Routines Aren't Only For Dancers!

In our go-go, late-night, glamour-obsessed culture, you'll seldom hear anyone preach the virtues of a routine. So dull. So boring. Right up there with prunes, housedresses, Geritol and sensible shoes.

Well, don't you believe it! Far from being frumpy and dated, a properly crafted routine can free you from the tyranny of constant decision-ducking, addiction to time-wasters, and what Pam and Peggy describe as the "IGAD" syndrome: "Get ready to cook dinner? I've Got All Day. [time passes] IGAD! There's nothing for dinner!"

Chances are, you already have a routine. Are there times in the day when you always read the paper? Log onto the Internet? Catch a favorite TV show? That's the skeletal evidence of a routine. By building on those "bones", we can find ready-made motivation. I know I can get through my hated evening chores in order to get to that scheduled hour of reading before bed! Budget the luxuries first, that's my motto!

How do you move from a haphazard routine to one that more clearly reflects the way you'd like to live? Pam and Peggy suggest a set of seven yellow cards. Turn them on end, and using a pen, write the days of the week--one per card--across the top.

Using your bed- and wake-up times, divide your day in half. Write the hours of each day down the left side of the card, half on the front and half on the back. This writer gets up at 5:00 a.m. and withers on the vine by 9:30, so I list the hours from 5:00 a.m. to noon on the front, and 1:00 p.m. to bedtime on the back of the Daily Routine Cards. You've just made your little beacon through the days (or daze) of your life!

Next step, using pencil, begin filling the "musts" on the cards: work schedules, kiddy driving chores, meals, exercise classes, church--anything that has a fixed time in your routine.

It may be helpful to do this step day by day, over a week. At the end of each day, pencil in your card: what did you do today? The goal is to get a snapshot of your week, in order to see where your time is really going.

When you've filled in all your "must-do" items, you're ready to work. Compare the Daily Routine Cards to your Basic Week Plan. If you've set aside Tuesday for Heavy Cleaning day, but that's also the day you have to drive the gymnastics carpool, volunteer at the thrift shop, and take a class in accounting . . . well, now you know one reason why you've been skipping all those cards. Some adjusting of the BWP will be in order.

At the end of this process, your free time (nearly-nonexistent as it may be) will be evident. Give some good, hard thought to what you want to do with this time, and think hard about what you have been doing with it. Seeing, in graphic pencil, how scarce are your few free hours is a dramatic motivator to use them wisely.

When you've filled in your Daily Routine Cards, you've just made most of the time-use decisions you'll ever need to make. Until conditions change, of course--probably next week!

Put your Daily Routine Card behind each daily divider, and look at it first thing, each morning. It will be a road map through the chaos of the day. Better, since it's in pencil, you can make any needed changes.

A well-crafted routine frees decision-making energy, energy you can put to better use taking up English handbells, sewing that new outfit, or just plain lazing on the sofa with a book. Get in step with Daily Routine Cards . . . and get organized!