Trapped by routine
Nov 14th 2017
It’s taken me so long to get out of this mindset. I used to feel so trapped by routine! As though my time was not my own. Here are my top three ways that got me out of this thinking.
This week I wanted to share with you a lesson that I’ve learned over honestly many, many years and it’s helped me get out of the mindset that “I feel trapped by routine”. So I used to feel trapped by routine. I used to feel trapped by a lot of things that felt like it was imposing on my freedom. That’s what “trapped” means!
At manifested in different ways. It manifested as messy rooms growing up. I never had a tidy room when I was young and that carried over into adulthood. I would see people that would be neat and I would see what it would take to be neat and I thought whoa, that looks like it’s too much work. Don’t you want to be outside playing instead? Don’t you want to free and very bohemian, just like a free spirit? Why are you so methodical about the way you clean and the way you put things away?
I saw routine – routine of cleaning, routine of I guess jobs, routine of having a diary, that all kind of came in down under routine – as elements of trapping you and taking away your time. I don’t know how that got into my system but it was definitely there.
It’s taken years to unwrap that and get to the bottom of it and to learn from it and to keep what works and get rid of what doesn’t. And I wanted to share with you two things that helped me get out of that thinking pattern of “I feel trapped by routine”. Actually, there’s three things.
Replace the word routine with rhythm
The first came many many years later and it was to replace the word “routine” with “rhythm”. Whoa, that feels really good, I like that feminine angle. Routine feels very masculine and too structured but rhythm feels organic and it feels like movement and it feels like harmony. It feels different. It feels like body. It doesn’t feel like mind. Routine feels like mind.
When I replaced the word “routine” with “rhythm”, I opened a door in my brain that allowed me to do things in a different rhythm, in my day, in my week. And it started off with simply doing a little bit of stretching in the morning, doing a little bit of cleaning.
So, I would hate doing dishes. Oh my gosh, I would hate doing dishes. They would pile up. They would just sit on the counter. If someone was coming over they’d get done in five minutes, but oh my gosh, they would just pile up and it would look terrible and I would just take my time in getting it done.
I remember sitting there on the couch and I was looking at the dishes, and there were pots, I’d just cooked. It was so huge the task, this whole benchtop full of dishes, and I was looking at it and I had nothing to do that evening. There was nothing that I needed to do that evening. Complete free time. And every time I looked at those dishes I felt so tired. I was just like I’m just tired looking at you guys. I’m not even going to get up and come over there.
And then something inside said, just get up and wash the cups. Just get up and wash the cups. I was like, I can do that. So I did, I followed my inner voice. And I got up, and I… The cups were all over the place, and I just gathered all of the cups and put them in one area and I … just washed them. After I washed them I thought I’ll just wash the side plates, and I got them all together and then I washed them all.
And you wouldn’t believe it, or maybe you would if you know how good it feels to get things done, I had the dishes done in less than eight minutes. Less than eight minutes they were done. I systematically did them. And this massive giant task was broken down and it just got simplified. If I can do this bit… well that’s done, I might as well just do this bit, and it eventually it all got done.
It was so funny, when I finished it and I sat back down and I was talking to myself and I said – you literally wasted two, maybe more, hours of your life thinking about how much you’re going to hate doing the dishes and it was just eight minutes of your life. This thing that just seemed so gigantic in your brain got done so quickly. In my brain I was thinking I’m going to have to soak the pots and then I have to… it just was all of these things that were really overwhelming and I didn’t even know where to start and my inner voice just started it off for me. It said just get up and wash the cups. And starting was the key to getting everything else done, just a mundane task of washing dishes.
This changed things for me because I did the dishes like that every time after that. I would just separate everything and then wash them one by one. This was around the time that the universe was helping me love systems, because I said to the universe, I intended, I said help me love systems because not loving systems is really messing with my life right now.
The dishes were one thing. Another thing was I was working as a physiotherapist at the time, and I had just worked in an age-care facility where there were no systems for the physio when they walked in to go see all the patients, to get everything done, to document what would’ve happened. There were no processes. There were no check-off sheets. There was just nothing. And I remember being so overwhelmed by that. I was like every day I was trying to create a new system, or I’d try it out for a week and then I’d change the system. I’m not very good at creating systems, but I tried my best because I felt like I needed some kind of order to get things done in the day, otherwise I’d just be chasing my tail.
