My year of clawing and scratching my way to stick to a routine that will certainly solve all my problems.
Yesterday was my birthday!
I had a little bday adventure in Breckenridge, Colorado that included gaping in awe at snowcapped mountains, enjoying local cafes, and simply walking around the picturesque town and petting lots of cute dogs in a black dress and black sunhat that did not fit in with the other vacationers.
I live in Oklahoma City, but this I decided to take myself on a little bday getaway/writing retreat to Colorado Springs. Not only did I want to beat the recent Oklahoma summer heat, but I knew I'd take inspiration from the mountains for writing my upcoming book about my Margin Makers. It just so happens that my birthday coincides with Camp NaNoWriMo—a challenge to write 50,000 words in one month—so voila! A perfect convergence of events.
But after a day of so much sunshine, activity, and altitude from my Breckenridge daytrip, I woke up this morning feeling quiet and contemplative. The storms rolling across the mountains and raindrops hitting my hotel window have provided the perfect backdrop to my mood.
I've spent most of the day thinking and writing while beholding mountains.
Behold for yourself:
A particular theme keeps coming to mind: the power of routine when it comes to making margin.
I've been working on various habits, routines, and systems for years. While this process has definitely made an enormous difference in my life, I still find myself constantly feeling behind. I don't like it, AND I truly believe I could change it with some intentionality.
For a long time, I believed that my life is too hectic to allow me to successfully maintain routine.
As a nonprofit leader, I can have my week planned out, but practically every day something arises to completely obliterate that plan by 10 am. I can pour all my energy and drive into working entire ten-hour day taking meetings, consulting with staff, going to events, and yet not accomplish a single task.
I get home and have three hours left of work ahead of me. I get tired and wired, which means I don't have the energy to make myself go to bed, as contradictory as that sounds. I wake up in the morning, and although I'm passionate about my work, adore my kickass staff, and am thankful for my job, I still can't face getting up and managing whatever unexpected chaos awaits me that day.
When the weekend arrives, I'm too drained to do much of anything unless I really, really work
hard to overcome a lack of energy to work on building other aspects of my future.
My current Margin Makers, like Mega Meal Prep and my Weekend Peacefulness Routine, help make life more manageable. Thanks to these systems, at least when I start my week, I have clean clothes, a tidy house, and meals waiting for me in my freezer.
When it comes my daily life, I'm constantly frustrated and struggle to break out of my current pattern. But a three points of inspiration are prompting me to find a solution.
First is the idea of the Clean Slate.
My birthday also falls at nearly the exact halfway point of the year (July 3rd), which offers a sort of Clean Slate effect. I learned about this habit changing strategy from my favorite author and surrogate life coach, Gretchen Rubin, in her book Better Than Before,
Gretchen also literally just shared a podcast two week ago where she discussed the Clean Slate strategy in a different context: starting a new habit on vacation. I listened to that episode, but never thought I would accidentally walk into that very thing on my trip.
When I had the idea for this trip, I had this sense that there was a lot of purpose beyond just doing something I enjoyed. I'm a person of faith, and it seemed God was nudging my heart to expect that He had things to share with me.
I had some guesses at what that would be, but as I've endeavored to spend my day reflecting, what came out was something I didn't expect. I was filled with the idea of reframing how I think about my everyday life and how to approach a practical routine that allows for the chaos, and instead of being thrown off by it, works around it.
Second, is my birthday mug, which keeps resurfacing like when Jim Halpert pranked Dwight Schrute with a packet of magic beans in The Office (IYKYK).
The mug has a simple quote:
“A year from now, what will you wish you had done today?” Liam Linisong
I call it my birthday mug because I got it for my birthday five years ago. I detail how I got the mug in a blog post from exactly one year ago when the mug last spoke to me HERE.
Funny enough, in that blog post I wrote about how the mug inspired me yet again around the time of my birthday, to get more serious about writing. And I did! Here it is, one year later, and I'm so glad that a year ago today(ish), I made that decision.
The mug works!!
Today, the mug is 600 miles away in Oklahoma City, yet as I hashed through this new idea of a weekly routine, the mug's bold font flashed in my mind.
A year from now, I'll be glad if I push through to make this routine work.
Third and finally, the idea of a one-year challenge to keep me inspired and motivated to weave this routine into my life appealed to me.
As I'll be writing about in my book and other platforms in the future, I've been working on establishing routines for my personal life, my staff, and my job for a few years with success. Those routines included the aforementioned Mega Meal Prep and Weekend Peacefulness Routine, as well as weekly/monthly routines for each of my staff members, and developing a weekly work routine for myself.
But when you live life in a constant state of reactivity, it's hard to maintain routines.
Though they've been extremely helpful, those routines were just pieces of a puzzle. My overall daily life lacks the structure I need to maximize the effectiveness of those routines.
While I've stumbled in maintaining them, they've still been there for me to return to, which has been a source of relief. They've certainly proven their worth.
What I've seen in changing habits, building systems and routines, is that it takes time to see how they perform in response to life's ups and downs. Only then can you problem solve for kinks in the system.
Giving myself one year to apply this routine I wrote out today is perfect amount of time. I'll check back in on my birthday next year to see how it's gone. I'll refer back to the apparently omnipresent mug and determine how glad I was to have made this decision today.
And I'm bringing YOU along on my journey.
This kind of thing is more fun when you have people along for the ride. I am committing to blogging once a week about The Big Routine, my unoriginal and yet immediately cemented name for my experiment.
I'll let you know how the routine went the previous week. I'll share what worked and what failed, where I succeeded and stumbled, and why.
My prediction is that the routine will feel clunky and awkward at first. I predict that, as I start out, annoyances and frustrations will arise to make me feel like throwing in the towel on the whole things—they always do when we try something new.
I also predict that I'll start to see and feel the fruit of this new routine much sooner than later.
On several journeys I've embarked on in the last few years—quitting sugar, adjusting my eating schedule, developing routines for my staff—while it seems like a long road ahead, small successes sooner than I expected inspired me to keep going.
Those successes are inspiring me now to give this idea a try.
So here it is—The Big Routine!
It's so simple, so doable, and yet such a trigger for my perfectionism and fear of failure that I feel vulnerable sharing it with you. And yet, here I go.
Get up at 5:45.
Leave my house at 6:00 for Dragonfly
Start work every morning at 6:30 am at Dragonfly.
End work at 4:30 pm.
Go to a coffee shop till 6:30 pm and work on my company/writing. DO NOT GO HOME.
Thursday night: when I do go home, do weekend chore sprints for the rest of the night.
Schedule lunch or coffee with someone.
Schedule something I’ll look forward to. Museum. Movie. Shopping (even if I don’t buy anything).
Lie around and play games on my phone while watching TV.
Do some arts and crafts.
Putz around my house.
Work for two hours each day on my company.
Do short sprints to finish up weekend chores.
The rest of the weekend is whatever I want.
I realize people with kids or more demanding jobs or multiple jobs might roll their eyes at this. But this is a big deal to me, for what my life looks like.
A year ago—heck, three months ago—the idea of building in an intentional rest day would NEVER have occurred to me. In fact, I would have felt too much shame to share that with you. I feel a teensy bit of shame sharing it with you now, but it no longer makes decisions for me.
I have journaled out what I expect to get in the way. I wrote out the kind of questions I'll ask myself each week to evaluate how this is going.
Here's the cocktail of emotions I'm feeling about The Big Routine, in the style of a t-shirt design that was popular, like, two years ago.:
See you soon with a report of how the first week goes!