Is routine, I wonder, more important as we get older? It has always played a part in my life, but now I am discovering that routine is crucial to maintaining my energy level and accomplishing what I’ve planned. And what’s more, I like it that way.
“They” tell us that the world is divided into larks and owls – that some of us jump out of bed rarin’ to go (larks), while others of us drag around until well past noon before we can get moving with the day’s plans (owls). I’m a lark. I always have been and if it (whatever “it” is) isn’t done by about 3PM, it won’t happen. By then, I’m fatigued and stupid.
When I have evening plans, it is essential that I pace myself during the day and perhaps even have a nap so not to fade before the entrée is served. I gave up going to evening movies years ago; no matter how compelling (or loud) the film is, I fall asleep.
The simplest tasks are impossible late in the day. Organizing a sink of dirty dishes feels like a feat equal to climbing Mt. Everest. In the morning, it takes five minutes while simultaneously starting the coffee, feeding the cat, watering the plants, absorbing the days’ headlines on TV news and making notes for the next blog post I want to write.
I plan for interruptions to my routine. When houseguests are expected, I write several evergreen blog posts to publish while they are here so I’m not stuck at the computer during their stay. I sort my day differently when I have meetings away from home or errands that are out of the ordinary.
Careful organization might appear boring to many, but it keeps me moving. I alternate brain and physical tasks during the nine or ten hours a day that I’m capable of functioning well and I don’t often vary my routine. Claude Covo-Farchi of Blogging in Paris has a reverse routine from mine:
"I'm getting more and more of a spinster in that way,” wrote Claude in an email. “I don't want my daily life to be any different than it is.
“Quite differently from you, I don't have a routine, so visitors sometimes intrude insofar as I can't change my mind about what I'm going to do seventy times a day. This is probably the reason why I can't find time for everything!"
I like Claude’s “spinster” reference to our different kinds of routine. The word feels right for the way I order my days, and my apparent need to keep it that way most of the time. Like Claude, there are many things I can’t fit in to the schedule each day, but I’m always optimistic about the list (yes, I make a list and enjoy ticking off items when they are done) and no matter how far into the future some items get pushed, eventually I get there.
Even as a lifelong lark, during the 46 years I was a member of workforce, I looked forward to the day, in old age, when I wouldn’t be required to rush out of the house first thing in the morning. And I happily don’t do that now – unless I want to.
But I keep that daily list and I still feel compelled to get everything important done by 3PM. When, on the rare occasion I ignore the list and the routine, the day is lost to idleness and lethargy, and I am more tired by evening than when I am more disciplined.
Routine works for me and I have no idea if it is my nature or somehow connected with age.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Linda gives us a modern-day O. Henry story, Stumbling Blocks.]