Breaking Up Your Routine

Yesterday I got a phone call from a great friend back home (please pause in a moment of appreciation for how warm and cozy the sound of old friends’ voices are) who is in a bit of a slump. “I’m just trying to do things to break up my routine,” she said.

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I related to that completely. When we go about our days in that same old, same old way that we always do, things start to feel…boring. And maybe kinda depressing. Wake up, work, relax, sleep, repeat. Again. And again. Forever. Til we die.  

Nice, right?

 You and I want more than that. We want to live a life that we want to savor. The exciting moments – the milestone events, the travels, the career advances. But also the slow moments….the reading on the porch, a filler episode of one of your favorite TV show, that first sip of coffee on a Saturday morning. When our everyday lives become mundane, I think we’re tricked into thinking we need something big and exciting to happen to get us back on our feet. Things become so boring that we think we’re falling deeper and deeper into the “boring life” pit, and we can only be pulled out by the rope of some skydiving trip or marriage proposal. 

I don’t buy that. I’m a strong believer in the power of the little things - though I do think that the little things stop bringing us enjoyment when we stop looking for them, and when we get sucked into the same routine, it’s so much easier to do that.

So here’s my theory: if you’re bored with your life, you don’t need to move to a different country. You don’t need to quit your job. You don’t need to get pregnant. There’s no real dramatic shift you have to make in your life to spice things up.

 Instead, change the little things. Break up your routine. Find something small that’s easy to do and likely to get you excited. Here are some suggestions, based on some things I’m trying to incorporate into my life.

 Pick up a juicy summer beach read.

I’m currently reading The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams, and it’s a really perfect escape. I’m not even halfway through yet so I’m not sure how much I can truly recommend it, but you know the type of book I mean – easy to read, fast-paced, set in a glamorous era. I’m also reading The Golden Compass, which is a fun classic for those of you who are less into escaping with romance and more into escaping into a fantasy world. The point is, this isn’t the time in your life to pick up Madame Bovary. Read something light that gets your mind wandering. 

Start an easy after-work project.

This idea has been big for me, because I realized that so many of my slumps are related to how I spend my free time. I tend to go to the extremes: either working on writing, which is fun but also hard work, or laying around and watching pointless TV. With only a few after-work hours before bed, that time is really precious. Teaching myself some new hobby like sewing seems ambitious for me right now, but putting an effort toward engaging in something like journaling or drawing regularly seems too slow-paced. So, I’ve come up with printing and organizing my iPhone photos into a simple scrapbook. I’m actually super excited about this, because it’s a way that I can feel productive and creative without being exhausted. I’m planning to follow the Project Life format, which I’m hoping will make me feel cool and artsy even though I’m really definitely not. 

Start watching a fast-paced TV show.

I’m making the long journey through Gilmore Girls on Netflix, which has been fun, but it’s not exactly a rollercoaster. I started watching Mr. Robot and am excited to keep up with something that keeps me a little more on the edge of my seat. If that’s not quite your style, I’d recommend going through Breaking Bad, LOST, or The Jinx (if you haven’t already) for some can’t-sleep-gotta-keep-watching TV.

 Go on a weekend getaway (or just take a day trip).

Day trips are my secret rejuvenation tool (so I really should take them more often, huh?). I love that they are easy…you don’t have to take off work, you don’t have to stay overnight if you don’t want, and they are often inexpensive. You get to see somewhere new, which is always inspiring and exciting. You can go alone or with someone you love. There’s no real risk – if you don’t like wherever you go, you can just go back home! Small travels can still be significant in helping us feel more cultured and well-traveled.

And if none of that sounds good, how ‘bout something like this:

  • Make a “summer bucket list” and cross off one thing a week
  • Take an educational online class at coursera.com or a creative online course at skillshare.com
  • Go to creative workshops at stores around your area
  • Try a new recipe every week
  • Make and update a themed Instagram or Tumblr account (for example, if you love fashion, make an Instagram to record your OOTDs)
  • Work on a different craft every week
  • Find a penpal and get writing
  • Pick a random weekday and make it your weekly “treat yourself” day: get an ice cream, a manicure, one of those too-expensive juices. Go to a movie, see a play…whatever!

The main thing to consider when trying to break up your routine is finding something that can last you a while – not something that’s just going to be a good day amongst boring ones. Break up the routine by adding to it. Make fun, easy activities part of your weekly routine. Learn to love the little things again.