How to Create Routine and Ritual in Your Life
You want to incorporate more routine and structure into your life, but never seem to make anything stick, and feel you lack the discipline and productivity to do so. Frustrating, right?
What’s your personality type?
Let’s talk about the disorganised personality type. Of course, we’re all human, and being organised isn’t exactly a gift or talent, but the “psychology of the disorganised person” has been churned through a swathe of studies and theories. For these people, nothing is ever where it’s “supposed to be.” If you’re looking to successfully incorporate more routine into your life, chances are you fit the disorganised personality type. The prognosis indicates that disorganised people are the creative ones – the alternative thinkers, those who don’t fit into the boxes of convention and societal norms. While this isn’t always the case (it isn’t exactly true to say that everyone who follows the crowd and leads a mundane life fits under the organised personality type), it’s fair to say the the haphazard individual who struggles to stick to a regular routine is often just unable to maintain the conventional methods of organisation designed by society.
The disorganised personality type normally ticks the following boxes:
– They process information and view the world from the “right brain” hemisphere, rather than via the left side – linear thinking is not their forte. In the words of Levi-Strauss, they are “bricoleurs,” and veer towards a life filled with diversity and the eclectic, which may account for disorderliness.
– They have difficulty focusing and keeping track of time.
– Often think outside of the box.
– Chronic daydreamers.
– Perfectionists. Although it may seem paradoxical for a perfectionist to be disorganised, a perfectionist isn’t someone who does everything perfectly, but someone who strives desperately at every opportunity to make everything perfect – normally failing in the process and ending up very…disorganised, flustered, and frustrated.
Maybe you don’t even fit into the romantic, creative, nomadic notion of disorganised psychology – maybe you just don’t have your life together. Maybe you don’t have the slightest interest in creativity and alternative thinking, but just need to get basic practical affairs in order so your days don’t fall to shambles. Everyone can benefit from being organised, and a good place to start is incorporating a daily dose of routine and ritual into your life, however small. Don’t worry, you’re not going to lose your unique status as creative genius when you start developing and following your own rules – because let’s face it, if you spend the majority of your time searching for your keys, running back and forth between the subway and your apartment because you’ve forgotten your travel pass, or staring out the window in the library because you realise you left your charger under the bed at home, then you’re not going to have much time to spend on your projects and innovative endeavours. Not to mention, a state of fluster is not conducive to the creative flow. An orderly life can actually give you the space and opportunity to express the bricoleur within. So let’s stop thinking of organisational skills, routine, habit and ritual as stifling to the creative process or lifecycle: creativity and productivity go hand in hand.
Productivity inevitably demands a certain amount of discipline and structure. It’s the same for any pursuit – if you’re chasing athletic finesse, then spending all Saturday morning and late afternoon in bed with a hangover when you could be out jogging with the local triathlete club, isn’t ideal. All this may seem fairly obvious, but following a routine which will help you accomplish those mini dreams and satisfying tasks of which life abounds is something which everyone struggles with – whether you are a college student or young working professional or backpacker.
Why we struggle to follow a routine:
1. Disorganisation. You fit the disorganised personality type, or your life is just a disorganised mess at all times. Time is wasted on unnecessary actions which only make us more frustrated and less productive.
2. Procrastination. “The thief of time.” Everyone seemed to add this word to their vocabulary at the age of 14, possibly when we realised that we wouldn’t actually drop dead if we didn’t get homework done, that we had absolutely no interest in learning half of the material in front of us, and being lazy felt luxurious. Once we become aware of the meaning of procrastination (as exemplified by Hamlet) we uncomfortably begin to observe how it sneaks into our everyday decisions to prolong a certain task or postpone work which nothing is stoping us from completing immediately.
3. Distraction. Instagram, Facebook, messenger, tinder, browsing through travel blogs and searching for the most aesthetic cafe interior designs in major cities. We write a few words and allow our attention to stray to the most leisurely distractions, which require minimal brain power.
4. Setting unrealistic goals. Read two entire books on literary theory, take detailed notes and write a comprehensive essay plan in a single afternoon? Very much impossible. No matter what your diary schedule for that day tells you.
5. Perfectionism. This is a silent killer. Nothing is more crushing than stopping yourself from accomplishing your goals because you don’t think you can do it perfectly. Perfectionism holds back even the most gifted among us. If a routine, habit or ritual isn’t planned to perfection, executed with the most refined delicacy, and therefore resulting in the most shiny package imaginable – what’s the point of doing it?
6. Poor time management. It takes you three hours to finish the most minor of tasks. See all the above.
7. Too much too fast.
Obviously, it’s not as simple as “do the opposite” of all the above. But once you’ve identified your main problem areas and realise what’s stopping you from becoming a more productive and habitual creature, you will know where to start making changes.
– SLOW DOWN. Whether you need to slow your physical activity, your mind, or both – remind yourself, once something goes awry or you start to feel stressed and overwhelmed about the mass of tasks which lie before you, that it is perfectly fine to slow down, move slowly, think slowly, and therefore more clearly. Rushing through life at 100 miles per hour is detrimental to harmonious routine. Stopping to take time to look around and grasp your bearings is perfectly fine and no one is going to criticize you for it.
– LIVE IN THE MOMENT. It is important to have goals, future plans, dreams and life visions. But as for living, you only ever have this moment. Right now. So engage with it. Stay in touch with your mind and what’s going on inside your head, but don’t live there. Just taking note of the smallest things happening around us at any given moment is a great place to start in learning how to live in the moment.
– KNOW WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD. My next post talks about how important it is that your routines serve your needs and don’t end up harming you. So you need to listen to yourself and prioritise what actions make you feel good, which in turn will generate positive thoughts. Know what your routine and rituals need to be made up of. Of course, being organised and staying productive through daily habits can sometimes involve tasks which may seem arduous, but in the long run will have a beneficial effect. What goals are important for you achieve right now in your life? What little steps can you take every day to get closer to that goal?
– BUY A DIARY. Buy a pretty journal, a pen you enjoy writing with, and write your lists in whatever format is most engaging to you. Either the evening before or in the morning. What are you prioritising today?
– “JUST DO IT.” Planning doesn’t work for everyone. For some people, writing down a schedule in their diary is like writing the gospel – it will be completed at all costs. Others just need to admit to themselves what needs to be done, and dive right in. In this case, strategy doesn’t work. Action is the most essential. This will be hard for the perfectionists – the fear of making a mistake or failing often leaves many people writing constant lists and never actually realising them. This isn’t down to laziness or lack of ability, but we can all relate to the existential gap which lies between us and the implementation of that great idea.
– SET REALISTIC GOALS. Be honest with yourself. Scale back on your task list, make it less detailed. A goal of filming ten Youtube videos per week isn’t going to be a good place to start. Think big, plan small, do quality, be concise.
– DEVELOP A POSITIVE ATTITUDE TOWARDS ROUTINE AND RITUALS. The other posts in this blog series talk more about how routine, habit, ritual and organisational skills can be beneficial and enriching to our lives, if we approach them with the right attitude.
– GET INSPIRED. Whether it’s Pinterest or the Harvard Review, a library or Instagram, know where to go for inspirational resources and ideas on what routines may appeal to you and what positive habits you could incorporate into your life. Just don’t fall into the trap of distraction or procrastination in the process!