Change Up Routines: Four Ideas to Try on This Fall



The transition from summer to fall shows up more than on calendars.  Maybe it starts with how we remember this transition from childhood. Lazy mornings replaced with out the door blitzes, meandering road trips replaced with weekly/monthly planners, beach reads replaced by term papers.

Even though it seems that lazy summers are more of a fixture of memory instead of current reality, the calendar change to September 1 still sends a message: Routine Returns. This fact in itself isn’t the problem. The problem is that I put on the same old routines every fall like old sweaters, even the ones that don’t fit anymore.

I was jolted into this awareness as a result of a terrific little book: Manage Your Day to Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind by 99u. It’s full brief but valuable ideas from creative thinkers I admire: Seth Godin, Leo Babauta, Tony Schwatrz among many others.  Started to read it on the bike at the gym and got so excited that I thought Hop off and go do this stuff…RIGHT NOW!

My “ah-ha” was not that routines don’t support creativity – to the contrary, routines are critical – but I become stuck in them. I have to find the routines that work for me now, not get back to the old ones that no longer work. It’s like the old pair of jeans I finally gave away last weekend. Stop trying to imagine someday they’ll fit again and move on to something that does.

Four Ideas to Try On

Next week, when September 1 hits, I am ready with new shoes and new routines. Like these:

1.     Great Work Before Anything Else. Do my most important work early in the day when I am fresh and save responsive work for lower energy times. No more starting the day with Gmail then finding two hours of my best energy slip by. My satisfaction comes from a sense of accomplishment, not an empty inbox.

2.     Show Up, Inspired Or Not.  Stop waiting for the right time, right mood, and right place. No more self talks of run this errand, read this blog, check out Amazon and then I’ll be ready. See Gmail lesson above. Promise myself 15  good, focused minutes on a task before I quit (and I probably won’t.)

 3.     Work On My Biggest Priorities Every Day. Calendar time every workday for the projects most important to me. Stop putting my most important goals last, when I have “time” to work on them. Even as little as 30 good minutes on a key goal every day gives me the psychological prize of progress.

 4.     Work With Intention. For me, working intention is the easiest to understand and the hardest to do. Repurpose the hope of wandering into something to focus on my purpose. This means when I research, stick to what I need, not what’s interesting. In a conversation about someone else, stick to the “someone else.” Every activity starts with a purpose or doesn’t start at all.

What About You?

This fall, these are the new or recycled routines that will help me to be more focused, productive and satisfied with my effort.  But what works for me may not work for you. So what about you? What routines will you need to put away with the shorts and flip-flops? What can you try on in their place?


99u by behance (2013). Manage Your Day to Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind.

Check out the website for really cool ideas on creativity and productivity:



Someone Exactly Like You



Today is our 18th wedding anniversary. I could write so much about the wonderful person who is my life partner; I’ll stick with the essay below. I wrote it a few years ago after a sudden and scary illness caused my hospitalization to help me remember what “in sickness and in health” means.

I spent the decades of my twenties and thirties in a search for “The One.”  My pattern was to choose potential partners who didn’t see me in their future, and then invest my effort, energy and self esteem in convincing them to view me differently. I came to believe that my God was a Woman when She intervened on behalf of my better judgment. These relationships now only have the shelf life of lessons learned.

“The One” entered my life. He was so true to my list it was almost like he was a design from central casting. And, he was into me. He was so perfect that I didn’t see it immediately.  This time, She and a good friend intervened when I was ready to bolt.  I stuck with the relationship that stuck.

Even though I described myself as “winning the spouse lottery,” I took note of grievances and annoyances over the years. Maybe I noticed the small things missing because the big important things were already there. In the unconscious routine of normal life, I invested more in my list of grievances and annoyances than they merited.

We were married for 16 years when “The Monster” struck.  Our last conversation before he left for work on that President’s Day weekend ended with his anticipation about the welcome respite of a rare day off. Our first conversation on his arrival home that same evening started with “Let’s call your doctor.” Instead of the respite of promised of a holiday weekend, The Monster took him for a ride, too.

“The One” was never far from my side in the hospital. He snuck in contraband lemon ice after he noticed that it was the only thing I’d eat from the meal tray. He presented every variety of tea he could find so “I’d have a choice.” He arrived at my bedside with care packages of little necessities he thought would make me more comfortable. He brought my favorite pillow from home.  He held my hand when needed. He hugged when needed. When I was searching for “The One,” someone expressed hope that I’d marry someone who would help me with my bedpan, because in the end that’s what commitment might come down to.  I know for a fact that I did.

Wise people remind us that our prayers are always answered, just not in the way we expect. Today, I thank God that She knew better when I sent up my desperate devotionals during my single years.  The right ”One” did come along. Occasional storms, like The Monster, remind me that I am lucky enough to love the best person I know.

Happy Anniversary, Peter.


Learning From a Big Baby


First steps with grandmother

What would you say to this little guy working on early steps? Would you say?:

1. What makes you think you can do this?

2. Aren’t you worried that you’ll look stupid?

3. This looks hard. Going to be awhile before you’re good at it.

4. How long are you willing to need help? Isn’t it embarrassing?

5. What if you fall down? What if it hurts?

6. Walking isn’t all that important. Stick with crawling.

Nope. Don’t think you’d say any of this.  Besides,  given his smile, don’t think he’d listen. He’s having too much fun on this risky venture.

So, what are you saying to yourself about the wobbly new steps you need to take to move ahead?