The Joy Of Routine

faceless clock

Thanks, Julianne Moore. Why? For a little phrase she quoted in an interview with a Sunday supplement recently, which really helped put my daily life back on track. Actually, it sounds a lot less poncy to quote a Hollywood actress than a French author – but in truth, the quote belongs to Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary, etc.) It reads: ‘Be regular and ordinary in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.’

Now, what Gustave/Julianne mean isn’t actual violence as in thumping your colleagues, of course. It means creativity, inspiration, spark. And what this reminded me of is how hard it is to tap into that when your life’s in disarray and chaos. So I promptly printed this out, pinned it to my office wall – and even Instagrammed it. (@jofairley, if you’re interested. Got lots of likes, it did, too.)

I’ve long appreciated that routine is a wonderful framework for life. On the two occasions in my past when I’ve been can’t-budge-off-the-sofa depressed – proper depressed, not just ‘down’ – it was routine itself that got me back on track. I realised I needed a framework to my day. Which meant getting up at exactly the same time. Eating my meals at the same time. (Sometimes eating exactly the SAME meals at the SAME time.) Going for a walk at the same time, too (when I got to the point I could get off the sofa, that is – but that didn’t take that long once I’d established a routine elsewhere in my befuddled life). And what I found, magically, was that once those ‘bones’ of my day were in place, the world felt less scary and somehow ‘untethered’ – and I slowly recovered.

Well, I haven’t been depressed lately – but that quote reminded me that when I have a real, pretty unchanging routine in my life, it frees up a lot of headspace to be creative. So, as summer segue-ed into autumn – always a great time for fresh starts – I got back into some good habits and re-established a routine that’s working well for me. That’s really the key: whatever the routine is, its got to work for you – and no two of us are the same. But nevertheless, in case it gives you some pointers, here’s what works for me…

Setting my alarm for the same time every day. I like to be an early bird, a ‘lark’ – which means 6.30 a.m. Sometimes I’m awake before that, but at 6.30, the kettle goes on and I put my Rare Tea Speedy Breakfast blend on to brew. (Just the best kickstart to a morning I can think of, from a company started by a dear friend, Henrietta Lovell.)

Meditating with Headspace for ten minutes while the tea brews. I just completed the Headspace ‘kindness’ module – because of course the world needs much, much more kindness. Even if you’ve only three minutes, I cannot recommend Headspace too highly (read my earlier column about it here) – they’ve now introduced a ‘Meditation of the Day’ which lasts just 180 seconds, on a different subject daily. (A bit like a Snapchat, it disappears when the day’s over. Genius.)

Zooshing up a morning smoothie. Basically, a session with my trusty Nutribullet to get my digestive juices going, whizzing up various green powders such as Aduna Moringa Green Superleaf Powder, spirulina, etc., with Bonsoy soya milk and whatever fruit (and sometimes greens) are to hand – blueberries always, but also frozen mulberries and raspberries from my garden. Cucumber, often. (Celery? Never!!! And it’s not like I haven’t tried.)

Organising my vitamins and taking them with the smoothie. Hot tip: best vitamin organisers around if you take a lot of supplements – as I do – are the Muji portable soap cases. They’re capacious enough to hold everything on my Shabir-prescribed regime, which includes Magnolia Rhodiola, Bone Builder, HA, CoQ10, Vitamin D and more. I know this sounds obsessive but I actually invested in 28 of them so I can dole out almost a month’s worth of vitamins in one time-saving session. It means I never miss them because I’m ‘too busy’ to mete out a daily ration.

Getting my steps. I aim for 10,000 a day – though interestingly, I find this harder to achieve when I’m at home (with shops handy) than when I have a day in London, where I walk everywhere from A to B and can easily notch up 15,000 or more. So as an incentive, I like to deliberately cut it fine to get to our neighbourhood health food shop (a brisk 25-minute walk away), by leaving at 5 p.m. and speed-walking down there to pick up something for dinner. Cooking it – later in the evening – is part of my day’s structure, too: a wonderful way to decompress at the end of a working day. (I vowed when Donald Trump got in that I was going to spend the next four years in my kitchen – where I felt truly safe! – nourishing the family. And so far, general feedback is that I’m doing better in the job than Donald.)

Tidying my desk before I leave for the evening. When I line up my papers, pens (and of course the endless chargers we need for modern life), I’m also organising my thoughts and plans for the next day. (Call me a little bit OCD. I don’t care.) I swear by so-stylish Kikki K stationery for list-making (as well as the Wunderlist on my phone, of course ­– more of that here), and make a fresh list for the day before I leave. I may be desperate to get away from the coalface/typeface by the time my day ends – but if I arrive at a cluttered, untidy desk next morning, that’s exactly how my head feels for the first few hours.

Imagining the day swirling down the plughole when I complete my beauty regime. This is a tip I got years ago – can’t even remember who from – but it’s great to imagine the cares and woes and stresses of the past 12 hours of so disappearing when I cleanse, serum and moisturise. Of course, most of us do have a beauty routine – it’s one area of life where we readily embrace ritual – but I’ve a hunch that the structure it gives to pre-bedtime is an essential part of the wind-down process before sleep.

Getting my clothes ready for next day, after checking Meteo Earth for the weather forecast. I honestly don’t want to have to give a minute’s though to this next morning, so I lay them all out, with accessories and underwear. Job done.

Spritzing my pillow with Deep Sleep+. Honestly, if I don’t do it, I can’t sleep properly. I’ve no idea if it’s the essential oils or the routine – and frankly, care less.

All of which might sound pretty basic. But in terms of reducing stress, making me feel like I know what I’m doing (and when) – and thus freeing up lots of brainspace to be creative – I’m enjoying every calmer moment. And as for thinking that routine is dull…? Are flashes of inspiration, Duracell-bunny levels of energy and flowing creative juices boring…?

Gustave Flaubert – and #girlcrush Julianne Moore – I hope you’d be proud of me.

Beauty Tips |
  • Annie

    Thanks for this article, it’s true that we feel much more ‘untethered’ and the world feels less scary when we have a regular routine. I love all that you suggested. I always say to clients staying consistent is the key to success with everything in life. If we are learning to play the piano or drive a car infrequent sessions wouldnt bring desired results. Honouring our time and our days also helps us raise our self esteem.