My entire life, I have always run fast in the other direction from any kind of routine. The word alone makes me shudder. It just seems so … blah. I tend to thrive on spontaneity, flexibility, and the freedom to choose.
I will never forget my first job after graduating from college. After several semesters of hopping from class to class, choir practice, lunch on the commons, and a varied schedule of generally enriching and recreational activities, I sat down at my first ever work desk and wanted to cry my eyes out.
I couldn’t believe that this is what all adults did, every single weekday. They had to be present at the same place, every day, in and out, or they weren’t getting paid.
I felt like a prisoner. Granted, I was naïve, and had a much more grandiose perception of what I “deserved” than what was realistic at that point in my career, but one thing I knew for sure: I would not be doing this for long.
I yearned to be free. I couldn’t believe that as an adult, I couldn’t just get my work done and be free to roam. I would devise a myriad of ways to get out of the office, just for a change of scenery. Someone needed something delivered? The boss wants coffee? I’m your girl! Anything to break the monotony.
As I have matured, I have found that even though I thrive on adventure and impulse, I do crave familiarity and structure, especially in my work. And now having children of my own who thrive in knowing what to expect, it has helped me to see that routine isn’t something to run from- it just needs to be redefined.
So instead of running from routine, I embrace rhythm.
Rhythm denotes movement — the opposite of stagnation. It is simply a repeating pattern inside of a larger moving piece, emphasis on one thing over another in time. Instead of feeling stuck, you are moving through the current with intention.
So what might it look like to embrace a rhythm? Here are some practical ways you can apply this concept to your life, right now.
1. Identify your current rhythms.
When do you typically do certain things? This is the first question you should ask yourself. Do you clean the house on Sunday afternoons? Do you mostly enjoy getting your creative work done on a Monday morning when you are fresh for the week? When do you most enjoy getting physical activity?
Remember, this is not what you wish you were doing, but natural rhythms that may already be there. You may have several rhythms in place in your life that are not even aware of.
2. Set an intention for your rhythms.
If you find after observing that your rhythms are completely out of sync, it’s time to make a few tweaks. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a routine. It is just a beat that you march to, for now.
Maybe you can batch some projects to land on a certain day? Or make sure that you carve out quality time at the park with your kids once per week?
Anything that you can do to cultivate rhythm will help you feel more secure, and you can create and have more space to be spontaneous when you have a basic structure to work around.
3. Notice and embrace ritual.
We all have rituals established in our lives. A ritual can be making your morning cup of coffee, walking the dog, or placing your shoes in a certain spot when you get home. It is the things you do that give you a sense of structure, security, and safety.
Your rituals have a rhythm to them, but you simply need to be still and observe them as they come. Watch how you do things for a few weeks, and see what rituals you have established. If you want to start new ones, go for it.
Simply paying attention will go a long way to recognizing your own personal rhythms and what rituals you engage in on a regular basis.
4. Play with the rhythm as you go.
If you have a calendar, map some things out. Write down what matters this month, and look at the weeks ahead to see what is coming down the pike.
Special events, annual events like birthdays, holidays and celebrating with friends are always important. But when you know these are coming, you won’t be taken by surprise when they roll around once again.
Don’t look too far ahead — one month is more than enough. No need to stress. Focusing on cultivating a rhythm right now can go a long way in keeping it simple and focusing on what truly matters.
What would cultivating a simple rhythm look like for you?
Photo credit: Ashley Schweitzer, Simple Mondays