I remember the time I set out to create the perfect routine that I vowed to follow for the rest of my life – an unusual endeavor for me, given that I had rejected countless routines like they were my mortal enemy. I believed in spontaneity and had feared that routines would doom me to a monotonous life.
But the truth is, even as a free spirit, I knew that I desperately needed some semblance of order to function. It was a hard pill to swallow; routines promise productivity and stability, and I knew that not following any routines triggered my anxiety and other quirks.
So, armed with advice from books and blogs, I was sure I’d come up with the secret formula to get into a routine: It was all or nothing.
The so-called perfect morning routine described in many self-help books usually involves waking up at the crack of dawn, meditating like a Zen master, jogging like Usain Bolt, and whipping up a wholesome breakfast.
Easy peasy to implement, right? Not really. My mornings looked more like live-action cartoons. I would set multiple alarms to wake up, but I also was a gold medalist in hitting the snooze button.
Every time I tried to meditate, the DJ in my mind would come on and play random songs from the ’00s. And jogging? More like a speedy walk… to the coffee maker. Often, my first meal of the day was dinner.
It goes without saying that I failed miserably to follow all parts of this “perfect” routine. I was harsh on myself for failing. Then again, I suspected that I would quickly become bored and restless with any schedule I managed to keep. There was no winning; I thought I was destined to never have a routine.
In my defense, I had no idea that I had ADHD at the time. The materials I consulted then on crafting routines were written for the normal folks (i.e., neurotypical people). As I learned more about the reasons behind my exasperating (and sometimes hilarious) relationship with routines, my mission shifted.
I realized that a lot of it came down to actually scheduling spontaneity. I now set timers for focused work periods and I schedule short breaks in between to let my mind wander. These breaks often lead to new and exciting ideas. I also use apps like Structured, Toggl, and iOS Focus to help me gradually transition to and from focus mode and free time.
Loosening my black-and-white mentality around doing things the right way also helped me skip the snooze button, which had been my kryptonite for years. No matter how many alarms I set, my tired ADHD brain would plead, “Just five more minutes!”
A gentle wake-up routine was the answer. I completely replaced the old blaring alarms with sunlight. Yes, you read that right – I gave up on conventional alarms. And no, I’m not waking up late. The outcome is just the opposite. I used to struggle to get up at 8 a.m. with an alarm. Now, I wake up at 6 a.m., without an alarm, feeling fully rested and alert.
The battle between routine and spontaneity, I learned, doesn’t have to be a battle at all. My need for structure and love for the unexpected can coexist – it never had to be one or the other. Achieving order, I also know now, is only possible on my terms, not anyone else’s.
CELEBRATING 25 YEARS OF ADDITUDE
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