Routine vs. spontaneity: which is better for balance?

A friend asked about balance: how can you ensure that you have some balance in your life?

Does balance come from having habits and routines, or does it come from spontaneously doing what you think you need or want in the moment?

And: Is balance cyclical? For example, are there times when you’re focusing on your work, then times when you focus on your health, then times when you focus on your family, et cetera?

For me, this is a tricky subject.

See, I have more routines than most people. I like to work in the same café for roughly the same amount of time most days. I head to the climbing gym most Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. I write daily. I meditate daily. I stretch daily. (It’s always the same stretching routine, too.) These are just some examples.

Why do I do this? I started many of my daily habits when I was in the middle of burnout and when I was not capable of feeling my way into balance. By that I mean: I didn’t know whether I needed a break from work or whether I could keep going a while and continue to feel good.

As I recovered and as my stress level has dropped, I started to trust myself to implement balance. This is why, the other day, I recommended that you experiment with taking breaks when you run out of steam. It can be a great way to function.

That said, there are some things I simply will not skip, such as my daily “big three” (writing, stretching, and meditating).

I notice a pattern in my behavior: I discover something and it seems really cool. I get excited—I want to try it out! I want to learn more about it. And I want to pour lots of energy in it, at the expense of other things. So that could look like thinking and talking mostly about this one thing for a week or two.

(To give you an example: a few months ago I discovered that Formula 1 racing can be quite interesting if you learn a bit about the strategy. So I spent a few weeks immersing myself in how Formula 1 races work, which drivers are the best, which strategies teams might use on race day, etc.)

I don’t let myself focus that narrowly very often, though—mostly to protect myself. It’s easy to get carried away with spending lots of time on a new and shiny thing (such as Formula 1, in my case) or on an area of life you feel like you’ve neglected (it could be seeing your friends, for example).

But I am not always capable of making the best long-term decision for myself in the moment, so I lean on routines and habits to take care of long-term Peter.

Is the same true for you?

Yours,

— Peter

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