I Should Drop My Routines Like a Bad Habit

Some people need help making routines; I need help breaking them.

I have this nasty habit of seeing any aberration from my established schedule as a personal failure. For instance, last night I had to stay up late to finish an essay, and when I finally crawled into bed I set my alarm for later than usual–a reasonable response when you know you’ll be getting less sleep. But then I couldn’t fall asleep because I was furiously planning my newly truncated morning and beating myself up about going to sleep so late and throwing everything off.

And this semester I’ve really set myself up for some perceived failures. When I set my academic schedule last fall, I was so proud of myself for arranging it so I had classes from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. every day. I made sure to request work hours in the mornings before classes, and sure enough, I got them. I worked hard to create a rigid scaffolding for my entire week. Now for many, the advantages of a fixed schedule really kick in when things start getting busy. While different activities pull them from place to place, they can fall back on the schedule–the scaffolding is there to support them. The structure doesn’t matter until they need something to lean on. But for me, rather than finding comfort (or at least organization) in the activities that stay within their boxes on my calendar when I get busy, I get overwhelmed with the number of things that have migrated from their usual place. And the strict structure I tried so hard to build will only make it more obvious whenever something deviates.

While it’s great to get organized, and fixing deadlines to a calendar does help me clear them from my mind for a bit, my relationship to schedules is otherwise less than healthy. I need to do something to loosen this death grip I have on order. I try to remind myself not to get too self-congratulatory when I manage to wake up early and hit the gym multiple days in a row–at any minute, something could change. But removing things from my routine doesn’t necessarily remove my dependence on what’s still there, or encourage me to embrace more spontaneity. As much as I’ve been trying to logic my way out of this cycle of thinking, it might take an unpredictable event–good or bad–that breaks up my physical routine that will allow me to break out of my mental one.

I’m not sure what will get me there, but I’m trying not to plan for it.

(Original Post)

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