Ever get the feeling your living in a Groundhog Day world? Get up, get kids ready, go to work, come home, cook dinner, wait to go to bed and start the cycle again the very next day?
A hamster wheel going round and round and round. It can creep on you, can’t it!
In the whirlwind of work and family life, routines are the anchors that keep us busy Dads grounded. However, there’s a thin line between a routine that serves as a sign of good productivity and one that spirals into monotonous drudgery.
Understanding this distinction is crucial for maintaining both mental well-being and effectiveness in all facets of life; be it money, relationships, work or our personal life.
The Good Routine: A perfect partnership of order and progress
A good routine is like a well-oiled machine – it streamlines your day, maximises efficiency, and leaves room for personal growth and family time. Here’s how to recognise if you’re in the groove of a good routine:
- Balanced Time Management: Your routine allocates time wisely between work, family, and self-care. This balance is key to avoiding burnout and ensures that no single aspect of life monopolizes your time.
I started using a simple time tracking app here like A-Tracker to help track my work tasks vs time at home. I captured some imbalances and was able to make better decisions about my time.
I also plotted my perfect week, a really important step to help prioritize tasks and to allow time for other important areas of life beyond work (which can certainly dominate if not checked!)
- Consistent Productivity: A sign of a beneficial routine is consistent productivity. You’re able to meet work deadlines, contribute to household responsibilities, and still have time for personal pursuits.
For me, it was important to understand what good looks like. Not perfect. Good. What is that? Often we see productive as busy. But busy is easy. Productive is the challenge!
I try to practice agreements and expectations with those important in each of my roles. I find it helps understand what productivity means not only for me personally but for those who matter most at home, and at work.
- Flexibility: Life is unpredictable. A good routine has built-in flexibility to accommodate the unexpected, whether it’s a sick child or an urgent work project.
Things happen. We need the freedom to adapt. Routines are a nice steer, but flexibility is needed if we are to achieve the agreements and expectations we highlighted previously.
- Personal Growth: If your routine includes time for self-improvement – be it reading, a hobby, or exercise – it’s a sign that you’re on the right path. Personal growth is a crucial element of a fulfilling routine.
It’s important for me to find tie for the gyms at least twice a week, play football (soccer for the folks in the US!) and maintain a level of activity that keeps me fresh. I also listen Audible to make sure I’m learning and engaging in topics that interest me. Audible fits nicely in the gaps too; I can listen on my commute, at the gym, in bed and so on. A really important part of my routine.
- Family and Social Connections: A healthy routine allows for quality time with family and friends. This connection is vital for emotional support and happiness.
Swimming lessons, football practice, cinema, school pick ups, date night, cooking family dinner. These small but important pieces of family life can easily be forgotten but I like to try and ensure they are part of my routine where possible.
The Monotony Trap: Signs of a Stagnant Routine
While routines can be stabilising, falling into a monotonous rut can be detrimental to your mental health and overall zest for life. Here’s how to spot if your routine has become a monotony trap:
- Lack of Joy and Motivation: If you’re constantly watching the clock and your day feels like a series of chores, it’s a red flag. The absence of joy and motivation can be a sign that your routine is too rigid or unfulfilling.
- No Room for Growth or Learning: If you’re not learning anything new or facing any challenges, your routine might be holding you back from personal development. There’s a risk here if you aren’t growing, you’re shrinking!
- Isolation: Routines that cut you off from social interactions or family time can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. This could be a risk is work dominates. Long nights? Getting home exhausted? Perhaps there are some warning signs here.
- Physical and Mental Exhaustion: Feeling perpetually drained, even without any significant physical exertion, can indicate that your routine is not balanced.
- Resistance to Change: If the thought of altering your daily schedule makes you anxious, it might be a sign that you’re stuck in a monotonous routine.
Striking the Right Balance
The key to a beneficial routine is its ability to evolve with your needs. Regularly assess how your routine is impacting your life. Don’t hesitate to make changes if you feel stuck. Remember, the best routines are those that offer stability without sacrificing growth and joy. By recognising these signs and adjusting accordingly, you can transform your daily grind into a rewarding rhythm that nurtures both your career and personal life.
But what can I do about it?!
Breaking the monotony for busy dads requires practical, achievable steps that can be seamlessly integrated into daily life. Here are three ideas, each accompanied by practical examples to help you apply and tweak in your day to day.
- Introduce Micro-Adventures into Your Week
Idea: Injecting small adventures into your weekly routine can significantly break the monotony. These are short, simple activities that don’t require much time or planning but offer a change of scenery and pace.
- Lunchtime Exploration: Use your lunch break to visit a new café, restaurant or a park you’ve never been to. Even a short walk in a different environment can refresh your mind.
- Morning Routine Twist: Alter your morning routine by adding a new exercise, like a quick yoga session or a jog through a different route. The novelty can kickstart your day with a fresh perspective. I often challenge myself to alter my route to work ever so subtly!
- Weekend Mini-Trips: Plan a short family trip to a nearby town, beach, or place of interest. This doesn’t have to be elaborate; the goal is to experience something new together. A change can be as good as a rest!
- Practice a New Hobby or Skill
Idea: Learning something new is a fantastic way to break the monotony. It stimulates the brain, offers a sense of achievement, and can be a great way to decompress.
- Home DIY Projects: Start a small home improvement project, like building a piece of furniture or gardening. These activities provide a tangible sense of accomplishment.
- Learn a Musical Instrument: Dedicate a small amount of time each day to learn an instrument. This can be both relaxing and intellectually stimulating.
- Cooking Experiments: Try cooking new recipes or even enrol in a short online cooking class. It’s a fun way to explore new cuisines and add variety to your family meals.
- Incorporate Social and Family Activities
Idea: Social interactions and family engagements are vital for mental health and breaking the routine. They offer emotional support and create memorable experiences.
- Family Game Nights: Set aside one night a week for a family game night. Playing board games or video games together can be a fun way to bond and create laughter. I have taken recently to building Lego ith the kids, it’s a great thing to do together!
- Join a Club or Group: Find a local club or group that aligns with your interests. This could be a book club, a sports team, or a hobby group. It’s a way to meet new people and engage in different conversations.
- Volunteer Together: Engaging in community service as a family or with friends can be incredibly fulfilling. It’s a meaningful change of pace and can provide a new perspective on life.
Implementing these ideas doesn’t require drastic changes to your routine, but they can significantly impact how you perceive and experience your daily life. Remember, the goal is to introduce variety and joy in small, manageable ways.