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Mum-Talk: Routines For More Time & Freedom

How important are routine and structure? Does it really make as much difference on how our day unfolds, as we are told? I know for me this was a question...

How important are routine and structure? Does it really make as much difference on how our day unfolds, as we are told?

I know for me this was a question I found myself asking a lot as I fell in and out of routines, and struggled with managing my days.

In my early twenties, I realised that working the traditional 9-5 wasn’t for me. You see, I worked very long hours in hair and beauty salons since I was fourteen years old (including late nights and weekends), so after a decade of this, I was over it. 

Personally, I needed a different arrangement, and craved creativity and flexibility to fill my days. I was sick of leaving the house when the sun came up and getting home after it had set. It just wasn’t for me. So I decided to leave the brick and mortar salon life and work for myself. A bold move at the age of 24, but worth it. I started offering beauty treatments from home and began fostering dogs not long after. Life felt pretty great, and most importantly, my days were on my terms.

The move from fast paced salon hours to working from home was a dramatic contrast. This is about the time when I noticed that if I didn't have any set plans for my day, even a patch of time open for whatever I liked, I would spend the day just kind of fluffing around. Aimlessly “doing” but not actually “doing” anything. Some days felt lovely like that, and some felt kinda pointless. Yet every time I tried to structure my day, I would feel a bit suffocated, and then get disappointed at myself when it didn’t turn out exactly as I had planned it.

With no plan at all, I found myself either staying up all night because I had no reason to wake up early, and then sleeping half the day and feeling tired the remainder. Other times I would get up early and run out of things to do by mid-morning. Wake up and bed times varied wildly.

I'm a bit of a freedom fighter, so admitting I needed some kind of routine made me feel quite resistant. I fought it for years actually.

Some days I would make a plan, and other days I would leave free. This seemed to work for a while.

I discovered on the days I had structured the start of my day, I felt better. More at peace and accomplished. I decided that what really worked for me was to get up at a reasonable hour in the morning, walk the dogs before I could change my mind, and then come home and do some jobs around the house. Get all the responsibilities out the way and by the time I sat down for lunch. I either worked with clients in the afternoon or had some free time. I was tired enough to go to bed at a relatively normal time and was rested enough to do it again the next day. My mental health started to improve. Between the dogs and a plan for my day, I felt like I had more purpose again.

It just kept improving after that. I got a lot more into meditation, and started taking even better care of myself, both mentally and physically. I even started working out. I got into boxing, mountain biking, and even went on some day hikes with my dogs. This type of activity was previously outside of my character. Things were changing.

It seems extremely cliche, I know. But I really did find that the more things I added into my days that were good for me, the better I felt, and the more I wanted to do those things. 

I would have hated to admit this to my former self, but I discovered that having routine and structure was important to feeling as though I was living a fulfilling life, but what I wouldn’t have known, is that they also allowed me more freedom. It can sound a bit bizarre at first, however it's true. I don't know whether it meant that the free time I had was really used well, for filling up my cup, or taking care of myself with a good rest and some self care, rather than my previous way of just sort of avoiding myself in those times. Or whether it was because I was really making use of my time and taking what I could from each day.

I quickly learnt that we do have time, we always have time. For whatever we choose to have time for. Most of us aren’t really that time poor. What we often lack is the intention, the self discipline, commitment and resourcefulness to follow through. That's all human stuff, and not something to start beating ourselves up over. It really can be as simple as choosing one thing at a time. I'm a big believer in taking baby steps to create change. As with my experience, sometimes we just need something small to get the ball rolling. It can take a long time to create a routine and follow it (and it can take only one day to let it go). That doesn't mean it's all over if you take a day off your routine, you can always continue the next day.

I had many days where i didnt feel like it. Where I had resistance or a mental battle. The key is not to beat yourself up when it doesn't work out, while also having the dedication and commitment to yourself to continue on tomorrow.

Like everything, we have to alter our routines as our needs change along the way, different life phases call for different structure. My days now as a mother don't look the same as they did back then, and it can be difficult to adjust when things have been going well. Having kids was a huge adjustment for me as someone who had always planned my days with a lot of “me time” and cup filling. Reshuffling to allow everyone's needs to be met has been a whole other adventure. 

But I'm figuring it out, and I'm grateful for learning the value of adding little things into my routine that help me feel good and improve my well being. Little changes to your day can quite literally change your life.

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