Routines & Ruts
I LOVE routine. While I admittedly would like to be more adventurous, I love the familiarity and predictability of having some routines in my life. Routines give me stability. They help me get things done. They prevent tasks from slipping through the cracks. They ensure that the important things get prioritized and the trivial things get automated to leave me with enough energy for the important things. For instance, every night, I take time to pack breakfast and lunch for the following day. This saves me precious time in the morning, because, let's face it, I don't want to get up any earlier than I already do. For the same reason, I set out clothes at night for the next day (or several outfits on Sunday night for the upcoming week). I am not as creative or thoughtful when putting outfits together in the morning in my sleepy state, so this also adds the benefit of being able to put together better combinations.
Another routine I have created for myself is a workout routine. I designate certain days as video workout days, and get up at the same time, exercising for the same length of time, in the same place. I do mix up the workout videos I use, but I gravitate toward only a few channels and have some favorite videos that I do often. I created playlists with videos that target different areas so that I can quickly select videos I know I like, saving me valuable time searching for them in the morning.
Of course, over-reliance upon routines can lead to getting stuck in a rut. It's really easy to go through life on autopilot when you have routines set up to make things more efficient. Last year, when I was running the same route twice every week, I quickly got bored with it, and I felt unchallenged by it. Since then, I have found that mixing up my workouts (devoting different days to different focus areas, running different routes, etc.) is better for me than doing the exact same thing all the time. It requires more attention, involving more brain activity, and it keeps me more engaged in the activity, since I can't just follow along with absentminded muscle memory. Different videos use different exercises and movements, continually challenging my body in different ways.
I have found the same to be true in my spiritual life. It's easy to get caught up in a comfortable routine: devotional book, Scripture, prayer. That's been my routine for a while now. But then I realized that I don't approach any of my other relationships with such rigidity. Why should my relationship with my Heavenly Father be that way? Today I'm choosing to break out of my stuffy routine and approach my Father, my Lord, with reverence, but also with joy, basking in His Presence. I certainly will continue to read from devotional books, study the Bible, and spend time in prayer, but not in a fashion that makes each step seem like a task to check off before I resume the rest of my day. I want to be more fully involved in my time spent with Him, and fully engaged in life in general. So even though routines help me make better use of my time, I'm learning to be careful to avoid relying on them too heavily, lest I go through life completely on autopilot.
What steps will you take to create a routine to make your life simpler? In what ways might your routines be keeping you from moving forward, challenging yourself, or fully engaging?