The Paradox of Routine and Freedom

posted by Jonathan Frei On Friday, November 13, 2009

Routine works. Establishing one does not make life boring or formulaic, but it does set up guide posts where true freedom and excitement can take place.

A routine I recently established was getting up at 6 a.m. This guide post has given my days structure. It has established a time where I can write this.

With the responsibility of fatherhood, I have had to change my focus from myself to my family. And having a family is a sure way to confuse and throw a wrench into any established order or normalcy in life.

However, I established this routine months after my son was born. It opened up the possibilities of being a great dad while still caring for my own needs.

The last several mornings now I woke up two minutes before my alarm was set to go off. Each time I glanced at my phone, and it showed 5:58. It's only been a few weeks since I started, but already the routine is freeing me from the annoying buzz of the alarm.

Before I started working on this I'd be sleeping deeply and when my alarm would sound, I'd hit the snooze button two or three times. The idea, of course was that "10 more minutes and I'll be rested and ready for the day." But snoozing three times adds up to a half hour of frequently interrupted sleep.

On the other hand, getting up and getting going shakes off the sleepiness much faster than laying awake in bed between pressing the snooze button.

Routine has given my day something new--a beginning. Rather than drifting into the day from a haze of sleep and snoozing, establishing a routine has created a clear delineation between night time and day time.

Also, my wife and I have been working to establish a routine for our baby. We're starting to see the first fruits of our efforts. The last several nights now, he's slept soundly from when we laid him in the crib until after I got up.

These routines do not diminish the freedom and spontaneity of a day. It is exactly the opposite, yet still a paradox. Fixed and strictly adhered-to routines create more freedom in a day than an open schedule.

I haven't established strict guidelines for what I'll do when I first get up. I try to read, write, or exercise, but sometimes I surf around on the web, play with the baby if he's awake, or spend some time in prayer.

However, no matter what I decide to spend the time doing, it is something I wouldn't be able to do if I didn't have the routine established to get started.

By setting up a few starting guide posts, I was able to establish much greater freedom in my day. And now I'm searching for similar opportunities in other possible routines.
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