I don’t particularly like most holidays and can have a bit of a problem with vacations. It’s not that I don’t enjoy leisure, it just really throws off my routine when the rest of the world shuts down and I’m not able to do the things I normally do. I know that probably sounds incredibly self-centered, but hear me out. It is, and I readily own it. My life without routine would be unbearable.
When I worked as a child and adolescent therapist I would often talk with children and parents that were living in chaotic households. Everything seemed to be reactionary rather than planned. No one knew what to expect and, therefore, they lived under constant duress. It has been pretty well-accepted amongst most therapists and counselors that children will be more healthy, emotionally and otherwise, if they have some sort of positive structure in their lives. The great difficulty I faced with my clients’ parents was that they had no way to provide (or impose) consistency for themselves or their kids. Over time, as I learned through trial and error how to help them with this, I realized that it is not just children that crave structure, but all of us.
I have many friends in the medical field with all different kinds of schedules. While some love working ten or twelve hour shifts so they can have shorter work weeks, I cannot imagine doing what they do. I like knowing that, when I get up in the morning from Monday through Friday, I am going to go to work. I’m going to get ready, hit the coffee shop, and get on the road to see my patients. When I’m finished for the day I’m going to go home and work out. After that, I will typically know what’s next depending what day it is. Monday night is time to grab a cup of coffee and chill out, maybe to do some writing. Tuesday night is a recovery meeting. Thursday night is coffee with a friend. I have several hobbies and I make sure I have time for them. I try to balance my marriage with the rest of my life. I crave stability.
This used to sound boring to me. I had, however, made the mistake of equating routine with boredom. On the contrary, routine and time management help me lead a more productive and dynamic life than would ever have been previously possible. I schedule time to write, to play music, to meditate, and just to hang out with my dogs. I have dates with my wife and attend the same three recovery meetings every week. I try to maintain enough flexibility that I am ready if something unexpected comes up (like when I’m on call for work), but generally have an idea of what I’ll be doing otherwise.
I have found that developing daily plans is as vital to my continued well-being as anything else I do. I think of them as the necessary guidelines that will ensure I am able to achieve the things I want while leaving me with enough free time to do things that may arise spontaneously. Thus routine and boredom do not go hand in hand.
An important caveat is that I find too much rigidity to be a bad thing. It is sometimes good for me to be challenged by the unexpected so that I learn to adjust on the fly, but I cannot overstate the power of routine in my life. Without it I’m pretty much floating around out there, waiting to react to things rather than making things happen. Until next time.