Opinions, Column

Routine: It’s Not As It Seems

A typical day in my life consists of waking up at 6 a.m., going to the gym, and heading to the library for a productive start to the day. You might read this and think, “She must have her life together, or she must be very miserable.” 

Both of these notions are wrong. 

For one, I don’t ever feel like my life is together, regardless of if I’m turning in assignments on time, getting decent grades, or working out regularly. In fact, even if I’m meeting my deadlines, I often think I could be doing better or should be doing more. So what if I’m on track with my studies? I should be more active in my extracurricular activities or apply to more internships to secure a commendable summer plan. 

Everything might be going right, and yet it feels so wrong. 

I would not, however, say I’m miserable. I admire my discipline, and I’m glad I can set a plan and follow through with it. My strict schedule prevents me from feeling impatient with myself if my plans are derailed—I prioritize assignments that are due first so that I have a blueprint if anything needs to be altered. Besides, what student doesn’t want to meet their deadlines and be healthy? 

When I think about my routine, I think of the YouTubers or TikTok influencers that show off their peaceful, productive daily routines. I, like others, have attempted to emulate them. Unfortunately, I’ve failed. 

My morning routine is not as calming as theirs. It actually starts with me sprinting to the alarm clock, followed by a speedy change in clothes, and then I do my hair to contain my flyaways. The start of my day really does set the tone for the rest of my day. I look at my Google Calendar, where each slot of time is filled with assignments, meetings, and meals for the day. My brain is go, go, go from the moment I wake until I enter my REM sleep. I am productive, but at what cost? 

The controlling quality within me is satisfied by checking things off the to-do list. But, another part of me is always anxious, not ready for something unexpected to be thrown at me. It’s not sustainable for anyone to live by a rigid plan. I know it’s hard to grapple with that fact, especially when everyone wants the perfect fix to attain the productive, well-rounded college experience. At least, it hasn’t been sustainable for me to abide by a clear-cut, color-coded calendar, just like it most likely won’t be for you. 

We frequently imagine that being productive means getting up at 6 a.m., going to the gym five times a week, and working for four-hour blocks, but this is not the reality. We’re talking about a lifestyle—the way you’ll be living day to day. Your life should not be about checking tasks off all the time. Most people need room to breathe, spend time with friends, and be spontaneous. Robotic, stressful, and copy-and-paste daily routines won’t satisfy those needs. 

In a perfect world, we’d be able to set our own pace and thrive on our own terms. For better or worse, though, we live in a world where productivity is praised and meeting deadlines is necessary. Yes, organization is important, but your daily routine shouldn’t be molded into the mainstream idea of what productivity looks like. Your daily routines become your lifestyle so it’s worth striving toward a routine that brings you peace and flexibility. 

April 23, 2023