The Less Routine, the More Life: How to Kill Monotony

As long as habit and routine dictate the pattern of living, new dimensions of the soul will not emerge. ~Henry Van Dyke

Written by Conni Biesalski Follow me on Twitter and Google+.

 

I hate routines. I can’t even spell it properly, every time I type it on my keyboard my fingers come up with rountine.

{Some of you might expect another weekly interview today. That’s officially the plan as promised in the very first interview. But you know what? I consciously decided to skip it this week. Screw routines. It’s not good for you. It certainly isn’t good for me.}

For the past seven months, my life has been full of routines. I swear to all the fish in the oceans, it has never been this bad.

I despise it every day and am thinking about running against a wall after I finish writing this post.

Up until June this year, I never had a routinised life. Which is why I am untethering from it again in about four weeks. I just can’t handle it, it is driving me insane.

And what/who is to blame?

My current job.

Well, actually, in the first place, I am to blame. I let it come this far:

  • I have to get up at the same time Monday to Friday.
  • My way to work is the same every day.
  • I have to spend eight hours in the same office every day.
  • I have to work the same hours every day.
  • My eating schedule is the the same every day during the week.

Pretty sad state of affairs. 

My current job dictates most of my time. It’s disastrous. It’s horrible.

I feel trapped in a life of routines, sameness and monotony.

 

Seven months of following a set of routines are enough. It’s time to fight back.

I’m going to be letting go of routines in the coming weeks, and return to a life of daily variety, mixing things up and turning them upside down again. (Gladly, my last day at work is coming up in a few weeks!)

Maybe you’d like to come along and join the ride. If so, please do read on.

 

What is a routine anyway?

A sequence of actions regularly followed.

A set of customary and often mechanically performed procedures or activities

Synonyms: Sameness; Monotony.

 

A routine is basically an act that you repeat on a regular basis. This basis can be daily, several times a day or weekly. I don’t consider something that you do once a month or once a year to be a routine. A routine is more something that you do so often that you get so used that you don’t have to think about it anymore. It’s something that’s molded into you and your life.

 

The question is, why do we follow routines?

 

“For pragmatic reasons, I love the routine. I love the structure of it. I love knowing that my days are free. I know where I’m going at night. I know my life is kind of orderly. I just like that better.” ~Andrea Martin

 

Routines create structure. They give your day and your week a more ordered and calm feeling.

It can simplify your word day and personal life and make them less chaotic and complicated. By having certain routines in place, you can conserve your energy for things that are more important.

They can let you control of your life. For all these reasons, Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits actually recommends setting routines and advises his readers to learn how to follow them.

 

Routines let you live a very conventional life.

 

Now, I’m not advocating that all routines are evil. I do accept that they are sometimes a necessary byproduct of being alive as a human being in a modern world.

Yes, brushing your teeth every morning is a good and healthy routine to have. No doubt about it.

And without a coffee in the morning, I have a hard time getting started. So I have a coffee routine that I really enjoy.

 

However, I do believe that too many people have too many routines. And I do advocate to analyse your life and see how you trap yourself by following too many routines.

How do you want to live a fulfilling, exciting and unconventional life if you do the same things every day? If you can’t distinguish this week from last week? 

Routines are convenient and make for a comfortable, easy life. They make you think less. They let you predict the future.

In essence, routines make you lazy. They make your life and you boring. Routines won’t provide you with stories to tell.

Routines suck.

 

Less routines in life…

  1. give you more flexibility.
  2. reduce monotony and the feeling of sameness of daily life.
  3. open up the possibility to adjust your activities to your moods.
  4. can lead to new streams of creativity.
  5. can make your life overall more exciting and interesting.

You see, a change in routines can hold quite some benefits.

If you need routines to function and freak out when there are days where you can’t follow them – stop and reflect. Why are you having certain routines? Experiment with anti-routine days. Mix things up, go nuts.

