Oh Routine, How I Love Thee!

Image description: cartoon of four owls (purple, green, blue, and peach) sitting on branches over the word
Image description: cartoon of four owls (purple, green, blue, and peach) sitting on branches over the word “September.”

A couple of weeks ago I was having breakfast with my friend, Tara, and we said at almost the same time something along the lines of, “Summer is great but I’m really looking forward to getting back to my routine.” For those of us on an academic cycle (and that includes non-academics who have school-aged kids), September gets us back to a more regular sense of schedule.

It’s easy to lament that because it usually means a change of pace. And for many of us September to April is a faster paced time. As an administrator, I’m on campus Monday through Friday for much of the summer as well. But hardly any of my colleagues are (because they’re busy at their research and prepping for new courses), and only a very few students are, and that just makes every day feel more spacious or something. I love campus in the summer. And I love my walk to work, which I seem unable to sustain once September comes. But I do miss the sense of routine that the more structured days of the school term bring.

And I’m consistent that way. I wrote a post back in August 2013 called, “Routines.” There I called routines the best thing about the end of summer. What’s good about routine?

What I like so much about a regular routine is that it establishes a rhythm to my day and my life. I don’t need to think, I can just fall into the beat of that rhythm. A routine at its best is a series of good habits, exercised effortlessly, with little thinking through.

But it’s hard to establish that rhythm in the absence of some structure, at least it was and is for me. It’s like flailing around in the dark or taking the very first arbitrary stab at a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

When I’ve got something solid to work around, things can start to fall into place. But for me (I’m sure others are better at this), it’s hard to create a good routine from dust. And that’s been my challenge this past year. So I am actually excited about getting back at it.

Yes, the rhythm. As I mentioned then too though, too much rigidity in the routine isn’t healthy for me. The routine gives the rhythm but there has to be space for some improv as well. Stuff comes up. Life happens. No routine is ever perfect. But if there is some basic structure to work with, a little hiccup here and there doesn’t bring the whole house down.

I’ve been sailing for over a week and 52 hours of that was a continuous stretch offshore, no land in sight. That’s about as far from my regular life, both literally and figuratively, as I’ll ever get. It’s comforting for a time, but if we did any long hauls offshore, like a Pacific crossing (I can dream), routine would have to take hold at some level to keep me grounded.

When I get home next week I’m going to be back at work. Back to my personal training. Back to regular running, including Sunday long runs with Julie. The blasted 100-day step challenge will be over (Sam wants it over too). The regulars for my Friday night women’s nights will all be back and we can get that going again. The week after that I start teaching again. And all of the committees I’m on will start meeting (I don’t mind — I like constructive committee work). And Tara and I will get together for breakfast once a week again instead of only every few weeks. Maybe it sounds hum-drum, but I like it.

What do you like most about routine?

2 thoughts on “Oh Routine, How I Love Thee!

  1. Me too, me too. I’m curious to see how you establish a sabbatical routine while enjoying boat life. I love sabbaticals but my best ones have all involved desks in offices elsewhere. Staying on the boat will demand a different kind of structure and routine. Exciting!

  2. I love routine because it keeps me from making mistakes! If I’m on schedule each day I don’t forget to do something and I don’t go to the wrong place and I don’t feel like I’m going crazy. Summer is great, but I too love the routine of classes starting each August!

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