When we moved to our new home two years ago, I vowed to stick to the plan for keeping things tidy. It went something like this:
- Mondays: Deep clean the kitchen
- Tuesdays: Sweep and mop the floors
- Wednesdays: Clean the bathrooms
- Thursdays: Vacuum
- Fridays: Laundry and dusting
My reasoning was that if I kept to a regular routine, I would keep things “covered” and under control. There would be no backup of forgotten chores, because it was already built into my everyday. Seems pretty reasonable, right?
I did manage to stick with it — for a few months.
But then life happened. My husband’s surgery, another difficult pregnancy, welcoming a newborn — gradually, the cleaning routine fell apart, and I instead had to go with sporadic cleaning according to my limited energy and time.
Now, the way I see it, I have two choices: I can look at this as a failure & berate myself into getting back into the groove, OR I can reevaluate my approach & look for learning opportunities and extended applications.
I’m going to go ahead with the latter.
Trying to turn everything into a routine in an attempt to keep things “covered” and in control often leads to things becoming…:
1. Arbitrary/Redundant: Attention getting divided up equally among unequal tasks.
2. Limiting: A reverse effect where rather than getting life more in control, we wind up feeling more controlled by the very routines we create.
3. Rigid: Reduced tendency to notice when things aren’t working, or when there’s a better way.
Routine-izing life to preempt failure is often an appealing temptation, and in far more spheres than just housekeeping. I see it in education, too:
1. Arbitrary/Redundant: Early education programs that devote one whole week to each letter to cover the alphabet, though it’s more logical to dedicate much more time to trickier, high-frequency letters like vowels (and a lot less time to those rarer letters like Q, X, & Z).
2. Limiting: Reluctance for teachers to adopt more student-centered inquiry approaches for fear of deviating from/not covering the plan.
3. Rigid: Invariably covering history in chronological order year after year, rather than looking other possibilities such as approaching it by concept…
None of this is to say that routines don’t have their place. I wouldn’t give up the weekly routine of class meetings any more than I would give up daily tooth-brushing. Furthermore, my original cleaning routine now informs what needs to happen; it’s just more fluid as I evaluate factors such as urgency, whether we’re having house guests, etc.
But in the end, we should be wary of any routine we construct that causes our practices to become arbitrary, redundant, limiting, or rigid.
featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto