Just the word conjures thoughts of monotony and stagnation, of office drones stuck in dead-end jobs. But routine doesn’t have to be associated with the slow flickering death of creativity. Routine can actually help bring more creativity into your life and get you closer to your goals much faster than any haphazard anti-schedule.
That’s not to say spontaneity doesn’t play an important role in our lives. I believe that spontaneity is the mother of all creativity. A willingness to let go of all assumptions and try new things, to try old things with a different mindset, to throw caution to the wind and take risks, and to step into uncertainty forces us to think in new ways and innovate. But without routine, it’s difficult to harness that creativity to get closer to our goals.
What routine can do for you
Routine, if used effectively, does two things for us:
- It provides us with the discipline required to turn our creative outputs into something intentional and purposeful.
Without routine, there’s no bigger picture, no end goal. That spontaneous road trip might get your creative juices flowing, but it’s not going to get you any closer to starting your own business. The afternoon of unbridled rhythmic gymnastics might make you feel fabulous, but it’s not going to help you solve your client’s most difficult problems. Of course, there are times when a little unrestrained inspiration is warranted, it soothes the soul and rejuvenates the mind. But routine can help you turn chaotic imagination into a conscientious vision.
- It affords us the space and time required to be creative.
It’s a bit counter-intuitive to think that routine can help us be more spontaneous, but it’s true. Most of us follow a daily or weekly schedule whether we’re conscious of it or not. We may not plan every aspect of our days, but spend a week tracking everything you do from morning to night and you’ll likely find that your day-to-day routine doesn’t really deviate all that much. Humans are creatures of habit, and a routine, a deliberate plan that we commit to follow, can help us to break old habits and form new ones, habits that allow us to invite more spontaneity into our lives.
With an intentional routine in place, spontaneity isn’t pushed aside for Sunday afternoons while we wait for our laundry to finish tumbling. It’s placed front and centre each and every day where we can’t ignore it. A conscious routine helps to create a space where we can explore our creativity on a regular basis. The key, of course, is the conscious part. Blinding following the same set of actions every day doesn’t make you creative. It makes you another cog in the machine.
Even some of the most successful artists of the past 500 years recognised the power of sticking to a schedule.
A damn early routine
I’m currently taking part in 21 Damn Early Days, a programme based on the idea that if you’re willing to wake up early, you can easily create the space required to be creative in an effort to focus on what matters to you.
So, for 21 days this month, I’ve committed to a new routine. Unlike my usual schedule, I’ll be waking up at 5:30 every weekday morning. And, well it’s not easy waking up before the sun rises or going to bed before the sun sets, having a routine will help me stick to my goals and make sure I’m in bed by 21:30.
So, in case you’re wondering, here’s my morning and night routine for this round of DEDs:
- 5:30 – wake up, check-in to DED, and make tea,
- 5:40 – read Barbarian Days while eating breakfast,
- 6:00 – write in my 5-minute journal,
- 6:20 – read my intentions for DED and remind myself why I’m doing this
- 6:30 – sit down at my desk and open 750words.com; start writing
- 7:30 – break, get my blood pumping (push-ups and crunches)
- 7:40 – open Lightroom and start editing photos
- 8:30 – shower, have second breakfast, and get on with my day having already completed the two things that are most important to me
- 20:15 – start winding down whatever it is that I’m working on
- 20:30 – review what I accomplished today in OneNote and plan my actions for tomorrow
- 21:45 – decompress from the day and write down any thoughts
- 21:10 – get ready for bed and read something light (usually whatever magazine is closest)
- 21:30 – lights out!
Since it usually takes me about 15 minutes to fall asleep, I get between 7.5 and 8 hours of sleep per night, an amount that seems to work best for me. But everyone’s different. If you’re looking to set up your own early morning routine, be prepared to experiment to find out what works best for you.