 

Ways to Change Your Routines

  1. Go travel! Go vagabonding! Book a flight and go. No planning except a reservation for the first night in a hostel. Don’t follow the beaten path, find other things to do. That’ll screw all your routines up for sure.
  2. Move somewhere new. Yes it might be comfortable living in the same place for years and years. All your social networks are there and your job and all. But moving somewhere new, a new city, a new country or even just a new part of the city you life in now can really turn your routines upside down. It’s great. In my whole life, I’ve moved so many times, I lost count. It might be somewhere around 15 to 20 different homes, but I think I might have to write down my moving history to be sure.
  3. Hang out with different people. Go out and make new friends. Talk to people with different world views and attitudes. Hanging out with the same people all the time might lead to social stagnation. Talking to different people will open you up to new ideas and new experiences.
  4. Work somewhere new. Unless you have to work in the office of your employer, go and work in a coffee shop or a library instead. Or try working outside in the park. Or find a friend and work somewhere together.
  5. Change the times you do things. If you exercise in the morning, start exercising at night. If you work during the day, try working on the weekends or at night instead.
  6. Change your way to work. Get on Google Maps and plan a different route to walk or drive or bike.
  7. Change your eating habits. If you always go out to eat, try start cooking at home. Get some cook books and off you go.
  8. Leave the TV off. Entertain yourself with a good book instead or relax with an inspiring TED talk.
  9. Change your eating schedule. Eat when you are hungry, not when the clock tells you to. Skip breakfast (you don’t need it), have an early lunch, a couple of healthy snacks during the day and a light dinner instead of three proper meals a day at the same time.
  10. Read different newspapers or online news sites. Read different blogs. Mix up the information you read every day. Focus on one subject a week, then another the week after, and the week after.

 

 

Just remember this:

“Habit and routine have an unbelievable power to waste and destroy.” ~Henri de Lubac

 

So what do you think about routines? What are your favorite methods to get out of a rut? Please share your opinions in the comments below!

 

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33 Responses to The Less Routine, the More Life: How to Kill Monotony

  1. Paul McKay says:

    This sparked a few thoughts. As a fellow routine hater, I have to say I love my job, which is my calling and purpose in life. I’m an ordained minister but serve as a chaplain/grief counselor at a hospital. Being stuck in the routine of a church would bore me to an early grave. So I’ve always worked in hospital or hospice care (although ministry is a second career I came to late in life). Five years ago I managed to find a job where I can work a 36 hour shift, Sunday through Wednesday, 2:30 to midnight, which gives me three days off to be pretty much spontaneous. I do have certain exercise routines and a couple of others that I need for balance in my life (even though I mix up even my exercise workouts), but generally keep those days open to be quite free spirited and avoid any routines that might make my life a drag. The beauty of working in the medical field is that you get so many PTO (paid time off) days for long vacations and travel. The point is that, generally speaking, you can find ways to make a living and heed whatever your calling in life is and be intentional in avoiding the ruts of routines. Even one stuck in the 8 to 5 slugging can find ways to make the weekends more open for self indulging. A psychiatrist friend once told me that he’s literally seen people bore themselves sick or to death staying stuck in ruts and unable to muster the nerve to liberate themselves. Anyway, love the spirit of the blog. Grace & peace & Happy New Year.

  2. Tatiana says:

    I don’t have anything actively against routines. At my last job, I had the same schedule many times, so I often went to work the same way (though sometimes I switched it up) and my job itself was very monotonous in that sense. And I typically ate the same thing for dinner – more so for budget reasons and my disinterest in learning how to cook. And, in a lot of ways, I have a routine now – getting up around the similar time each day, doing the same sort of tasks online (since I’m unemployed, it mostly involves job hunting).

    But, I think most of the problem with routines is internal, versus external. If you’re doing similar stuff every day (or all the time) but it’s something that brings you enjoyment, then it’s not bad. I mean, even creating the habit of BREAKING HABITS, becomes a type of routine in its own way.

    Routines also exist outside of humans: seasons changing, mating cycles for animals, menstrual cycles, plants growing and dying. Routines are part of what makes us animals, and there’s nothing wrong with routines or the fact that they exist. If anything starts to feel monotonous, it’s an internal process that needs to be dealt with.

