Lance: Thank you for diligently reading my outpours :-) In our busy lives, we seem to become more and more disconnected with nature. I am guilty of that too. If we spent more time outdoors, in nature (not on a terrace downtown sipping a cocktail) we would be much more grounded and alive. I try to hug a tree each time I am in the woods. Feels wonderful :-)

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