I came to a conclusion, the other afternoon.
Implementing a routine made up of daily tasks has reduced me to someone that’s highly strung and dependent on said routine. There, I said it.
There was a period a few years ago where it seemed as though everybody in the world had a ‘routine’ for every possible scenario. And, in my scattered and still-growing state, I felt like I needed to adopt them too. But it ended up manifesting into something else, something that left me clinging onto these routines for fear something awful would happen if not – nothing too serious, more just a bit of a fear of the unknown.
Suddenly, my daily routine included reading at least a chapter of a book, checking in on blog emails, getting some playtime in on all of the games I’d picked up, chatting to friends every day on WhatsApp so nobody would be left on unread, checking through the top topics on Twitter… It went on and on. It meant I was running out of time to get these nonsensical tasks ticked off and feeling more and more anxious each day. And if I somehow didn’t get to check these all off? I’d feel like a failure, as though something would happen if I hadn’t managed to read or send a WhatsApp message. 24 hours is all we have in a day, yet I was meaninglessly piling on tasks and activities to these 24 hours and wondering why I never seemed to have any time.
In this digital age, trackers and logs – and Apple Watches! – attach gratification to checking things off and ‘making it a habit’. It’s a great incentive, I suppose, but I can’t help but think that often these daily habits and trackers can do more harm than good. It extended to friendships and relationships too: if I hadn’t managed to borderline harass all of my friends and/or group chats in a day, I’d suddenly wonder whether they hated me, whether I’d done enough to maintain our friendship. While it’s incredibly satisfying to see a row of completed rings or receive those daily rewards in games, at what point must we reclaim our time?
Doing away with some of these daily check-ins has done wonders for my everyday. I started slowly, but removing one thing from the ‘list’ at a time until the routines completely fragmented. Now, I’m a little more intuitive about it: if I feel like I want to relax, I’ll pick up a game. If I have brand partnerships to work on, I’ll check in on my emails. I have more time, more headspace and less anxiety about checking in with all of these menial touch-points. As the world opens up and we’re no longer 100% reliant on WhatsApp and Zoom to hang out with friends, I’m enjoying longer, slightly less regular sprints of conversation with pals that already feel much more meaningful. It’s simply another step towards slowing down, and enjoying a more mindful, meandering lifestyle.