On Reinventing the Wheel

Jan 06

wagon wheelAs 2014 unfolds before me, the blank days of its calendar inviting me to fill them up with dates and obligations, I feel the pull that so many of us do at this time of year: to make resolutions, to come up with ideas for how to make this year better than the last. I spent hours last month making lists and plans, considering what to cut out of my diet and what to add and wondering whether this should be the year that I try barre classes. Or Zumba. I contemplated waking up an hour earlier to write in the quiet of the dark before dawn. I thought about staying up later.

But here’s the thing: I already know what works for me. I already know what I’m doing on the days and weeks when I’m in my groove, when hours of contentment outnumber hours of melancholy. Somewhere in the chaos of the last few years, through the crucibles of pregnancy and breastfeeding and mothering very young children, I figured out who I am and what I need.

I need to get up in the morning early enough to wash my face and get dressed before I start my day with my kids. I need to eat breakfast. I need to exercise (run or practice yoga) early in the day before I lose my motivation. I need to write in the mornings while I’m focused and save research and social media work for later in the day. I often need to take a 10-15 minute cat nap in the afternoon. I need to put my laptop away not long after my kids go to sleep so that I can spend time with my husband in a house free from the sounds of Lego towers crashing. I need to get into bed by 10, TMJ mouth guard safely inserted, read for an hour, and turn my light out by 11.

It’s not sexy or exciting (it involves mouth guards for goodness’ sake!). Indeed, it’s a routine and routine, by definition, doesn’t have that anticipatory tingle of a new resolution or a new plan. But keeping up a routine – doing what I know works – is a lot harder for me than keeping an eye out for the new new thing. That’s not to say that occasional tweaks and vacations from routine aren’t often beneficial. They absolutely are. But I have to remind myself not to be so easily seduced by the new when the tried-and-true works just fine.

So maybe that’s my new year’s resolution: do what I already know works. Don’t worry about reinventing the wheel when, if I make sure to keep it turning, the wheel I’ve already got gets me exactly where I need to go.

Do you have a routine that works for you? Have you made any new year’s resolutions for 2014?

Image: Wagon wheels by Ryk Neethling via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Melissa January 6, 2014 at 7:55 am

I admire you so much, Kristen. It takes courage and self-knowledge to admit that. I sort of know what works for me too, I just lack the discipline and consistency to keep up with it.

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Kristen January 8, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Discipline and consistency aren’t exactly my strong suits either, but I’m trying to be better about allowing for flexibility – so that I don’t abandon a routine just because I had an off day or two (or three). :)

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slamdunk January 6, 2014 at 9:01 am

I like your approach Kristen–having an existing inventory of what works and potential obstacles is an advantage.

I chuckled when you mentioned being able to wash your face prior to dealing with kids in the morning. I have thought that was one of the biggest changes that I had to make back when I was in diaper changing mode. Jumping immediately into the shower after rolling out of bed has always just been part of my waking up process, but when kids came along, that can’t be done. I still don’t get to do the immediate scrub, but maybe someday.

Happy 2014.

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Kristen January 8, 2014 at 3:24 pm

I highly recommend having a spouse who’s an insomniac. The fact that mine wakes up earlier than anybody else gives me the luxury of having an extra minute or two before helping the kids start their day. ;)

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Shannon January 6, 2014 at 10:51 am

I find that the routine that works changes as my kids age. My routine and I are both transitioning into a place where they need me (physically) a little less. I guess I am in a transitioning searching phase and hoping to find the routines that work for me now and the commitment to stay with them.
I hope your 2014 is all you want it to be, with a few surprises thrown in along the way!

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Kristen January 8, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Thanks, Shannon! Happy new year!

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Corinne January 6, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Knowing what works is half the battle! I love that you’ve figured it out, and are embracing it. I think resolutions in general are overrated, hard to keep up, bringing so much pressure to the new year when really we should just be thankful for the opportunity for another day, and keep on keeping on with what works and daily throw away what doesn’t :)
Happy New Year!!

