“Routine” is a catch phrase for my therapist. She has been telling me to develop and stick to a routine for 15+ years. I have created several routines over the years, often based on college schedules and deadlines. Now that I’m out of grad school, I have found my lack of routine to be a huge problem. I have not written much in the time since I graduated in May of 2018. I need to change this situation and the key is routine.
I have amazing freedom when it comes to how I spend my time. My day is a blank page, and, as a writer, that makes it my enemy. I can’t focus on a task, so I have to use an app like Freedom to block sites and apps that distract me easily. I basically need to make my laptop into a typewriter to accomplish any work, especially without a looming deadline. My routine is also easily thrown off by sickness or travel. I always have to rebuild my routine after such occasions. But life is filled with trial and error and, well, life. Shit happens.
The biggest rule of building a routine is to start simply. Block out chunks of time on a calendar to know what your day looks like in a clear and quick format. Always plan more time than you think you’ll need to achieve a task. Humans are terrible about estimating time. Use colors and labels to create distinct areas of your life, i.e. blue is personal, red is work, etc. (For more advice on this topic and many others, I recommend checking out Thomas Frank.)
Set out a single task to do at one time and do it fully. Emerge yourself in your work. Learn to focus. Don’t over-crowd your day (if possible) when you first begin; start small.
I begin with one key habit to build a routine. Then I add to my schedule each week. But this is my method. My key habit is exercise. I see my trainer three times a week. Then I add a chunk of time in the afternoon for writing, when I have found I am most productive and mentally clear. Then other habits and tasks fall in place. I leave one day a week for household chores, like cleaning, and that tends to fall on Saturday.
Although this may seem really simple when I lay it out here, it takes time and effort to build and maintain a good routine. I have one general rule that I stole from Matt D’Avella: never miss two days in a row. If you flub one day, that’s fine. But don’t let it become a pattern. Don’t let it happen two days in a row.