Routine is not only reassuring; for me it’s about optimisation. If we can streamline our days, and work our ‘interruptions’ into the day in productive ways, as rewards or refreshing breaks that use the opposite side of our brain, every moment can be salvaged and directed into something useful. It’s like making scones and using all the dough in one hit, by baking the diamond shapes in between.
I had a great routine for my nine-to-five: Rise when the sun hits my pillow, have a snuggle, get dressed, eat, listen to Dutch mp3s on the walk to the train station, read novels on the train, study German over coffee, and go to work. (I won’t bore you with the rest. Mornings really took the cake). The red-haired girl at my café called me ‘Lady’ and knew my order. These things can be hard to let go.
It’s worth letting go, because—even better—you get to construct a new routine! And I like to think I can perfect it each time.
I spend my early mornings studying German in the sunshine in my antique chair in the bay window, and then I read about illustration to get myself in the right frame of mind. I think it’s a mistake to force yourself to crank out art if you’re not feeling it. And for me, nothing makes me want to crank out art more than reading about it, which gets me excited and fills me with ideas.
A leisurely lunch is always important. Rushing around at lunch trying to get errands done or squeeze in grocery shopping only makes you more frazzled. I give myself a long break, and, after a hearty feed, I play piano. Here comes one of the real benefits of routine: practice. If you can work several of the things into your routine, you simply have to get better at them. If you keep at it for a year, you’re going to improve dramatically. If you live another twenty years and keep at it every day, you’re going to be some sort of Meister! So I just keep chipping away at German, learning new vocabulary lists, struggling through children’s novels, and bashing away at my piano, practising blues riffs and fancy chords.
It gets better: In the afternoon I paint. I just sit down for the next few hours and paint away. If I need a small rest, I knit. Rests are necessary, and don’t have to be wasteful. Imagine how much knitting and painting I’m going to get done with these hours built into my daily routine!
Of course, it’s possible that I’m some sort of workaholic freak, or a timelord, but I believe it’s just called time management. As one of my old workmates hilariously applauded me in my farewell card: ‘Thanks for your help with various tasks. You are good at doing all sorts of work tasks—flexible.’ Admit to yourself that you can’t do one task all day, find your pattern and plan your day around it.