The Value of Routine

When I left my previous employer in December, I immediately established a new daily routine.  Time passes mercilessly, whether I’m typing on the keyboard or watching Netflix all day.  Having a routine provides the daily structure to ensure that I am doing enough of the right things to continue indefinitely.

What are the right things?

Creative writing is one of them.  Writing software, writing about writing software, and writing to convince people to use my software are the three primary kinds of writing that I do on a daily basis.

Reading is another.  I am finding and learning about my target audience.  Also, I have been playing some interactive fiction games, which, like StoryTime, are based on reading, to get a better sense of what is already out there.

Exercise is a third.  Writing and reading are stationary activities.  Without some daily movement, my body starts to rebel, and I lose my ability to focus.

Fourth, creating games by myself will be a lonely endeavor unless I reach out to others.  Part of my day is dedicated to interacting with the world to see what it wants, what I can do for it.  Frankly, I have done less in this area than I need to.  Having “outreach” as part of my daily routine reminds me that I need to get to it.

Finally, a scattered portion of each day is devoted to helping: my kids, my wife, my cats, our hockey organization, and so on.

Given those areas of activity, my daily routine takes roughly the following form.

  1. Around 6:30 AM: wake up, feed the cats, eat breakfast, make coffee.
  2. By 8 AM: sit at the computer and write, two blog entries per week, software every day.
  3. Around 11:30: stop writing and exercise, followed by lunch.
  4. By 1 PM: take care of email and other “outreach” activities.  Drift back into writing as post-lunch sleepiness wears off.
  5. Mid- to late afternoon: kids come home from school, hockey practice starts, ability to concentrate is gone or dwindling.

Then the evening happens, with dinner, hockey on television when in season, and getting kids to bed by 9:30 PM, including some reading time.  After that, a little Netflix fix or some light reading helps to relax, and finally off to sleep between 10:30 PM and midnight.  7 1/2 hours of sleep per night usually works out best over the long run.

Cut and dry, no frills, routine.  When I stick to that, the days fly by without regrets, and I am more productive than I imagined I would be.  Ironically, it is easy not to notice how smoothly things are running while in the middle of a solid routine.  As the cliche goes, you don’t know how good you have it until you don’t.  Being sick last week took me right out of my routine, and three days passed without accomplishing anything (aside from not dying, thanks to my autoimmune system).

From another perspective, the routine you fall into over time and cannot seem to get yourself out of is called a rut.  No one wants to be “stuck in a rut,” or so we tell ourselves.  However, if the rut is part of the Oregon Trail that leads to somewhere “better than here,” the best action might be to keep moving your little covered wagon along the rut, with steady, daily progress.

The best part of a routine is that you can improve it.  Make a few adjustments to whatever is not quite working, add a few steps to cover whatever is missing, remove activities that leave you dissatisfied, and you can widen your rut into a lovely valley, where you can settle along a running brook and cultivate the land.

As I wax metaphorical, that is all for today.


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