    But I suppose my only complaint would be your advice about skipping breakfast. Ethically, it’s dangerous to give out nutritional advice like that. Here are some links about why breakfast is important:
    1. http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/most-important-meal
    2. http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/food-science/why-breakfast-is-the-most-important-meal-of-the-day-food-science-113418
    3. http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-report/healthy-breakfast/importance-of-eating-breakfast.aspx

    To tell someone not to eat breakfast is like saying that a person doesn’t REALLY need 8 hours of sleep. That’s insanity. Your body needs specific things in order to function, and to refuse it food/energy for inexplicable reasons is harmful – especially if you’re dishing that kind of advice out to others.

    • Conni says:

      You’re right, the perception of ‘routine’ is quite subjective. My personal attitude might be extreme and not everyone’s cup of tea – I definitely acknowledge that.
      I like your example of how we have routines outside of us humans and how nature and many creatures (incl. us humans) live by them. I’m really glad though that we as modern (especially Western) beings don’t have to conform to all of our instincts anymore..
      Regarding breakfast: It wasn’t intended as nutritional advice per se. More as a way to mix things up. Many people don’t feel like having breakfast, some do sometimes, some always. I guess we’re all different. I don’t think that skipping breakfast really harms us (and I have been experimenting with it for a few months now, feeling absolutely fine) – my Ayurvedic doctor (internist) even advised me to let breakfast go. But I don’t want to argue about diets and health (being far from an expert) ;)
      Thanks for your valuable input, Tatiana! Hope you have a lovely start into 2012!

  3. RoBi says:

    Screw New Year’s Eve routines ;)

  4. RoBi says:

    and remember, it’s also my birthday-party – when will be the next time we could celebrate together?!

  5. Connie,
    Great post. I too hate routines. I get bored very easily perhaps that is why I’ve moved 15 times? I actually love moving (not packing though!). It’s the idea that I’m shaking things up and changing my future by moving somewhere new that fascinates me.

    I’m glad I found your blog through Raam’s interview. I also came across your name on Tom Ewen’s blog. I look forward to reading more. All the best to you in 2012!
    Angela

    • Conni says:

      Yes, I too believe that routines breed boredom!
      Moving is a great way to mix things up, glad to hear you enjoy it as well! My case is a tough one, as I can hardly manage to stay in one place for longer than 6 months!
      I wish you a happy 2012 as well, Angela! Glad you stopped by!

      -Conni.

  6. Srinivas says:

    I’d been waiting since you published this a few days ago to come up with something reasonable intelligent to say about. But I was too caught up in my own routines, hehe.

    So, I will say this. I have certain routines that are actually very useful (like writing every single day). Even his book Uncertainty Jonathan Fields talks about having anchors so that we can deal with complete uncertainty with a bit more calm.

    That being said I think you bring up some really great points about routines. I know people who will go out and do the exact same thing in their city every single weekend even though they live in a place like NYC. As much as I loved surfing everyday in Costa Rica, the routine of it all started to get to me. When I would get out of town for a few days it would enable me to reset and that was great. Travel is probably one of the best ways to break up a routine.

    You mentioned “reading different.” The funny thing is about a month ago I hosed my entire RSS reader so I could start from scratch. That’s how I found you and also connected with a bunch of other new people. Now I know somebody who can teach me how to Scuba dive :).

    • Conni says:

      Glad to see the post resonated with you!
      I, too, believe in ‘anchors’ to some degree. We all need them, yes. We all need some stability, and routines add to that for sure.
      Well thanks for reading different, Srini! :) Excited to go surfing with you and swallow a million gallons of water! Have a great start into 2012!!

  7. Nikoya says:

    We sound so much alike, and it’s so funny because I was just talking about the Idea of routines about an hour ago. I can’t agree more with your view on routines. To me, any act that can be classified as a routine calls for an occasional change. Living is no longer an experience anymore, it’s just a controlled system… I don’t know, it just isn’t my style either.

    As for the breakfast point- its good to have a brief fast in the day; I’ve experimented with it too. It’s best to eat when hungry, but there is nothing ethically wrong with sharing an opinion on breakfast. It’s living life with a free mind and a power of choice that matters!

  8. Erika says:

    As a small business owner I find routines to be both my savior and my downfall. My business requires so many things to be done daily, my art requires diligent attention and I always have orders to fill. A routine makes sure everything gets attention.

    However, it makes me feel like I sleep walk through part of my day which makes the less routine parts of my day harder to get excited about. I also find my self procrastinating during my routines because I’m bored with them. Trying to find the balance between routines and excitement is tricky. Hopefully I find the balance soon!

