Yesterday I spent the whole day watching “How to Get Away with Murder.” Was it an effective use of my time? No. Was it entertaining? Very. But would I do it again? Most definitely not. It was a break from a routine that I hopelessly tried to establish, resulting in an absurd sleep schedule and a decrease in productivity. Entertainment isn’t really entertainment when the next day involves being stressed over what needs to be done. And that’s where routines fit in. In many cases, the words routine and schedule are interchangeable. They both involve planning. They both are applicable on a recurring basis. They both are tools that are assets to success. However, they are different on an important aspect. The former involves repetition, while the latter involves adaptability. Schedules can change, routines, less so. While things may be built into schedules, routines more or less stay the same. The consistency of a routine plays a crucial part in maintaining stability and control.
I slept at around three or four in the morning, a marked departure from my usual plans to sleep at midnight. Consequently, I ended up waking up at noon, completely adverse to idea of getting out of bed. This break in my routine put me in an undesirable position, having wasted half a day and counting. Thankfully it was Sunday and not a school day. But what happens when a routine works? During the school week, I more or less go to sleep at midnight, give or take an hour, and in the morning, I routinely wake up at 7. There is little deviation, and a sense of stability is built into my life. I don’t need to set an alarm clock, because I’m always up at the same time each day. The magic of routines.
But some people can never get enough sleep. They hit snooze until the last possible moment. Maybe routines in sleep patterns don’t work. But routines help out in other situations too. They don’t have to be things that happen every day. For example, I enjoy watching Agents of SHIELD every Tuesday. I’m always in front of the TV at 9pm sharp, anticipating what will happen on this week’s episode. Consequently, I end up doing most of my work before the show starts. This routine, this pattern, has become embedded into my life, giving me a productivity that I can depend on.
And even if sticking to a routine sounds like the worst thing in the world to be doing with your time, its more than likely that you already have one. Brushing your teeth before you go to bed, remembering to lock the door when you leave the house, if you are driving, checking your blind spots before changing lanes. Routines aren’t all that foreign or daunting. They’re an essential part of daily life.
The benefits aren’t all just superficial. I may use routines to watch TV and get up in the morning, but they have plenty of other uses. Maybe instead of using routines to just catch a TV show, you use it to establish a pattern for doing homework. Maybe It becomes a schedule that is more rigid and less suspect to delays and procrastination. Settling into a routine is easier than trying to create a schedule that will undoubtedly end up in the bin after a week.
However, beginning a routine is just as hard as adhering to a new schedule. I would suggest starting with something that’s not mentally draining, like eating an after school snack. Once you’ve settled into the habit of doing something once you get home, tack on something after it like doing a class assignment. From there it’s just getting used to doing one thing after the next. You aren’t tied to a clock like a schedule, but instead just going down a checklist. The shift in mentality may be helpful in building motivation.
Routine isn’t just another word for schedule. It’s another tool you can place in your belt of productivity, one that may be easier to swallow than a full blown minute by minute plan of your day. So if you have something you need done on a frequent basis, try to incorporate it into a routine. It might just make it all the more bearable.