Why Rhythm Trumps Routine

Finding Your Rhythm

From this week, or maybe next, life generally returns to normal.

People are back at work, families are getting prepared for the school year ahead, dance enrolments open, swimming classes fill up, as does the calendar, and the year simply rolls on into another version of its former self.

I know many of us resist this return to Life after the holidays. It feels like a drudgery, a constant battle to remain balanced when there is simply too much to do, a reminder that the more relaxed way of life we have been enjoying was merely an interlude. A pause between hectic periods.

Which is kinda depressing, don’t you think?

Instead, we can see this new beginning as an opportunity. Not an opportunity to create an uber-routine of ultra-productivity, but to create rhythm for our homes and the people who live in it.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

Routine. It’s the domain of the successful, the organised, the on-time. It’s what You Should Be Doing. Right?

But do you know what else routine is? It’s restrictive, it’s unfriendly, it’s regimented.

Rhythm, on the other hand, speaks to you. It moves you, it moves with you, it feels good.

You’re right, on the face of it there isn’t much difference between the two. Both help you get things done, both deliver guidelines on what needs to happen and when.

The differences though, are really important. And if you’re looking to create a simpler life with less stress, then…  you gotta have rhythm, baby.

Rhythm Over Routine.

After our daughter was born a few years ago, Ben and I were determined to establish a routine, get her sleeping pattern regulated, and create comfort and predictability for everyone involved.

As it turns out, babies don’t really work like that.

In fact, life doesn’t really work like that.

It took us well over 12 months to learn that routine – a strict, sequential approach to our days – was less than helpful. It made us feel we were failing if we missed a step or fell behind.

Rhythm, however, was a much friendlier notion. It spoke of order, but also flexibility and movement and fluidity. It even sounded friendlier.


Rhythm moves you. You dance to it, find your groove, let go a little, enjoy the moment and see where it takes you.

Routine? Notsomuch.

You march to routine. It’s a steady metronome keeping time. And if you sway, if you linger, if you move out of order or miss a step, then you fail. You’re out of time. You’re lagging behind.

Rhythm allows change and flexibility for different seasons in life. Which is why rhythm wins out over routine every day.

Embracing Rhythm

To embrace this idea, you need to ask yourself some questions about the rhythm you want to create.

You can create a rhythm for your mornings, evenings, weeks, seasons or even holidays, and what it looks and feels like is entirely up to you.

Choose a rhythm and ask yourself:

What are my priorities? Is it exercising before breakfast, or taking the time to eat dinner as a family every night?

What do other people in my home need? Does my husband need time to study? Or perhaps my school-age kids need to pack their bags in the evening?

What feels positive? What makes me feel vital and happy and energetic? Make this a priority.

What can change from the current situation? It’s always possible to get up earlier or go to bed later. Similarly, if there are areas where a lot of time is wasted, this can be shifted elsewhere.

What can’t change – no matter how much I’d like it to? School times, bus and train timetables, meetings and appointments can’t change. Make sure these are taken into account and allow some wiggle-room for the inevitable delay.

Once you’ve answered these questions, take some time to work out your best rhythm. Literally write it down on a piece of paper, establish a sequence and then bring it in to your day.

Once it’s there, you simply let your day unfold around it.

And the best thing? There’s no need to keep up a rapid tempo if it’s the season for a slower tune. Similarly, if you feel the urge for dancing, for growth, for expansion, then up the tempo and dance for your life. Always know that it’s your rhythm and you choose the pace. You choose the moves.


11 Responses to Why Rhythm Trumps Routine

  1. Letting go of routine (oh and workaholic based perfection) has been the biggest challenge of parenthood for me thus far. You are so right, its more important that there is a flexible rhythm to your days / weeks / months that allows you to dance to your own tune and fulfil your own priorities, rather than sticking to regimented (and therefore doomed to fail with small children) routines. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. We agree wholeheartedly! Dr. Rutherford (clinical psychologist and also happens to be my mom) and I were discussing a recent case brought to us and Dr. Rutherford mentioned that being too restrictive with babies’ routines isn’t recommended. All children have their own rhythm and they should develop at their own pace: http://ConversationsWithMyMother.com/why-babies-like-routines/
    Thanks so much for sharing your insight, we’ve seen so many stories recently about how to impose routines for babies as soon as they’re born and it was starting to worry us!

  3. Sticking to a routine has always been immensely challenging for me. The idea of finding a rhythm that works, on the other hand, sounds totally do-able. So glad I stumbled upon this post of yours, Brooke. It makes so much sense to me, and I can’t wait to start figuring out the best rhythm to make my days more efficient.

  4. I REALLY needed to read this today. When I woke up this morning tired, pregnant and feeling blah, all I wanted was to get through my routine. Guess what? My daughter had other ideas, and away we went. I begrudged every second of the day that didn’t go as planned … culminating in a slight easing of tension just now as I read this post. Because you’re so right. Of course, I’m not going to change overnight, but if I could fit my days to a rhythm instead of a routine, perhaps I wouldn’t feel so lost and out of step. After all, if everyone is fed, warm, dry, cared for, what am I really missing? Strange how often I forget that.

  5. Oh Brooke,
    This post has sadly had me in tears as I am routine driven. Sad because I bump my head and fail everyday to succeed within that routine. How freeing it was to read about rhythm! I’d never thought of it like this before but you are so right. I have an almost 7 yr old who fights my routine most days and leaves me tired, teary and feeling like a failure.
    I’ve taken on a motto for this year and it’s “Calm the F*@3 Down”. They are easy words to say but so hard to do. I’m adding rhythm in there too, thank you for opening my eyes to another way of thinking.
    Warm regards

  6. This is brilliant, Brooke! I fight against routine, but always thought it necessary to get things done. I love the perspective of rhythm and flow – This will help me work with my day, instead of trying to force my day into some kind of impossible regimen! Thanks for this!