I've been talking a lot about routine lately. Here on the blog, to friends and to myself.
"Jas, this whole routine thing is so good for you brother," is one of the things I've been telling myself (well, not exactly in those words, but pretty close).
I've recently been putting more of a routine in place for myself, and I'm really feeling the benefits.
This is something that’s arisen from the lockdown:
- I was feeling pretty frazzled, so I needed to go back to basics
- Because it feels like we've slowed down, I felt like I've been able to just simplify, giving myself less to do (ish), but mostly giving myself a framework around which to do stuff.
My day isn't completely laid out for me minute-by-minute (as a freedom-seeking INFP, that would be overkill), but I now have some semblance of structure at the start, middle and end of my day.
Pre-lockdown, a typical day used to look like this for me:
- Wake up (8.30-9ish)
- Eat breakfast
- Might be at home for the AM, might go to the gym cafe
- Get started on "work" around 10am
- Might do a gym workout / sit in spa at some point; or might have my eyes fixed to computer screen switching between tasks all day (including an episode of the US Office over lunch; either pre-made at home, or I might buy lunch at the cafe)
- Might come home from the gym at/after lunch, or might stay at the gym all day.
- Get home and be on laptop until dinner-time, sometimes feeling productive, often feeling like I've just been on my laptop all day switching between stuff.
- Might have a tutoring lesson in the evening, before dinner
- Might do some laptop stuff/journalling/zone out in front of TV (or combo of), before heading to bed, sometimes reading, often watching too much Netflix.
In other words, too many mights and maybes.
Looking back, I'm not quite sure how I was living like this. It reminds me of my days working in recruitment, when I've have some structure (having to be working from 8.30 till 6pm), but otherwise spending all day switching between tasks both on and off the screen. I somehow had a "good" year (commission-wise) in that last year, but it was a messy year of over-working and working messily, rather than smartly.
In fairness, this was particularly because the day-in-the-life-of a recruiter is so unpredictable, before you know it you've had a job called in, or a good candidate has walked in through the door, or you have to help a colleague whose just had a job called in. Plus... open-plan office… highly sensitive introvert? How on earth did I even function...
It was stressful and exhausting for my body and my mind, that's for sure.
And it feels like that's what lack-of-a-routine does for me. It stressed me out mentally, and it's not good for my body either, as I inevitably end up not taking time out for my body, and just end up 'doing whatever I feel like' all day long, usually on the laptop. (If you've been reading about me wanting to change my relationship with technology - e.g. my recent post - you're probably getting some context here).
I also choose to believe that, in certain moments, God/the Universe (either/or, depending on what your belief system is) show up and give me hints, little nudges in the right direction if you will...
Well, I've been reading Daily Rituals by Mason Currey, a fascinating book and lovely to read a few pages at a time; it's basically a book of mini-chapters showcasing the daily lives and rituals of creatives, and it was actually partly the inspiration for the Indie Author book I'm currently putting together). Last week - at a time when 'routine' has very much been on my mind, and I've been realising it's benefits, this is what came up in the mini-chapter for William Jones:
“In one of the lectures he delivered to teachers in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1892 - and eventually incorporated into his book Psychology: A Briefer Course - James argued that the "great thing" in education is to "make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy.
The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automation, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work. There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation.”
Now, I'm not sure I'll ever go so far as timing exactly when I brush my teeth, drink tea, wash my hands, etcetera, but I certainly feel there's a lot of wisdom in what James has written here.
Interestingly, as Currey goes on to narrate - "James was writing from personal experience - the hypothetical sufferer is, in fact, a thinly disguised description of himself. For James kept no regular schedule, was chronically indecisive, and lived a disorderly, unsettled life."
Gosh. The bells of resonance are ringing inside of me, and I wonder if William James was an INFP like myself.
I have often observed the methodical and organisational habits of some of the INFJs I know (which, to the admission of many of them, can come from a need to feel in control) sometimes with envy.
My friend and Club member Amanda Linehan, who writes about INFP habits and productivity, has previously talked about working with “intentions” (something you might’ve noticed I’m a fan of) and “the pull”, here.
Btw, Amanda’s also written a book all about this stuff called Productivity for INFPs.
My feeling is that there's a balance to be struck here, for all of us. There certainly feels like there's a comfort in giving myself some structure, enough of a framework from which to operate from, even if it's just something like "what 2 or 3 things would I like to get done/work on today". More recently, on some days I've even been writing a complete list of my day's activities, and in the rough order I want to do them, from morning prayer and breakfast all the way through to dinner and bedtime.
If there's one thing which I have no doubt about, it's this: having routine, a sense of order and clarity, feels very helpful and healthy indeed.
And, with that in mind, I couldn’t agree more with this tweet I came across recently: