I’ll have a cup of routine!
It’s a pity “routine” is seen as the antithesis of a “good” life in much of Western Culture. Growing up I was bombarded with quotes and slogans and messages from popular media that “life was meant to be lived as an adventure”. I got the message loud and clear that you weren’t living life right if you lived in a routine.
What’s sad is that this message is all wrong. We’re at our most productive when we have a good routine. The most important routines are the ones we develop for our daily life.
What will we do tonight? Same thing we do every night. Try to take over the world!
Everything becomes routine in time — relationships, work, friendships, and even vacations. Patterns always develop. Stay in one place long enough and you’ll find yourself in one.
I mean, if every day were an adventure, then adventures would become routine. It’s Monday, time to thwart the Big Baddie… again. Yawn. A 9-5 workday would be a novelty. We’d complain how sick we were of exciting adventures. Could we just have one day off from saving the world, please?
Okay, Louis Lane, but saving you better not become a routine.
Without routine, my productivity falls dramatically. For example, I procrastinate and I end up watching TV more than accomplishing my goals. I don’t exercise like I should, I don’t cook my food, and I don’t get much writing done. A routine makes sure things get done.
I used to hate routine. It meant my life was going nowhere. Stick a fork in me because I was done. I saw routine like being forced to run endlessly like a hamster on a wheel. Life had no meaning if every day wasn’t full of excitement.
What I feared my life becoming when I was a bright-eyed teenager
Oddly enough, I got interested in the daily lives, or routines, of people living in foreign countries. Just being in an exotic country seemed to make their life more exciting than my own. Then again, maybe I had rose-colored glasses on because not all routines — regardless of country — are healthy…
Funny story. I actually met the guy in this video. Super nice guy. Oh, and he said this video wasn’t his normal work routine. This was just an unusually busy work week.
Even when people share their “daily life” they rarely share their real daily life because that’s too boring. They pick a special day with lots of stuff to do. They want to be seen as busy and productive and living an exciting life full of adventure. The few that do share their real routine are often apologetic and say things like “Sorry, this was such a boring day in my life”.
We apologize for not living exciting enough lives! How weird is that?
Does it matter if a person isn’t interesting? Isn’t what we produce that’s most important?
Look at how J.K. Rowling wrote the seven Harry Potter Books. She had to fit in the writing around her routine.
There is this idea that interesting people naturally do interesting things. I don’t think it works that way. First, sometimes people who make or do interesting things put so much of themselves into their creations that they have little left for themselves. Many writers have drained themselves dry for their masterpieces.
Leading an interesting daily life sucks up hours and times. Most of the Daily Life videos I watched showed people being busy, not productive. This is because doing stuff is more interesting than sitting at home or in a cafe writing, reading, studying, or learning a new skill.
The most productive parts of our daily lives are also the dullest for someone else to watch or hear about.
A highly productive day, but a boring-ass “Daily Life” video. Most of the action happened in my head.
For me, busy routines are not as fulfilling as productive ones. It’s not to say that productive days aren’t busy, but certain types of productivity are very hard to capture on film or on paper.
Busy routines keep us distracted and in a constant state of motion. They can create the illusion of the go-getter. In my opinion, a good daily routine is one that leaves room to think, ponder, imagine, learn, and/ or problem-solve. Exercising, eating, and working are all necessities, but what you mentally do is just as — if not more — important as what you physically do.
My best days happen in my head. A “Day in my Head” would be a lot more interesting than any “Day In My Life” video I could ever make.
My daily life in Japan involves a lot of daydreaming.
When I fold the laundry, I’m probably also working out a plot point for chapter 3.
While I cook breakfast, I’m working out my next blog post.
As I water the plants I wonder about last night’s TV show. I remember my favorite parts.
All an outsider would see is me staring very intently at the plants.
My Daily Life in Japan is also my Daily Thoughts.
There is a strange fascination in the routines of others, in seeing how they really live their lives. We are not as boring as we think we are. People are interested in people. We only think our own daily life is boring because we compare it to others.
Create or do interesting things and you'll naturally be interesting to others.
My main point is that a daily life is not about keeping yourself occupied. I see many Japanese keep their schedules packed out of fear that they’re “wasting time” if they have quiet moments. (Gotta fit a yoga class in there!) They tout their busy routines with pride of “SEE? My life is exciting because it’s busy.”
Doing that kind of routine will cause the “Hamster-on-a-wheel” feeling. You’re running so hard and yet have little to show for it, but man aren’t you exciting? Whereas a productive routine adds a little more to your life story, a word here or a chapter there, a life story that will hopefully be written over decades. Some of those days are a sentence and some might be whole chapters. A productive routine keeps your story going.
Here is a daily life routine I find interesting, the type I feel shows more than just being busy:
Video By Internationally ME
My daily life in Japan is full of things that add joy to my life. Only now do I realize that routine isn’t to be feared. It is the type of routines we live by that govern our happiness.
My Daily Life In Japan
On days I don’t work, I wake up around 9:00 am and I take my vitamins and Chinese herbs. Then, I heat up the water for my cafe latte before toasting an English muffin. I fix a bowl of cereal high in fiber and a bowl of yogurt mixed with a tasty vitamin powder.
After breakfast, I wash my face with various skincare items (I struggle with some adult acne) before watering the plants in the garden. Next, I write and write and edit and edit.
Before lunch, I run on the treadmill and do yoga.
Afterwards, I drive to a nearby cafe and study Japanese.
Later, I buy the ingredients for dinner and cook something. My husband will text when his train arrives and I pick him up.
It hardly sounds exciting.
But I love it.
There is a peacefulness in my life, a blissful feeling as I sit in our morning kitchen and write while sunlight streams through the glass doors that lead to the backyard.
I sometimes walk to the nearby mall area and wander the bookstores in Japan (Japan still has lots of bookstores). Or I browse the DVDs in the nearby DVD store. Sometimes I go to Tokyo and enjoy Bingsu in Koreatown or explore something new in Tokyo while I wait for a weekly appointment there.
There will always be a gap in my life that I wish I could have filled with kids, but these small joys keep me thriving.
I look forward to these routines for my days off. I feel energized by them and inspired to keep going no matter what.
Living near Tokyo has its perks.
What is your favorite parts about your own routines?