Routine Behavior

Yesterday’s lesson in the Alive Time Stoic challenge was about creating a daily schedule and sticking to it. And through that effort, enable routine by committing your schedule to paper with defined times or blocks of when you’ll do what.

Like children who respond well to boundaries, we as adults can find comfort and solace from daily routines. For anyone chasing a creative endeavor, you innately know it’s all about consistency and chipping away daily at your practice. Scheduling daily time for writing, or sketching, or reading creates an expectation and anticipation for your mind to shift into focus on these activities.

“We are what we repeatedly do, therefore excellence is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle

I wrote in my March 29 post “Routine is the right-hand enemy of fear and anxiety….” A scheduled day keeps us distracted and helps avoid falling down that sticky, black-lined media rabbit hole, thus spinning your imagination to places you’d rather not go. When I find this happening, I quietly go in my mind through the three Zen foundation stones:

In this very moment, there is nothing to worry about.
In this very moment, nothing is lacking.
In this very moment, there is always something to be grateful for.

I believe the ability to embrace habits and routines is one fundamental reason introverts are likely to handle at-home isolation better than extroverts. We introverts find comfort in our solitude and intellectual pursuits, things we typically routinely did before becoming “official” shut-ins. Extroverts seem to relish more serendipity, being entertained unexpectedly, and the freedom of social interaction. To an introvert, too much of that becomes chaos and confusion. That’s why introverts, who’ve mastered an on/off switch to be an occasional extrovert, look forward to retreating to our trusted cocoons to recharge and reset.

In times like these, it’s likely valuable not just to state an intention of doing x, y, or z, but to schedule it. And by that I mean make an appointment. Spread your day’s tasks out in a planner and make specific time blocks. At day’s end, review and congratulate yourself on what you accomplished (but don’t beat yourself up about your misses), then plan what you’ll do tomorrow.

Scheduling activities will probably result in a lot getting done. And by the time we exit these abnormal days, making positive progress through routine habits will be your norm. Routine through scheduling should also add much needed order and clarity to your day, something that’s important and useful to us in these trying times.