Surprise! Eschewing Routines Can Be Good For You

By Heidi Stevens
Chicago Tribune.

When I was newly divorced and living in a cramped condo with my two kids, I took unexpected pleasure in bucking small conventions.

Gouda cheese for breakfast instead of cereal. Jumping jacks before bed instead of morning jogs.

It was partly my reaction to being the only parent in the house, no responsible grown-up to look at me askance when I proposed a bike ride to Dairy Queen at bedtime. (Or ate hunks of Gouda.)

More than that, though, it was the dawning recognition that life is wildly unpredictable, ridiculously busy and achingly short. And if you want to do certain things, you fit them in wherever you can.

I’m no longer the only parent in the house, having remarried in 2013. I envisioned my life evolving into a series of routines, morning jogs would resume now that my husband could remain at home with the kids. Meals would become planned-ahead, family affairs. That kind of thing.

But our life doesn’t lend itself to routine, three kids, two ex-spouses, jobs that don’t fit neatly into office hours (my husband is the Tribune’s film critic) and all of the attendant curveballs that life tosses our way.

I have, at times, felt defeated by this, in part because experts so often hold up routines as the certain path toward success in all things: an organized home, physical fitness, proper sleep.

I devoured Gretchen Rubin’s latest book, “Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives” (Crown), hoping to determine my personality type (marathoner or sprinter; finisher or opener), thereby unlocking the secret to establishing habits and routines.

I liked the book, but I didn’t recognize myself in it.

Then it hit me over the weekend, as I took a short jog around my neighborhood at 2 p.m. The day before I had jogged at 11 a.m. Sometimes I jog at 6 p.m. Sometimes I jog at 7 a.m.

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