In (Dis)favour of Routine

by Lisa Weldon

Efficient people have routines. We know this. We know that thirty days a habit made, and all that. We know that Barack Obama exercised every morning before breakfast whilst in the White House and managed to survive on five hours sleep.

I have never been one for routines. I have tried. I bought a 2020 daily journal from Frankie publishing, which is a beautifully bound diary printed in collaboration with fashion social enterprise, Magpie Goose. As restrictions set in, I told myself I was going to find what feels good and complete a thirty-day circuit with Adriene, the yogi behind the YouTube sensation, Yoga with Adriene. I bought much-too-expensive granola and a tub of Greek yoghurt. I moved my phone charger away from my bed, meaning I would have to get out of bed to retrieve it for the day. This is going to be the first step to my ‘productive life’, I told myself as I spread my yoga mat out in my bedroom and laid my athleisure wear out on my bed, ready and prepared to begin. Oh, to be productive! And efficient! 

I got to Day 9 – Inquire of my yoga journey, and it was here my inquiry stopped. My mat is rolled up and sitting in a corner of my room. My granola ran out and it hasn’t yet made its way back onto my essential shopping list (probably a good thing, as it really was too expensive). My charger is still away from my bed, but who knew you could just snuggle straight back into bed once it’s in your hot little hand, scrolling thumb at the ready? I am still using my daily journal, but that’s less about routine and more about organisation. I may be inefficient, but I am organised.

My housemate has an excellent routine. She wakes at 6:00am and positively leaps out of bed. She runs between five to twenty kilometres most days and eats healthy meals that are laden with greens (and more often than not cooks these meals for us, too). She speaks with her friends and family on the regular, taking herself away to immerse in these conversations. She finds the time to draw and paint and sing beautiful songs whilst strumming her guitar. In fact, she may be singing and strumming as I write this now. She’s also completing her Honours, so I’m not quite sure how she manages to fit all this into her days.

But for those of us who do not have a routine, I’ve been through the process and have come out the other end with words that are likely not wise, but are words nonetheless. Routines need not define your perceptions of productivity or efficiency. Many of us (aka: me with no other research conducted to prove my point otherwise) can find the vigour to be both productive and efficient when needed. And it is in these moments that we may find a semblance of routine. But when these moments are done, those routines may not become staples in your life and you need not feel any guilt for letting them slip away.

Overall, I don’t mind being inefficient. Inefficiency leaves me time to think and then ponder on those thoughts. It gives me time to explore ideas in my life that had previously gathered dust, hidden under the folds of my brain mass that I had carelessly labelled to do when I have more time. It also offers spontaneous opportunities for discovery, like last week, when I bought a beginner’s set of acrylic paints from our local post office and painted for three hours. I know that my housemate, amidst her excellent routine, also does these things. But what works for her does not work for me. 

Being inefficient may not be synonymous with success, but efficiency is only one synonym of success. If success can be equated with happiness, then my lack of routines and I are rather successful, thank you. And, even Barack Obama has changed his morning routine. I haven’t asked him myself, but I’m sure he’s now using his time post-presidency to sleep for longer than five hours a night.