Routine: The Pros And Cons Of The Same Old Thing

Some people swear by routine. Some people hate routine. Like anything else, there are pros and cons to strict schedules. Routine can create positive habits, but too much routine creates some inflexibility. Is there a healthy balance?

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Routine: Love It Or Hate It?

I’ve lived a life that both favors and shuns routine. I’m a college professor. I have to practice some routine in order to do my job. I’m a writer. Without discipline, nothing would get written. I’m a single dad. Without a schedule, I’d go crazy. Yet sometimes, routine eludes me. Other times, I get stuck in a rut. It’s a constant give and take to find a healthy balance.

Throughout the school year, I have set times that I need to get Annie to and from school. I have set times that I need to be to work. That creates routine. In the summer, everything changes and the schedule flies out the window. So I’ve seen both sides of the picture. Here’s what I’ve taken from that dilemma:

The Benefits Of Routine

  • You get things done: It helps us return to the same patterns of living. That helps to get things done. Oddly, I have no writing schedule. I write when I write. On the other hand, my exercise and diet go out the window without a plan.
  • You’re less likely to forget things: When you have a plan, you create habits. That means you’re more likely to remember, because you do things in a sequence. When your routine is off, you leave the keys in a different spot. Yikes! I hate it when that happens.
  • You teach others well: Routines can help you to help others. Most teachers have specific lesson plans and certain styles of teaching. They’ve developed routines. These routines can make you an effective and efficient teacher. But too much routine = boring teacher.
  • You’re more likely to be dependable: If you have a routine, you’re more likely to arrive on time. You’re more likely to be someone who others can depend upon. No routine can kill your sense of time, making you less punctual.

The Downside Of Routine

  • You’re resistant to change: Routine at its extreme can become obsessive-complusive disorder. Sometimes, when you have a strict structure, you resist change. Have you ever turned down an invitation to do something fun because you hadn’t completed your routine? That might predict a problem.
  • You might struggle with fear: If you resist change, you might have an issue with fear. Many people get stuck in a routine because they fear breaking out of the norm. Fear can hold you back from many of the things you could accomplish in life. Don’t let routine be your crutch.
  • You may lack creativity: I said earlier that I don’t have a set writing schedule. I write when I’m inspired to write, I don’t write when I’m not. That doesn’t mean I go for long periods of time without writing. It just means that I don’t have set times. Too strict of a structure keeps us from being open and creative. 
  • You’re boring: Let’s face it, unless your routine is variety of extreme sports, you could be boring. The same old thing gets dull. You need to shake things up once in awhile. Think outside of the lines.

I’ve found that when I sway too far to either end of the spectrum, I get moody. Too much routine and I feel like I’m stuck in a rut. Too little routine and I get unorganized and easily frustrated. 

Finding Middle Ground

The key is to find a happy-medium, a place on the spectrum that works for you. That will be different for each of us. But if you feel like you’re too far to one end of the spectrum, I challenge you to try to break out of your comfort zone from time to time. Take a chance and do something spontaneous or buckle down and create a schedule.

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Dan Erickson
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