So, I was trying to create a system and I did get a fairly good system in the end. But the next job I had the physio had been working there for about thirteen years and he had the most streamlined, beautiful system that all I had to do was turn up and do the work and then leave. And that was such an aha moment for me of “routine” meant order and systems which felt oppressive but in fact what I learned was that having the structure there allowed me to be free, quick, and made the task completely easy. So it gave me freedom. It gave me freedom of time. It gave me freedom of peace of mind. It allowed me just to get in and get out. Get in, do the work, and get out. You don’t have to… When the system is there everything moves seamlessly.
Through that whole… it was probably about a seven-month lesson that the universe was trying to teach me when I had asked please help me love systems. It helped me learn through that… I was going to say ordeal but it was a good experience and that was how the universe taught me how to appreciate systems. One, by having zero system to work with and two, juxtapose, side by side, those jobs, a beautifully created, streamlined system.
Changing the idea of routine to rhythm in my head helped open the door to bringing in more routine tasks, the things that I deemed mundane and not fun. So that was washing dishes, doing all sorts of other tidying up like laundry. Laundry was another thing, just this whole bunch of it. My husband would just do it really, really quickly and it’s just done, but for me I would look at the laundry basket and go I’m not even going near it. And then again, I just applied the same technique that my inner voice taught me about the dishes and I just separated everything, folded different piles, was just very systemised with the way I did it and put it away straight away. And it would only take less than ten minutes. It was just so easy, it gets done.
Create order in your house, each room has an end-point
The second thing is that I now have order in my house when it comes to things being put away and benchtops being clean. This is off the back of decluttering. So I’ve done a lot of decluttering. Kon Mari helped me. Peter Walsh from Oprah helped me. And I would read all these books that would help. It didn’t come naturally to me.
After a lot of purging and clearing out, when I came back from Costa Rica I did another take and got rid of so much stuff that in the end I had decided where my conflict zones are, where are my dumping zones, and created order specifically there. There were four.
Handbags: I didn’t have anywhere to put my handbags so it was always somewhere on the floor or on the chair and then that would become a mound as other things would pile up on top of it.
Dining Table: Our dining table right next to me would always be full of my books and my papers and stuff like that that I was working on, and my justification was well I’m working on this project so why put it away to then take it back out.
Benchtops: And the benchtops. So the benchtops in the kitchen would always be a bit of a dumping zone.
And, Dumping Chair: there was a chair in our bedroom that would always be the dumping chair when we go upstairs. I would say those four places were the ones that would just collect stuff very easily.
Once I decluttered a whole bunch of stuff I then found a home for each thing. I found a little cubbyhole in the bookshelf for my bags. I’ve only got two, a big one and a small one. And that’s where they stay regardless of when I need to leave the house.
These are simple things that I’ve always heard everywhere else but putting it in practice really makes a difference. The table gets cleaned up because I’ve got a place in that bookshelf for my current projects. When I wake up in the morning now everything is done, all the surfaces are clean, and this order that’s arrived in our lives means that we wake up on Sunday mornings and we have the whole day ahead of us where we can just go sit in a park and read. It feels so calming and so peaceful and so creative because it’s a blank canvas every morning.
And this has been something I’ve had to work on because I’m not naturally someone who seeks out order. I love chaos. I love the whirlwind of life. That’s really, juicy and delicious to me. So when it came to order and structure and routine I would just feel so irked about it. I just resisted it so much. That was the house that’s now just a really happy haven.
Use a diary and make it match your brain
The third thing that’s helped me is I learned about how to use a diary. So I would put my hand up if someone asked the question who’s not a diary person. I was never a diary person. I tried so hard. I would see people at school, at uni all these people would have diaries. They looked so organised and I was always trying to be a bit more organised. Actually this was chaos in my life that was very draining of energy and time but when in it, I thought it was fun and free and you know, easy. But it was actually making my life really hard not having some structure in these areas of my life and time was one of them.