  9. maggi man says:

    absolutely right it is. screw routines.by the way can give an extensive article on changing lives?i may need it

  10. Ed says:

    Alright… My life routine is not only affecting me, but also my wife and my 20 month baby girl. I was never this way, but after I got my Ph.D, got a job, I allowed routine to dictate my life. I will be a follower, let’s do this.

  11. homepage says:

    It’s enormous that you are getting ideas from this piece of writing as well as from our dialogue made here.

  12. danielle says:

    Routine is the death of one’s soul but a comfort too. Although moving alot and switching jobs so often might be related to commitment issues…hows the love life? I bet there is problems in that area….

  13. Zara says:

    Routine kills me. I feel like I’m wasting my life terribly. For a few weeks now I’m actively searching for a job in a part of the country I’ve never lived in before and where life is very different from the city life i’m used to. I hope it will work. Though I don’t really know if its routine and monotony that bothers me and makes me move every few years or is it something else that makes me restless :S

  14. Change is permanent!!

  15. Noelien says:

    Hi, although this is an old post it (and some of the comments) striked a nerve. I’m at a point of wanting to run away from my life! Cause it’s one boring lump of routine!!!! Feeling guilty cause I have much to be thankful for. But then again I’m turning sour/rude towards the very things and people I’m supposed to count as blessings. Oh how I sometimes wish I could be like people who accept things and their lives and just settle in. I’ve tried. But it’s almost been 20 years. And I just don’t know how to get out or change things up with the littlest disstraction. That which ‘defines’ me, is killing me, I feel: wife, mother, emloyee, housekeeper, daughter, sister, friend. When all that is done I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what brings me joy. I’ve been brought up to do the right things, the responsible things. Right now those things are frustrating me

  16. A says:

    Skip breakfast? Most important and best meal of the day!

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  18. Katie says:

    Hi I am so glad I found this post, even though it was written a while ago. Your suggestions are great, now all I need to do is muster the energy after 12 years of soul crushing routine, what really gets me is the constant callous rudeness I am bombarded with daily (examples: taking the subway, belligerent, nasty customers because I am in customer service). I daydream about just walking into the desert or some other vast wide open space far from all human beings. I sometimes feel sick with rage and or despair from it because I have, myself, allowed my headspace to dip into a dark hopeless place. I will definitely take your advice. Thanks again!

    • Adwait Natu says:

      Even I too found these post lately, but in some aspects it is good, like traveling, meeting new peoples, making new friends 😊
      But I ignore the negatives. Let it be ( as everyone has its own thoughts)
      Katie, I too want to do something like you, like walking on unmanned desert 😃
      But keep in mind that together with our joy we have to also manage our daily work( job) .
      we have to just experience our life in our way, with every aspects of life 😊
      Can we be friends Katie?

  19. Wandering in the Abyss says:

    I have a few questions with this routine concept/way of not living life and the solutions that you have presented. But first life story time I will try to make it quick . First of all I moved from Idaho to Seattle since I was getting tired of the baggage and lack of fulfilment. I was pretty excited, happy and I felt like a complete badass lady. I transferred locations with work so that was one less stress, we got a steal of a deal with the apartment, two months later I applied to school and was accepted then I found a different job which was more stable with hours and pay but it is also my first sit down job with a routine, so fast forward 10 months of being in Seattle and I feel empty. Void of any ambition, feelings or drive, I’m not excited over anything and this routine of getting up at 4:45am to being awake until 11pm has me burnt out. And to top things I just can’t afford to do anything that I want to do, I look through the local social papers that tells the citizens what is going on and I find myself lacking the proper funds to experience this city and do things that I used to enjoy. I read the list that you gave and I said to myself “we hells bells that sounds easy to do” but following that thought I asked myself this “how can I just drop things and go when I live in a society that revolves around the old mighty dollar that seems to elude my bank account?” I think I’m at a point where I feel that I’m tired of the constraints of society and the monotony of routines because while it is safe and comfortable it makes me die on the inside. But anyway the questions I have for you and others is how does a person actually get out of such routines when our society forces us into them on a number of levels both consciously and unconsciously? Also how are you supposed to go out and do anything when things cost money? I can’t just drop everything and go travel (which I would love to do) since I have bills, a cat, debt and a pathetic paying job or am I doomed because I’m a poor single young person with nothing in savings so I have to waste my youth doing unnecessary things that involve routines that kills my soul or me as a individual/human being?

