John Steinbeck once said “It’s a hard thing to leave any deeply routine life, even if you hate it” and I think we can all agree there is truth in that statement. Routine, whether you love it or hate it, exists for all of us even in the most mundane tasks. The thing about the work routine is you very rarely get to set that routine for yourself but instead have to find a way to slot into the already structured routine your job requires of you.
We all have a routine, even the most free spirited among us have them. If you’re one of those people who seamlessly fits into new structures and routines with ease then you can stop reading if you want because this article isn’t for you. This article is for those of us who struggle with routine, whether it’s a new one or just any sort of structure, but need help getting to grips with the routine of work.
Routine, what is it? We all do it we set our alarms and set off on our days each one of us vastly different but with routines almost identical with the removal of our own peculiar quirks. Just as an example here’s my routine for today. It’s 7.30am the alarm goes off, I ignore it and instead get up at 8am I make coffee and eat breakfast, then I do a workout and get ready. Pretty routine stuff so far, when I finally sit at my desk my routine compels me to write a to-do list. It’s a pretty standard ritual done by many before they can start the day’s work. Routines are pretty much just our way of getting the work that needs done done and anything that helps that has to be a good thing.
If you’ve just left university then true to our name routine is truly something they don’t teach at uni. If you then spend a couple of months or longer looking for work after leaving education your routine can truly become nonexistent making fitting into a regular pattern at work even more difficult.
As far as I can see there are two schools of thought, routine either kills or nurtures creativity. The truth is that both are viable and it comes down to how you manage your routine. If you’re finding your routine stifling then take time away and if you’re bored then change it up. The perfect routine is one which allows you the time and structure to get your work done while allowing you enough freedom for some well needed spontaneity, even if that only comes in the form of trying out that cool new cafe for lunch instead of the usual work canteen.
If you’ve just started a new job then you’re probably still getting a feel for the place and the people. Finding someone in your office that you actually quite enjoy spending time with is amazing. If you’ve found a work ‘bestie’ then you’ve hit the jackpot. Once you know they are trustworthy and the boss isn’t related to them then your work friend is perfect for escaping the routine. Whether it be a quick chat in the staff kitchen or going for a lunchtime walk together where you can vent about bosses or colleagues, having someone else you can talk to and hopefully laugh with is the perfect remedy for routine fatigue.
From my experience working in an office, lunchtime can become one of the biggest routines of the day. I worked somewhere once where we ate at the same time everyday from the same place and we always had soup and the same person went to collect it. We became so into the routine that we knew what flavours would be made on which day of the week. On one hand it was nice because we had lunch as a team but it was routine in the one part of the day we didn’t need to have a routine. Feel free to create a lunchtime routine if it helps you enjoy your day. On the other hand use your lunch as routine free time. Leave the office and see where lunch takes you, you could end up with the nicest toasted sandwich you have ever tasted.
Plan out your routine. Think about all the stuff you normally do and the stuff that you specifically have to do to that day and write them in your notepad. This way you can assess the things that take importance and keep yourself focused on these tasks instead of letting the regular routine take over from the tasks of the day. Finding a good online todo list can also help.
It’s probably counterproductive to fill up every evening, sometimes it’s nice to go home and binge watch that latest Netflix release. However, it is good to make time for friends, plan a date night or go to the cinema. Do something to get you away from the routine entirely. Hopefully a night away from routine will leave you feeling refreshed to face the day job with a new found vigour.
Your commute sets you up for the day and for most of us our commute features heavily in to our routine. Which is why it’s such a big deal if someone messes with our commute, our train is cancelled or we miss the bus or maybe you stepped in a puddle during your walk these can all set of our entire day. These are unfortunately unavoidable and in your work life you will experience many a rubbish commute, however, how we deal with these bad mornings is so important. If something goes wrong remain calm don’t shout at another commuter then assess the best situation to deal with whatever problem has arisen. Key tips if the weather is bad expect issues, bring spare socks and role with the punches. You will get there eventually and wonder why you let yourself get so worked up.
If you plan out your day using a diary then pick an hour later on in the day and set aside an hour or half an hour with nothing scheduled. If something comes up in the morning that takes you longer than expected then you have time in the afternoon to catch up.
The work routine can be a great thing for getting the most of your day and will hopefully have you leaving work feeling like you accomplished something. Just remember to embrace the routine but not at the cost of your spontaneity, things will come up and sometime you just need to go where the day takes you.
Fiona is a Glasgow-based writer who specialises in digital content and media. As well as being an excellent writer she is also is has wealth of good advice about work and life.
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