I thought a diary would make me feel as though I was losing time. It was going to put markers on my time that I wouldn’t be able to get back. It was a strange thing that was going on in my head that having a diary and seeing what I needed to do would actually make me feel like I didn’t have enough time in the week. The absolute opposite happened.
In Australia we’ve got (and I think around the world) there’s a store called Kikki-K. It’s a stationary shop but it really helps people plan their lives. And they do workshops. So, I went to a workshop when I realised I needed to sort out my time management. I need to sort this out. I need to get some structure and rhythm when it comes to time. I went in and I did this workshop and they taught you how to put together diaries and planners. And there was so many different options. It was quite overwhelming but they were really great at keeping the process very exciting.
What I learned was that if the diary matches my brain, I will use it. And that was a huge aha moment because prior to that I’d always tried to learn from someone who did it really, well and do it their way and try to just model off them. I didn’t adapt it to my own brain. So this shop really changed everything for me. It really taught me how to figure out what’s going on in my brain and what I need in a diary and then give it to myself.
Once everything is plugged in to my diary it’s like I have so much time. The opposite of what I actually feared was going to happen happened. I never felt trapped again about time. I never felt like I don’t have enough time in the week. Having everything written out was so liberating that I just saw how much time in a day I really had. And I’ve not missed appointments, I’ve not been late. I’ve just… my time is now so much more structured and free.
Firstly, my thinking, changing routine to rhythm really helped me. Secondly, my house, decluttering my house and then having a place for everything, a house for everything, helps create order in my house, and also a finish point for each room. The kitchen has a finished point where everything’s away, the countertops are clean, the dishes are either washed or in the sink, there’s nothing on the stove, the floors are clean. So there’s an end result in my head.
Before I would just… there was no picture of what it would look like when it was complete, so it always was in a process of trying to be neat. The table top has just got a little rose jewellery box on it and that’s it. There’s nothing else on the table. That’s the complete picture for it. The lounge room’s got a complete picture with the pillows and the throws and everything like that.
Every night that’s what we get to and then in the morning we wake up to that. It is so liberating. So liberating because you wake up and then you just have a blank canvas for the day and it has given me so much freedom of time back by having that order and that rhythm in the way I do… the way I keep my house.
And thirdly the diary for my time management has just been revolutionary. They explain in the shop (Kikki-K) that there are two types of people when it comes to diaries. One, someone who just needs the basic dates and times and appointments and they’re just going to use it for times and appointments. Black cover, blue cover, really thin, nothing fancy, very slim, sleek. Then there are the second type of people who need to open the diary and be hit in the face with butterflies and inspiration. That’s me.
So the first diary I got that I really used there was a quote on almost every page and there were butterflies and it was just this big planner that had stickers and all sorts of things on it. So over the years I’ve actually reduced the size of the diary and now I’ve got this gorgeous little book that has quotes but is a compromise, almost an in-between. It’s very sleek, it’s very slim, it works for me, but it has got that colour and that inspiration that I want in my life, every day, for the whole year. I want to open it up and I want to feel happy when I think about my time and who I’m meeting today and what I’m doing today and I want there to be colour in that process of keeping the diary.
These are the three ways that I got out of that thinking of having a routine makes me feel trapped, and I hope that was useful because I think the power of small is something so profound that when we put it into practice our lives are totally transformed. So I’m a very conceptual, visionary kind of a thinker. My mind is always here. And so the everyday I always thought was very mundane and I just didn’t want to do it.
The more structure I have to contain my mind, the greater my intuition can play
But what I’ve learned in my work… I’m working with clients as well, is that the more structure I have in the way my mind works, the more power my intuition has to play. So the greater the container of structure around the way I work and the way my mind operates, the greater the power of my intuition. Phenomenal. And that is really the Yin-yang, the Shiva-Shakti balance. They work in harmony together. Too much of one or too much of the other can sometimes leave other areas of our life really underdeveloped.
On a grand scale the more structure you have in your life the more play can come into your life. The capacity for play increases because everything has an order that when you go out and you allow yourself to be creative and this time to play, you can just go nuts with it. You can just dive in completely because everything else has been taken care of.