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The Joy of Ever-Changing Routines

Among my family, it’s no secret that I’m a creature of habit. I love routines, the predictability from one hour to the next, knowing the progression of tasks until the end of the list, and everything resolves to a neat columns of checks and completions. Having a routine leaves more brainpower and energy for the actual task at hand, instead of having to spend time on the “okay, what next?” concern throughout the day. When there are multiple roles and responsibilities within a twenty-four hour period, a routine is a must.

Of course, being a parent and working from home means that the routine will inevitably change, based upon the time of year and the schedules of the other people in the house. Summer routine is different from fall routine, and weekend summer routine differs greatly from weekend fall routine. And don’t get me started on the weekly early release afternoon routine, because that’s a whole different thing to manage. Keeping those schedules organized when they involve five people and dozens of appointments, classes, games, practices, projects, trainings, and travel… it takes time and energy.

And when they shift? It’s something almost like jet lag at the end of the first week of the new routine, and I’m clutching a cup of coffee with a pile of half-crocheted blanket in my lap, wondering what I was watching the night before on Netflix and if I have clean workout clothes for the next morning’s walk. It’s exhausting, on both a physical and mental level.

Consider the start of the school year, with two kids at the junior/senior high school and one kid at elementary school, and two of the three participating in sports with different practice schedules. Add in a mandatory parental volunteering gig and a few audiobook contracts, as well as podcast episodes that need to be recorded. The actual routine doesn’t settle out for nearly a month, but part of the #homestudiolife is the realization that it’s impossible and impractical to have every day be just like the next. So, how to find that consistency in a month of days that keep changing and evolving to meet everyone’s needs?

  1. Have a set time to wake up and to go to bed. It sounds a little crazy, but having those two times to bookend your day can provide consistency and regular self-care. During the weekdays, I get up at 5:45 AM (morning person, just add coffee) to make the morning routine go smoothly and to get in my 3.5 mile walk. Most evenings, bedtime happens at 10:30 PM, and never later than 11PM on non-writing nights (once a week). Those are constants, and everything gets scheduled in between.
  2. Make daily self-care non-negotiable. I mentioned my walk as part of my morning routine, and it’s something that has made a huge difference in my daily productivity as well as my ability to get regular sleep. Whether it’s exercise, meditation, prayer, or a phone call to a friend, have one thing that you do nearly every day that allows you to center and refocus. Schedule things around it, but make it part of your daily ‘skeleton’ of tasks.
  3. Choose three things to accomplish that day. When life gets a little overwhelming and you find yourself running in seven different directions to take care of multiple people and deadlines, it’s hard to feel like you’ve gotten anything done when the day is nearly through. At the top of the day, write down three things that you want to get done. Make one of them your daily self-care task; that’s not cheating, that’s being smart about taking care of you! Then, check off those tasks as you do them. You’ll have the satisfaction of that “DONE!” feeling when you cross the item off your list.
  4. Focus on the present, not on the future. This one comes from my therapist, and it’s a great strategy for those of us who worry about what’s coming next. We can get so worked up about upcoming tasks, we sometimes forget to put our energies into what we’re accomplishing in the moment. While it’s great to plan for a month or a week, don’t keep flipping ahead in your planner. Instead, give yourself a way to just see a single day, and keep the list short.
  5. Be kind to Tomorrow You. When you’re finishing a task in the present, consider one thing you can do to make life easier for Tomorrow You and take action. It could be something as simple as portioning out lunch from the evening’s leftovers (Tomorrow You would love to just reheat something and take a break, right?) or making sure that there’s a little less clutter on the desk for the next morning’s work (Tomorrow You finds a clean desk so much nicer than one covered with coffee mugs and spoons).

Life rarely settles down when you’re living the #homestudiolife, but you’re up for the challenge. And when you do get the chance to rest and relax? Take it! Enjoy the slow times and use them to recharge yourself, physically and emotionally and spiritually. Tomorrow You will thank you for it.

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