Building a Routine

In The Soul’s Inner Statues, one exercise I recommend is a post-it note thing to find a time when a few minutes of prayer work best for you. I mention several tools (Mural, post-it notes, something else), but another tool someone could use for an exercise like that is Google Jamboard. As the hardest part of building every routine is getting started and setting oneself up for success, I thought I’d take a few minutes in a rapid blog post to talk a bit more about visualizing routines.

Google Jamboard is a collaborative (or not, in this specific case) whiteboard thing that works very well for this kind of exercise. You can make post-it notes in a few colors and do a verbose version of whatever your routine actually is. Admittedly, I like vertical configurations a bit more, and Jamboard has fewer options for resizing and scaling. This entire exercise is easier for me using Notion. Notion isn’t as pretty in screenshots, though. 😉

In The Soul’s Inner Statues, I advise people to be brutally honest about how they spend their time. Deliberately visualizing a workflow takes something abstract and slippery (here, time and our habits) and makes it concrete. The object is not to become as efficient as possible, but to know what one’s priorities are and to make sure that those things get done — if we don’t set our priorities, our phone notifications certainly will.

The example above is idealized, although it does approximate my own weekday schedule. I do not include dealing with random things or checking the news, nor do I include that my evening routine is actually a bit longer because I’m in a short-distance relationship (we spend most weekends together, as we have for the past six years) and my partner and I value communicating with each other — my attention on my evening routine is often divided by checking our Telegram chat every so often. If I weren’t sharing my routine online (and I do encourage others to set privacy boundaries, too; I was on the fence about admitting that I listen to motivational recordings, lol), I would include absolutely everything, or perhaps a time at the end called “15 minutes of buffer for things that come up” to represent all of those planned and unanticipated interruptions. I would also include the weekends. One reason I had to take a step back from Twitter is that, being conscious of time-blocking, activity there displaces things that I want to prioritize — maintaining my physical, mental, and spiritual wellness. (It’s very easy to get caught up in the feeds because they are designed to be like slot machines, and unlike checking email, the psychological echo of what I see on social media websites tends to jar whichever activity I want to do next, as my attention is then divided between whatever it is I’m doing and recovering from cognitive and emotional overload.) On most weeknights, my evening routine needs to start at about 8:30 PM, 9 PM at the latest. Many may find that a routine like this is not organic (it’s definitely not spontaneous), but it’s the only way I’ve found to stay on top of my priorities and mitigate burnout while working full-time.

I hope that seeing this was useful and illuminating, especially for anyone who is working through The Soul’s Inner Statues.

The image I chose on my Jamboard is Edward Burne-Jones’ The Hours, and it’s a lovely piece.

Edward Burne-Jones, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

3 thoughts on “Building a Routine

  1. I use regular planners (paper). I code my prayers and devotions into my routine. But then again, I have always been one of those people who uses planners like they are written in stone. I know people find planners difficult since time is difficult.

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    1. I’m with you. I really appreciate the tactile quality of a paper planner and a pen. While I don’t tend to write out all the details of every day, I do from time to time write out a sketch of various kinds of days (teaching days, work-at-home-all-day days, etc.) as an exercise to see what’s actually happening in my ordinary routine, and what I’d like to see happen itself.

      This year, I’m also cultivating the practice of writing a few notes in a journal/diary at the end of the day (or the next morning) about what actually happened that day: how I spent my time, what I accomplished, etc. This is not at all a moment of passing judgement on the day; it’s really just about awareness, noticing what’s happening in my life, helping patterns bubble to the surface.

      I also use actual physical post-it notes a lot, though mostly for other tasks. 😀

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      1. So, I’m in full hybrid mode with planning. At this point, I use Google Keep for notification reminders because they push to my phone, and the notifications look nice. I use paper to-do lists/plans/reminders (right now a pad of paper and an A5 book of checklists from MochiThings). For long-term tasks and living documents (like annual new year goals that I revise every few months), I use Notion or another digital tool because those things change too often to be paper, and I want the mobile formatting to be as good as the desktop formatting so I can refer to them on demand. I used to do a bullet journal (which I kept at for a few years), but I wanted a bit more structure. I write in a notebook for my daily journal entries, and I have another notebook for poetry drafts and scattered verses.

        The daily journal is usually an evening thing, but I sometimes write in it after prayer if something comes to mind that morning. It usually contains noteworthy things that happened, rants, reflections, and pretty much the gamut. Sometimes, when revising blog drafts, I will transfer a paragraph or a few sentences to the journal because they’re too off-topic or personal.

        I think the thread running through everyone’s workflows is the self-awareness to know what works for oneself, and imo, it’s a very iterative process.

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