“If You Do the Same Thing Every Day at the Same Time For the Same Length of Time…”

“If you do the same thing every day at the same time for the same length of time, you’ll save yourself from many a sink. Routine is a condition of survival.”

–Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being, letter to “A,” February 10, 1962

Here, O’Connor was specifically talking about the habit of writing; she wrote every morning for three hours, in the same place at the same time. How about you? Do you find accomplishing certain things to be easier if you regularly do them the same way? Or do you find routine stifling? I love routine.

  • Routine makes me cringe. I do everything I can not to have routine. However, with that said, I’ve never written a book, so what do I know about good writing habits?

  • Jennifer Gagliardi

    I love routine and thrive in knowing that my day will go a certain way. I love planning in my life and routine fits nicely into that. Nice article in the times!

  • MJ

    I LOVE routine (perhaps too much sometimes). My body and my mind work better on a routine, and my life runs much more smoothly. I remember a quote from Anne McCaffrey’s Crystal Singer (great book series) “Habit is all that saves a Singer.”

  • I generally don’t like routine, but I think that some sort of routine in life is necessary to give me the feeling of security.

  • CAM

    Each morning I do my morning pages, and most days do my major writing in the mornings…stopping around 12:30-1:00. Good for declaring my writing sacred time and sacred space, and for letting others know I’m not available until afternoon or evening for other business and activities. Also with my yoga practice, I try to stick to the same times/classes–this works whether I’m at home or traveling. Also allow myself exceptions, but routine helps me keep showing up to the page.

  • I used to be very much a creature of habit, but I’m trying avidly to change that. I’ve been much happier when I plan less and do more. I think there’s a difference between “habit” and “routine.” Habit is constraining. Two years ago, I’d have had to plan a trip to the zoo or the pool at least a week in advance or we wouldn’t have gone. Yesterday my son had a whim to go, so we went — and we had a ball! Routine gives order to daily life, which in turn frees us up to enjoy the time we’ve saved in the better environment we’ve created. Things like getting-ready-for-school routines, chore lists, and bedtimes make sense to me. I know other moms who like having a set laundry day and a set grocery-shopping day as well, and that also makes sense, but they just don’t work as well for me now that I substitute teach and have a spontaneous work schedule. It was hard to get used to the spontaneity, but I LOVE how much freer I feel when I can just decide to do something or not do it as I please rather than feeling like I’m stuck with a “plan.”

  • Gena@BakeAllTheThings!

    I loooooove routine – so much so that I’m actually having to LEARN how to be spontaneous again. What a nut I am!

    • Theresa

      I’m right there with you!

      • gretchenrubin

        Me too. I have resolutions like “Force myself to wander” and “Work hard at play” because otherwise I can become driven by routine. Though I LOVE routine.

  • Pablo_Seville

    I want to love routine, but I think I’m too undisciplined. I know some routine would put some balance in my life and I’m trying to do it, but it’s not easy for me.

  • HEHink

    For a long time, I felt like my routines had become a dreaded daily grind. Then I broke my femur and had to take a month off work and spend it mostly on the couch. The paradox of this experience was that while it gave me a much needed break from the grind, I found myself developing new routines to cope with it. I would get up before my husband and kids left the house, for instance. I’d get settled on the couch, and my DH would bring me coffee and breakfast. They would leave, then I’d watch What Not to Wear, and maybe The View. When I needed a bathroom break, I’d get up, and also wash my face, comb my hair, and change into fresh clothes. When I started feeling up to it, I’d ask myself what I could do with the next 5 or 10 minutes to help the house – like wipe out the bathroom sink, or maybe load the dishwasher. Then I’d go back to the couch. Instead of being boring, routines helped structure my day, and gave me something to look forward to in each block of time. So now, as I get ready to start a new school year (I’m a teacher), I’m looking for improved ways to build routine into my family life. I’m hoping that just as it kept me from going crazy with the thought of not having enough to do when I was convalescing, it will keep me from feeling overwhelmed and going crazy with having too much to do.

  • I do better in almost all aspects of life if I follow my routines but I constantly rebel against them.
    I’d like to think it’s beacuse I’m such a creative creature… (Yeah, right!)
    It’s funny how humans have this habit of NOT doing what’s best for them…

  • J Cosmo Newbery

    While I grant you the value of routine wrt writing, the reason why days drag and years fly for adults is that they do the same wretched thing every day. (Same breakfast, same route to work, same work, same trip home, same meal, same TV shows…) For children, the days fly and the years drag because they fill them with infinite variety. Don’t take my word for it: go on a really action packed holiday and, two weeks in, it feels like months since you went on holidays. Lie on the beach every day and the holiday seems only a few days long.

  • Carolyn Kay

    My routine is doing research for and posting to my healthy aging blog, every morning except for holidays. Now that I’m semi-retired, it gives me an anchor for my day.

    Carolyn Kay

  • Theresa

    I sometimes think I depend too much on routine! If my routine is broken, I end up forgetting to do things. Usually it’s dumb stuff, like the dog throws up while I’m putting on my makeup, and I end up leaving the house without mascara and eye liner. But I find routine very comforting and grounding.

  • Judy Ray

    The older I get, the more I love routine. This is probably because age brings a diminishing ability to multi-task. Routine allows me to be more focused and productive.

  • Elise

    This is interesting because I was recently wondering if routine can be detrimental to us as we get older. It seems to me, if we let our days be ruled by the same routine, we are not keeping our minds as sharp because our brains never have to deal with anything new.

  • The Presents of Presence

    I love a routine, but it can sometimes become a rut! So I try to change it up a bit every once in awhile!

  • Charles

    I love the idea expressed by Flannery O’Connor when it comes to writing. However, it is in the practice that I often find that I am fighting against myself. Say I am working on some piece of writing. I start off on the “routine” yet, within a few days, or weeks, I begin feeling like the routine has become a rut that I am stuck in and the writing devolves into typing. Alternately, I begin moving the time and location of the thing I am working at. I call it “going on location.” That helps. Sometimes. I guess this quote from O’Connor shows another way why I am not the writer she is. Writing aside, I have come to accept more routine in my life–stretching, meditation, biking, reading–and that routine has worked for me.

  • Carmelo

    I think some things lend themselves better to routines than others. And, I also believe that some people are more inclined to following routines than others. Personally I’ve truly enjoyed challenging my routines to infuse more adventure and spontaneity into my life.

    But, it doesn’t work for everything. When you really need to get things done, routine is awesome. What I like to guard against is always believing you have to put yourself in the position of always needing to produce and accomplish. Our lives are already “accomplishments.”

    So, I love to discover, face new and interesting things, be challenged, have my apple cart upset a little bit from time to time. But … that’s just me…. ha! 🙂

  • Peace Freedom

    I absolutely believe that routine is beneficial to excellence/focus/perfection! You know the saying, “practice makes perfect”. Routine does not have to be boring or limiting either. A routine can also include learning something new at certain times. Following a routine also gives an individual disciplinary skills, and with that, no matter what age or task, you can and will accomplish things!

  • Glimmer62

    I read this one out loud to my husband because he loves routine, where I am the opposite. He’s a drummer and believes everything has a rhythm your body, your heart, your mind. Setting the rhythm gives you security, comfort and the feeling you didn’t leave anything out when you have a “pre-assigned slot”.