Monday, January 11, 2021

If Only I Knew (Part II) – Plan Your Routine and Stick to It

Last year, I wrote about some advice that I wish I had known as a 1L. Today I wanted to revisit that topic with a focus on ‘routines.’ First, I want to distinguish between my routine and my schedule. My schedule is the list of upcoming events I put into my calendar. My routine, however are the ‘little rituals’ I do every day that add structure and continuity to my life.

During my 1 and 2L years, my time on campus made up the bulk of my routine. I would get ready for the day, eat a quick breakfast with tea or coffee, arrive on campus between 8 and 10 AM (depending on my schedule), attend my first class, go to the library or law review to read, go to my other classes, swim or go to the gym in the early evening, drive home, eat dinner, spend time with my wife, read until midnight and then go to sleep. Of course, every semester requires some adaptation but I could usually count on some consistency with meal times, drives to and from campus, finding my own quiet space to read on campus, some form of exercise in the evening, family time, and predictable time to get to bed.

The pandemic has forced me and many others to reinvent our routines and the experience has given me a new perspective and new appreciation for just how important the daily ‘little rituals’ are. For example, I’ve always loved my commute to and from campus or work as a chance to organize my thoughts, listen to the morning news on the radio and generally prepare for or wind down from the day. Now, I take my dogs out for walks around the neighborhood and use the time to learn Portuguese through an app on my phone. In space of swimming, I’ve taken up running every day to get in my exercise (though I have to confess I loathe running).

A quiet, distraction-free study space has been the most difficult thing to recreate. I had to spend a good deal of time at the beginning of the semester turning our guest room into an office where I can comfortably work for hours. I deleted my Facebook app from my phone and programmed restriction certain timewasting apps and websites to help me avoid distractions.

I’m certainly not perfect and I’ve struggled to maintain my routine when the unexpected happens. For example, when the HOA began construction right outside our condo, I drove 30 miles to my parent’s house with dogs in toe every day just to get work done in peace. Even without bulldozers shaking the entire building, it’s always difficult to stay on track when the dogs decide they need attention or start barking at some interesting activity going on outside.

Still, in times like these, I can still fall back on some consistencies – meals, exercise, evening family time. If you can, be mindful of your own routine and what little things you do throughout the day. If you can’t think of any, try developing a few. It’s surprising how easily the day can get away from you without that little consistency to keep you grounded.

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