I find it very useful that I get up every morning and brush my teeth. And equally useful that I automatically journal before I go to sleep each night. What are not as useful are my routines of channel surfing and examining my face in a magnifying mirror.
Truth be told, I don’t watch TV all that much, but it would be a better use of my TV time to tune in when there’s something I specifically want to watch, since I don’t enjoy much of what’s ordinarily out there. But, unfortunately, I’ve developed this routine of flicking on the Power and then starting to press Channel Up. Maybe this activity had its roots in the days when I would be so stressed that I just wanted Out – anywhere on the tube. But even though times have changed, my remote pressing habit has not.
The magnifying mirror routine is a recent one, but a time-sink none the less. It began when I picked up the little magnifying mirror on my bathroom counter to dust it, and absent-mindedly flipped it over to the larger magnification side. Big mistake. Have you ever looked at your nose at twice its normal size? Three-times? FIVE? It’s horrifically mesmerizing, with crater-size pores and bulging veins that have never been visible before.
The truth is, routines can be big time and motion savers or a ginormous waste of the precious minutes in your day.
I’ve always like to say to clients that whatever you need to do that you can make automatic saves you from the aggravation of constantly “deciding” when you’ll do it. The “Deciding Method” usually leads to procrastination, since there’s usually something else you’d rather be doing at the present time. I’m finding this out now with my physical therapy exercises. I’m realizing that if I don’t do them at specific times, I’ll end up with way too many to do at the end of the day.
But other routines, after they’ve outlived their usefulness, can work the opposite way. When we automatically follow outmoded methods of doing things, we can fall into a trap of compulsive behavior that doesn’t serve us well at all.
How can we tell the difference between a routine that is helpful at the present time and one that has become a hindrance?
It seems like a no-brainer until you accept the fact that most of us don’t think about our routines at all. For instance, do you truly believe that it’s a good idea to put on your make-up as you drive to work? It’s next to impossible to evaluate the common sense of what you’re doing if you’re no longer thinking about it.
Many of us first become aware of the value of routines when we have toddlers. We come to see, for example, that if a child doesn’t get enough sleep, we often pay for it. That’s not to say that we can force a child to go to sleep, but we can routinely create the conditions that encourage that behavior. During different stages of our child’s life, we may need to vary the parameters and timing of routines, but everyone benefits in the long run from having an idea of what is normally expected.
It can be a problem to stick to good routines though, when you have difficulty estimating time correctly. You may think that it only takes you 30 minutes to get out of the door in the morning when it’s actually closer to 45. And that 15-minute difference can cause all sorts of hassles when you’re trying to speed to work in traffic gridlock.
Knowing how much time things “really” take is the answer. Set timers during all of your routine activities and see where you’re over or under-estimating what’s required of you. Make adjustments to either keep yourself from rushing unnecessarily, or give yourself extra pockets of time to do something enjoyable.
Routines can streamline your days or make you lose track of what you should be doing. Continually evaluate yours to be sure that you’re spending your time the way you choose to be spending it.
And by the way, only look at your nose if you have to.