Our lives and our long-term relationships, especially marriages (and especially if kids are involved) can sometimes fall victim to becoming a bit routine, schedule-driven and even monotonous.
Our morning alarm clocks are set for the same time each day, we follow the same breakfast routine, leave the house at the same time daily, take the same route to work, school or wherever else we need to be, get home at the same time, greet each other in the same predictable way, choose from a select choice of dinner options, crash on the couch, and go to bed. And if you have children, chances are your morning and evening routines are even more structured and predictable!
Structure is good. Schedules are healthy. Predictability gives us a sense of comfort. But it can also smother our spontaneous and playful selves.
So sometimes (and I mean just sometimes), it’s good to throw the rule book out the window and do things a little differently, just for a change of pace and to infuse a bit of fun, playfulness and new energy into your life. Have pancakes for breakfast on a lazy Saturday morning and make it a family pajama day where you all stay in your PJs until noon and forget to empty the dishwasher or fold the laundry. Or order pizza for dinner and have a picnic outside. All you need is a blanket, the box of pizza, some paper napkins and a bottle of wine and you’re all set!
And most importantly: Don’t stress about all those chores and other scheduled tasks that you would usually be doing during this time! You can do it all later. For now, just enjoy the present moment and create some new and fun memories.
Because of old, traditional roles and stereotypes, most girlfriends, mothers and wives, secretly still judge themselves based on their domesticity and ability to “do it all” and to hit every deadline on their daily schedules and tick off every box on their To Do Lists. Not only do we expect ourselves to be the “modern woman” in the business world, but we still put pressure on ourselves to be domestic goddesses in the kitchen and then bedroom bombshells when the lights go out. But what happens is that we push ourselves to the limit, chasing after unrealistic expectations, and miss out on living in the moment and having fun along the way.
So here are 6 simple steps that will allow you to keep your schedule, follow a routine and create structure, but that still allow you to grow, to breathe and to stop and smell the roses:
1) Make the effort to meet someone new, at least once a week.
If you can meet someone new each day, that’s even better! You don’t need to get to know them well, but just introduce yourself and exchange a sentence or two. Whether it’s someone in the grocery store, or whether you take the time to introduce yourself to the UPS delivery man and learn his name, or whether it’s someone working in the corner of your office building who you’ve seen every day for the last few years but have never spoken to…Just take the time to learn 1 name and to exchange a few words with that new person. You never know what connection you might make and what impact you might end up having on each other’s lives.
2) Read something positive.
Take a few minutes in your day to read something that’s positive and uplifting. We’re surrounded by depressing and gloomy news headlines from around the world and we’re constantly reminded of things in our society that are sad, heartbreaking and worrying. Take some time to read something that sparks both happiness and hope within you. Whether it’s a poem or a newspaper article, or an inspirational passage from a book, or even a motivational blog post (wink, wink!), take some time to brighten up a routine and dull day with a dose of positivity.
3) Write down your gratitude.
Whether it’s on the back of a Starbucks napkin or in a beautiful leather-bound journal, write down your gratitude each day. It can be 5 cryptic words that only you understand or a long elaborate list of poetic sentences summing up the things that you’re thankful for. Writing down our gratitude helps us focus on the things in life that really matter and it takes our attention away from the things that bring us down and that are out of our control.
4) Daydream — alone or together.
Daydreaming is one of the most relaxing and fun ways to break up the mundane routine of our day. Staring out the window of the train on your commute home from work and daydreaming about the future and envisaging the path that your life will take, is a way to transport yourself out of the daily grind of life and into a world of unending possibilities. It’s also a fun exercise to do with your children or your partner — or even as a family. You could daydream over dinner. Each family member takes a turn at the dinner table to share their wishes for the future and to describe what that future would look like. It’s a great way to get to know each other’s thoughts and dreams and it also develops your child’s imagination.
5) Change the times on your schedule — just for 1 day.
Every now and then, just for 1 day, change all the times on your schedule. If you usually wake up at 7am, then change it to 6:30am and go for a morning walk. Or lay out your clothes the night before and pack “breakfast to go”, so that you can wake up 30 minutes later the next morning. Change your lunch time or decide to skip dinner and stay up late, watching a movie and having a midnight snack instead. Remember, it’s only 1 day! So go crazy. Turn your whole schedule upside down and experience things in a completely different way.
6) Don’t waste time on useless things.
We spend much of our daily routines worrying about things that are out of our control or that suck additional time and energy from us. We spend time agonizing over our To Do Lists instead of actually doing the things on the lists! I love making lists, but when I find myself making more lists than doing actual things, then I know something’s not working. Make sure that your desire to be organized doesn’t overtake your ability to just spontaneously go out and do what needs to be done. Sometimes when you think of something that you’d like to do, before reaching for your pen and paper, or your notebook on your phone, to add it to your “To Do” list, just go right out and DO IT NOW!
“One of the great parts of having a routine is being able to break your routine” – Dan Cumberland.