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Kristen January 8, 2014 at 3:32 pm

I think you’re absolutely right about the potential pressure that comes with new year’s resolutions. While for some people I’m sure they’re a chance to reflect and create some inspiring new goals, I usually used them as a chance to make some lofty goal that excused me from keeping up the routine that I know works for me. So for me – for now at least – it’s tending the routine with a few small tweaks here and there.

Happy 2014 to you and yours! xo

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Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri January 6, 2014 at 10:06 pm

I love this approach, Kristen. Instead of focusing on resolutions, I am trying to work toward incorporating new philosophies into some areas of my life. I want changes that are permanent and resolutions (at least for me) feel very dispensable. Happy New Year!

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Kristen January 8, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Can’t wait to hear more about your new philosophies! Happy 2014! xo

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Perfecting Motherhood January 7, 2014 at 12:29 am

Happy new year! It’s one thing to realize what works for you, it’s another to apply it to your daily life. Good for you knowing how to improve your quality of life in the first place. The implementation is a challenge, especially when life is so unpredictable with little kids. But it’s definitely worth the try. For this year, I’ve decided to try to stick to a new schedule that defines my days of the week. It might seem very strict to an outsider but I need to have a schedule broken down day by day, hour by hour, to remind myself what I’m supposed to do that time of day. I’ve allocated enough time to work to know that I should do any work when my kids are with me at home and not at school. That’s the only type of “resolution” I want to try. Otherwise, I’m still working on putting together a big list of projects I want to accomplish this year. Dream big!

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Kristen January 8, 2014 at 3:37 pm

I have a schedule like that for the same reason. It really helps me keep track of when is work time and when is time for my family – not always easy to do as a work-at-home mom, huh? Good luck to you as you try out this new schedule. I’ll look forward to hearing how it goes!

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lisa January 7, 2014 at 11:27 am

Great attitude to have in this day and age of self-help books and quick fix gurus. Bravo for identifying what works best for you and resolving to stick to it (or at least trying!). My problem is I know what works for me…just don’t have the motivation to do it! :-) Happy 2014 to you and yours. May it be a happy, healthy and prosperous year for us all.

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Kristen January 8, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Thank you, my friend. And the same to you! And here’s to motivation for us all in 2014!

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Jessica January 9, 2014 at 10:05 am

I love this, Kristen. I agree that it’s so easy to be swept into the lure of–distracted by?–the new and promising, to forget that much of the time we already know what works. It’s just a matter of putting it into to practice–the harder part. Thank you for the reminder.

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Kristen January 9, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Thanks, Jessica! I hope you and your family have a terrific 2014!

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Cecilia January 10, 2014 at 8:16 am

As usual I feel as though you are reading my mind :-) I’ve been thinking that too, that I know what my routine needs to be in order to be at my optimum but the trouble is I really struggle to keep to it. I need to not get on my computer after my son goes to sleep, because it throws my evening off and I get to bed late and sleep fitfully. My routine is the same as yours except I’m unable to exercise in the mornings (I wait until the afternoon, if I do it at all, that is). I don’t have any fancy or sexy resolutions this year either…just sleep earlier, drink more water, exercise regularly, and avoid self-criticism! Happy new year and glad to see you writing again!

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Kristen January 10, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Isn’t it funny how much getting on the computer in the evening can throw the rest of the night and the next day out of whack? I admit that I still do it far too often, but I find that turning off the computer by 8 makes a huge difference in my quality of life that day and the next.

Happy new year, Cecilia!

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pamela January 14, 2014 at 2:54 pm

I love this. I struggle with routines. They are so good for me but then I rebel against them, try to get as much done as possible, and then wonder why I am exhausted. Thank you for this sanity check!

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Kristen January 14, 2014 at 7:59 pm

My pleasure, my dear! xo

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