Routine vs. Flexibility

A lot of people, especially creatives, come to work from a place of routine. This is one of the benefits of a 9-5 job too; doing the same thing every day allows you to wake up and do what you always do. You don’t have to think and decide what to do. There is some level of comfort in that. It takes away the decision fatigue.

In some cases it also puts people in the mindset they need in order to be able to work. Some people don’t feel their minds and hearts are awake until they start their day in a certain way.

I’ve been finding this emphasis on productivity (and routine) unhealthy and pressuring. A never ending comparison of yourself to others, assessing what they do and how, what you do and how. Questions that could bring inspiration if asked in a kind way, but asked under pressure, questions that bring anxiety.

And yet I got my share from the routine craziness too, and I’ve been dancing around the idea of a routine for a while. There are some things I do most mornings: pottering around the apartment (tidying, putting away the dry dishes on the disk rack, watering the plants, opening the windows, burning an incense...), journaling, prepping breakfast, eating breakfast. Then either in the morning, or some other time during the day, I meditate, and if I can, I exercise.

I don’t do these activities every single morning, or every single day, or always in the same order, so I don’t believe they ever have become a “routine”. The idea of a routine - sticking to the same things in the same order every day - feels confining to me, not relaxing. When talking about this, my therapist reminded me that routine is a means to get to work. If I can manage to start working every day without a routine, which I can, then it may just be that I don’t need a routine.

I see how some people find refuge in routine; I think I find my refuge in flexibility. I don’t remember a time in my life I loved routine. I like stability (a home, friends, family, knowing myself and my passions) and I like existing on that stable ground in an ever changing way.

Allowing myself to flow, to feel my way through work, to see which work feels most doable that morning, which work calls me, has been so much more productive for me.

Continue reading this series: The Boundaries and Definitions of Work

Go back to the start: Containing Work When Working For Yourself