Anytime you spend a couple of minutes on Pinterest you will find yourself scrolling by posts advocating for what you need to do every day in order to have a productive day or to be successful. These lists have catchy titles like “My Every Damn Day List”, “5 Things You Must Do Every Morning” and “My Morning Routine for Success”.
My favourite is when I click onto the list and it’s about twenty items long requiring several hours of one’s time and including sun salutations, harvesting your own honey and and running a 5k before 8am. Oh boy. As a shift worker, some days I wake up at 430am and am lucky if I even manage to make myself look presentable before my twelve hour shift that starts at 6am. On nightshifts I basically crash, sleep, drink coffee and hope for the best! Anything beyond that is a miracle!
Even the smaller, more reasonable lists stress me out, because my mind immediately goes ultra-intense and convinces itself that I must do every single thing, every single day and if I can’t or if I miss a day, there’s no point, I’ve failed and might as well not even try. I feel the same frustration with apps that try to guilt you into using them in order to “maintain your streak” (ahem, Duolingo, I love you, but you’re a little passive aggressive). Some days life happens and missing a day of something isn’t going to throw you off the rails, but it can sure feel like it when you’ve lost your hard earned streak and have to start back at zero!
This sounds utterly ridiculous but I think it’s a rather common occurrence. We get so set on maintaining “streaks” or completing something every day and we don’t give ourselves grace for when life happens. This is especially important if you live with a mental illness or any sort of chronic disease, or you know, if you’ve lived through the gongshow of the last year. There are going to be days that are a writeoff. There are going to be days when you lay in bed and simply exist. There are going to be days or even weeks when rest absolutely must be prioritized over your checklists.
For me personally, I have a “Habits to Keep” list to remind myself of habits I want to culture and maintain. They don’t happen everyday. Sometimes things get missed. But it has been important to me to consciously give myself permission to not complete everything, every day. As I track these habits, I try to look at the overall trend of completion versus whether I missed a day or even a week. If I notice something routinely isn’t happening, why? Is it not actually a priority? Just because someone says I “should” be doing something doesn’t mean it is something that will actually serve me. Maybe I don’t even need it in my life. If it is important to me, is there something I can change to make it more likely to happen?
As someone who loves routines, this is was a difficult understanding to reach. I would love to have a carefully cultivated morning routine that I complete most days, but unfortunately, each of my days are different. I’d love to have the same time set aside everyday to spend writing or practicing Spanish, but some days I’m working at that time, some days I’m sleeping (yay nightshift!), some days I have appointments…there is just no reasonable way for me to maintain this.
And that’s okay!
There is no one secret to success. Each of us will discover routines and processes that work in our lives and that help us achieve our goals. We will try things and either add them into our routines or let them fall away. Whether we do or do not participate in certain things isn’t a sign of our future success or failure. Of course, if we are able to participate in our routines more often, we will notice greater benefits, but if we miss a day or if life goes off the rails for a week, all success is not lost. We can simply pick ourselves up and continue. Not start again, because you haven’t failed or lost anything. But continue right where you left off.
Do you have routines that you complete nearly every day? Have you struggled with the impossibility of such routines? Let me know in the comments!