    • Nowhere To Go But Up says:

      Dear Wandering in the Abyss,

      It sounds to me like you need to make a plan. Think of what your passions are, if you don’t know, then there’s part of your problem and you need to go on a”quest” to find out. Then, decide what it would take to realize those passions (i.e. money, education, time, etc.). If you’re not making enough money, look at how much you make and how much you spend. Can you reduce your expenses? Get a smaller apartment or cut down on how much you eat out? If not, evaluate your job. If it takes up that much time and doesn’t pay enough, you might want to consider another job change. If you decide to change jobs, use your days off to do it. (On a personal note, I would change jobs simply because of the fact that no one can survive long on only 6 hours of sleep a night. That’s just not healthy.)

      Once you have your finances to where you can be saving a little and your time is freed up some, now make a plan for your education (if that’s part of realizing your passions). There are plenty of degrees on line now days and you can find scholarships for just about any situation in life. If you Google scholarships, that will give you plenty of starting points. You may want to consider using an agency called LDS Employment. They can show you how to apply for scholarships, get a raise at work or a promotion, how to make the best resume to get the job you want, and how to interview for prospective jobs so that you present yourself in the best way possible.

      All of these tasks are just the start! It’s A LOT to do,I know, but it will start you on a path of discovery that could change your life. None of us want to live our lives using someone else’s prescribed plan. So don’t! Make your own plan. But make a plan! If you don’t, someone else will be making for you. Good luck!

      • Wandering in the Abyss says:

        Thank you for taking the time to read and respond I appreciate it. I do agree and have already taken some of those steps. The two reasons why I decided to move in the first place was to follow my passion/go to school and I fell in love with Seattle. It’s just now that I am here I feel stuck as a cog in the working machine. I honestly make enough to pay bills and get a bit of supplies for my cat and a wee bit of food if you want to call it that and that is it. I don’t go out to eat, I don’t go to concerts, I don’t volunteer and I eat top roman or pb&js most of the time. I have it planned that I will work my job until I start school and I have been applying to scholarships and looking for aid so I don’t have to take out huge loans for school. I think that my path is mapped out to a good point and the routine of work is driving me to an unusal point of tiredness where I feel tired of life since I’m not doing anything else besides work come home sleep work come home and sleep. But I have also been asking myself a lot here lately “what is my roll in my life in this society and do I even want to be apart of it?” And my answer is no I don’t want work myself to death to barely survive and that is what I’m doing. Which is maddening. I think things will change when I start school then I think I will move again after I complete school and look abroad. I’m not finding balance thus far so I think I’m having a crisis with myself to find that because before I moved I was working a lot but I was also able to volunteer and paint and deal with my sleep issues but now I don’t have time during the week due to my ridiculous routine and the weekends I try to cram every errand I need to get completed then I hit a wall or point of exhaustion and find myself unable to muster the strength to keep going which snowballs into internal maddness.

  20. jamel says:

    You look like a lezbo there Conni

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  23. Clair says:

    Living a non routine life works wonders for me. I live life instintively and as a result have a stronger and clearer connection with myself and other things around me. It helps being single and living in a fantastic city which is close to the sea and the countryside. Life is all about movement for me. I have many sides to my character and can see how they are all parts of me and all need different attention at different times.
    I feel free and well living without routine. It serves me well for now.
    I really love what you are doing here. Thank YouXx

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  25. Mogie says:

    Be happy you have a job. I have been looking for a few years and nothing (not even a receptist).

    Be happy you have a roof over your heads.

    Food to eat.

    Somewhere safe to sleep.

    Someone to talk to.

    Friends (even 1 is more then I have).

    A car to drive. Many people rely om public transportation.

    TV and radio are nice distractions/noise makers.

    Be VERY happy you have decent health.

    Do you have healthcare. Lucky you.

    The list is nearly endless, We as a society are spoiled. We expect and want MUCH more then is needed.

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