The Routine Life

We’re working on housebreaking our puppy at the moment. It’s awfully reminiscent of potty training a toddler: the adults learn to adhere to a new routine to promote success in the toddler, whether she’s human or canine. The process has, of course, disrupted my usual routines and made me really aware of how ritualized my workdays usually are, filled with little habits that make the difference between a productive, happy day and a grumpy, useless one.

No matter how varied our lives may be from day to day, I suspect most of us have certain rituals we adhere to, the absence of which upsets the balance of our days. What seems paradoxical about them is that rituals take up time, but somehow I get a lot more accomplished when I follow them than when I’m not able to for one reason or another.

My own list of little routines and rituals is long and boring to anyone other than me, but here are a couple of examples of what I’m talking about:

The very first thing I do when I come downstairs after dragging myself out of bed (where I hit snooze two times on the alarm) and brushing my teeth is check my email. It’s an integral part of my morning, and it happens before I let the dog out, before I make breakfast or lunch for my daughter or anything else. Down the stairs and to the computer. I don’t have time to respond then, but I can think about them while I’m going through the rest of the off-to-school routine and be set to reply when I sit down to get to work. And if there’s social email there from friends, that sets a better tone for the day, just as personal snail mail has such a different feeling from bills and junk mail.

There are a handful of websites I have to check before/as I get started on work.

I always shave my left leg first.

Why? The letting-the-dog-out-every-hour routine has some benefit (please, let it have some benefit!), but what of the rest? Why are we such creatures of habit? Nothing would be different if I shaved my right leg first, and checking my email at 7:50 in the morning affects nothing more than my mood. And yet the world seems off-kilter when these things are disrupted.

I know I’m not the only one, because I’ve heard too many people talk about their days being messed up by being out of their routines. What are some of yours?


  1. Ev Bishop
    Jan 14, 2010

    LOL, Kathy. Your post definitely hit home for me. I like to think I’m spontaneous, a live-in-the-moment kind of person, but no . . . I’m much more of a cat. I like things how I like them. Don’t move the furniture or I might (like my cat _did_) sit against the now empty wall and just stare at the floor for six hours. _The buffet and hutch belong here, darn you._

    It really is the minutia that affects me–big stuff, so sweat. I’ll roll with the punches. But yes, to have a productive day, let me check my e-mail before my kids get up (the computer goes on, the dogs go out, my butt plops into my chair), then start coffee, then visit the internet forums and blogs I frequent. I even have an order to how I like to accomplish my work: Workshop prep, my own stuff, client work (though occasionally I have to re-order). _stares at floor_

    And since you brought it up: Right leg first, Kathy. RIGHT LEG.


    • Kathy
      Jan 14, 2010

      That’s just plain wrong, Ev. You know that, don’t you? *g*