The importance of routine
I finished reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits a couple nights ago, and I knew as soon as I read the first couple pages that it was going to have a profound effect on my family and I. Before I do a full review on it, I wanted to detail the current schedule that we’re trying to stick to around the house.
4-7AM: Wake up. I don’t use an alarm, and my body’s yet to settle into a consistent schedule. Six seems to be the sweet spot, but five would probably be ideal. I get out of bed, use the bathroom and take my pills and supplements. Currently niacin, magnesium, lysine, plus my statin and a baby asprin. I go downstairs, set two cups of water in the microwave for my tea, and do a set of squats and pushups while I wait. The tea goes in my thermal insulated mug, to cool down while I meditate for twenty minutes. Then I sit down to write.
If I’m lucky I can get a good deal of writing done before the girls wake up. They have a routine also. After waking up, they’re supposed to get dressed and brush their teeth. Breakfast, and then it’s their responsibility to empty and load the dishwasher. I do all the plates and cups that go up high, but I expect them to straighten up the breakfast dishes, and make sure their bathroom and bedrooms are tidy. I’ve been using the Rooster app to reinforce this with what I call DadPoints.
8AM: Work starts. Coffee. My wife has to sign on to her WFH at eight, and I’ve got a scrum call with the Zombie team at nine. To keep the kids out of my hair during this call I give them their first of two hours or television from eight thirty to nine thirty, when the markets open. I check my value average targets, and then (try) to keep working through till lunch. The kids have a snack at ten, then a half hour of outside play, or some sort of activity video if it’s raining. They like the GoNoodle app, and Younger likes the Cosmic Kids yoga videos. They have free time the rest of the morning.
11AM-Noon: I intermittent fast, and usually have the same lunch every day: some sort of chicken sandwich wrap with a cup of nuts. I do a set of pushups before I eat. Usually I make lunch for the kids at the same time, PB&J or grilled cheese with ramen or whatever leftover vegetables we’ve got in the fridge. Missus take a break at noon, and I usually take some time to get away from the kids for a few minutes while she takes over for a bit. I usually try to spend twenty minutes at the piano, running through whatever piece I’m working on at the time.
1-3PM: Everyone is back to work, including the girls. School begins. Elder does her homework before her one thirty Zoom call. I run through alphabet flash cards with Younger and help her with Khans Kids before turning her loose to watch PBS Kids. I’m usually done with whatever I’ve got to do for Zombie and turn my attention to whatever tasks I’ve got for my various consults. Or I check LinkedIn for whatever jobs I can find. Sometimes I’ll watch a show with the girls if they’ve been good and I’ll reward them with some extra TV time. They get their second hour of day at three.
4-7:30PM: I do most of the cooking, and most times dinner is from scratch. I try to have things ready by five or five thirty, then cleanup takes us to six thirty, when we give the girls their melatonin. I normally do the pots and pans and rest of the hand wash, I’ve been training the girls to clear and wipe down the table and chairs, and how to sweep the floor. Missus usually supervises their bath and getting ready for bed. We spend an hour talking or reading in the bed, snuggling the girls, and they’re usually out by seven thirty.
8-10PM: I spend the last part of the night working on whatever else I can do on the computer, whether it’s coding, doing tasks for a consult, or writing a cover letter for a job application. I might watch Last Week Tonight or a couple episodes of Silicon Valley with Missus if she’s up, but I usually avoid spending too much time watching the boob tube unless I’m really drained.
10-11PM: Screens are off. I make an exception for reading books on the iPad, but my phone is kept downstairs, out of the bedroom. I do a set of pushups, brush my teeth, take a melatonin, and read until I start to feel tired. Right now I’ve got Elegant Python, on the iPad which I read for about 20 minutes, then put the iPad away and finish up with whatever book I’m working through. The past two weeks I’ve read Freakanomics, Siddartha, and Atomic Habits. Next on my list is Designing Your Life.
Lights are out by eleven. Rinse, repeat.
So that’s the ideal that I try to stick to these days, the general template for it, anyways. There’s a lot left out, obviously, and a lot changes based on circumstances of scheduling and whatever else needs to be done out of the ordinary, like ordering groceries or whatever. I didn’t write about the weekend, but I’ll say that one major change that I’ve made has been to keep my sleep schedule the same. No more staying up till two AM drinking and playing video games. It throws the next morning off, which eventually bleeds into Monday. It’s just better if I maintain the same wake up time. As I said, my body is still struggling to adjust to waking up at a consistent time.
I also need to figure out when to fit in proper exercise time. Since I’ve already prioritized my mornings for writing, I’ll have to figure out how to fit it in. I was doing it at four in the afternoon, but that tends to run into dinner preparation. I just need to keep getting to bed on time and figure out where I can fit it in. The sets of push ups that I scatter through the day are the least I can do, and the kids usually wind up getting my heart rate up when they want me to horseplay or have a dance party with them.
The kids are obviously the biggest challenge, since so much of the day I’ve got them doing free play. They’re pretty good most times, but when the get bored, or start fighting, I’m the one that gets pulled away from whatever I’m doing to deal with it. That aside, I think I’ve got a pretty powerful routine that allows me to accomplish a lot, even if it’s not as much as I would like to. And helping the kids establish good habits is important also, not just for their future success, but also to help take some of the load off of my wife and I. Sure, sometimes it’s just easier to do a chore for them, but when Elder starts doing the things she’s supposed to without being prompted, it’s beautiful.