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The Choice Is Yours

You can get with this. Or you can get with that. Welcome to The Routine.

Chidi Afulezi
Chidi Afulezi
3 min read
The Choice Is Yours
Photo by Danielle MacInnes / Unsplash

I dragged the clan up to the mountains of North Georgia this week...even mental jiu-jitsu'ed my sister to join us from Virginia. So, I am sitting here on the porch of a freaking log cabin at the top of Mount Yonah in the awesomely named Sautee Nacoochee (with my machete 'cos I watch too many movies), doing some reading with the majestic peaks of the Blue Ridge mountains staring down at me, and of course I had to drop a Fashi.

The conductor of my morning orchestra today is the chapter "Build A Routine" from the book Stillness Is The Key. I chew thru this book on a regular—after the first read, I've come back to the chapters in random order, like a textbook and reference book. If you see annotation and underlignment, eh? So...I am just figured I go off on a mini mind bender courtesy of some key thought provokers that put a chokehold on my mental establishments.

Welcome to The Routine.  

  • First, routine is ritual: For real. Both good and bad. Getting up, drinking some water, getting your physical and/or mental workout in, making your bed, mapping out your day. Or buckling in for the infinite scroll on the device first or last thing, getting lost in email hell every morning, turning on the spigot of anxious thoughts about the future, or agonizing and time chewing over what to wear so you can kill dem with the backside. It goes both ways—good routine brings order to your life. And bad routine is a serious disorder bringer too.
  • Order is a pre-requisite for excellence: Nna eh? This really hit me. I also read Atomic Habits, a book with nothing but brutal truth bombs galore, and I started building some serious routines and habits, because why not. It worked o. There was order. And I tell you, I was rolling. Maybe not excellence per se, but I did find residency in the zone. The self discipline reduced the wahala, the chaos, the complacency...things I had no patience for in the first place. But of course the devil won't let a brother shine. Temptations aplenty, and there is always the fall off...but dust on, dust off. Pick up and start all over. A friend of mine takes a nap in her office from 1-2pm. Without fail. Yes, she is a player. And I dare you to mess with her nap. Go ahead.
  • Ritual helps us to settle down: Especially when okwe hits the table, as in when the $*** hits the fan. I love this section from the chapter: Most people wake up to face the day as an endless barrage of bewildering and overwhelming choices, one right after another. What do I wear? What should I eat? What should I do first? What should I do after that? What sort of work should I do? Should I scramble to address this problem or rush to put out this fire?  I call this The Spiral. That swirl of thoughting and thinkering that literally spins you around in circles, the to-do list of ganja smoking demons. I  no gree o. The antedote is to make rituals, habits, routine your allies in all this hectiness. Get unspun.
  • Automation is your secret weapon: Routine that becomes ritual is automatic, like your own personal AI running Facebook level algorithms that keep you in check and on point. The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automation, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work. Develop your own ritual code, design your routine YouI/YouX, press execute and let the process do what it do. Just like Steve Jobs with the blue jeans and black turtleneck uniform, or Charles Ofili's byzantine painting warmup routine, automating the trivial and routinizing the good parts of life, gives us the space to do the kickass work.
  • And then, limit the number of choices you need to make each day: I don't play with this, my people. At all. This part probably prompts an eye roll or two from The Chief or The One Not To Be Named aka Zain, but I am adamant that just because there are many things to do, doesn't mean I have to do them. After all, am, are people going to die if we don't do it now or then? Ok, then. So I put mad limits on my choices. Automate the trivial, routinize the good, and obsessively avoid The Spiral, that nefarious black hole of anxiety that comes from trying to do everything, with timelines and deadlines and hard stops. In fact I don't do to-do lists, I use the Ivy Lee method to run my day: six things to do, and only those six. And...I didn't say all six will get done, let the code run and we'll see what pops.

You say tomato, I say automate.

There's this hook from this song that haunts me every time I hear it or it pops in the brain:

Poor man dey suffer. Monkey dey work. Baboon dey chop.

I suspect each one has their rituals that has them where they are. Your rituals? The choice is yours.