Routine and non-routine – both can be good and bad

Mon 13 – Sun 19 Sept 2021

It’s quite easy to assume that routine is a bad thing. That it signifies being caught in a rut and doing things because they have always been done that way. Yet on the other hand, that a break from routine is inherently good. Escaping drudgery and being ‘free’. It’s sort of linked to the prevalence of the concept of ‘freedom’ I wrote about in last week’s blog – read it here.

But that is a too simplistic way of looking at life. Routine can give us reassurance and be the most efficient use of our busy time. Indeed, routine can also reinforce positive behaviour. And yes, non-routine can also mean wasted time and drifting into negative behaviour.

Certainly on Sunday, during the day, it was all about important routine things like time with mum, a long walk, sorting out stuff for the charity shop, coffee, and reading. But then in the evening me and Dave spontaneously went out for dinner and drinks. We got back to his flat and I went to bed at just 9 pm crashing out in a lovely sleep. Not my normal Sunday night spent watching Antiques Roadshow.

I have realised my existence consists of both routine and non-routine which is good and bad. Like so many things in life it’s fundamentally simple and complex at the same time.

Routine and non-routine


Not a good week. I have created a positive routine where I try to cut-down / semi-starve on days I am not working. I have realised that I can’t try to skip food when I am working as I often eat based on stress. But this beneficial routine went a bit to pot last week. Not least as I just had some days where I went completely off routine and dramatically over-ate. This included eating-out 4 evenings last week and, each time, basically consuming more calories than I should have.

And on Thurs, I met my old mate Philip (Phyllis) for lunch out. Don’t normally eat much for lunch. And when I do, I should eat less in the evening as compensation. But, for some reason that night, I just felt hungry and ate too much again. It is that thing about over-eating being in your head and trying to work out why you do it.

Result was not even getting near to losing weight last week. Definitely not helped by some disruption also of my routine of long walks. Indeed, pretty sure I put weight on. So I am writing off last week, not even recording the amount I weighed, and going to try to get back to winning ways. Nothing to see here, move on.

lose weight now

Two brilliant books

I love my routine of reading. Indeed, I also wrote in last week’s blog (read it here) about the joy of having the freedom to read whatever you want unlike in medieval nations like North Korea, Russia, and Iran. And my routine is particularly reading my ‘real’ paper bound book whilst having a coffee and in bed at night before I go to sleep. Combined with a routine of reading my ‘unreal’ kindle book as I am doing some of my long walks.

‘The Mirror and the Light’ by Hilary Mantel

This is my current ‘real’ reading book. I said last week how good it is and that has continued. A colleague was saying how she doesn’t really like Mantel’s books as she gets lost in them. I know what she means. This one benefits from a very long list over several pages of all the characters. And I keep needing to refer to this list.

But when I am reading Mantel, I feel like she has cast a spell on me. That I am caught in an enchantment. This book oozes with court intrigue and very real characters facing very real dilemmas. You are even left with a sort of sympathy for the monster that was Henry VIII. Brilliant book but I’m still not even halfway through as it is so long.

‘Exhalation’ by Ted Chiang

Suppose this is my ‘unreal’ reading book as it exists on my kindle. A collection of short stories by this wonderful American sci-fi writer. None of them are routine – they crackle with ideas and originality. I’m about halfway through and engrossed in a very good long short story about how ‘real’ software-based life-forms can be.

Personal development – my good routine

I am really pleased that I have created a good routine around this. Basically, when I get up in the morning and before I shower, I do a Duolingo lesson in German and Spanish. I’ve also added a Mimo lesson in coding. Each lesson is only about 5-10 mins long but this routine means I make sure they happen and get them done.

the learning routine

Art and culture

The Old Grey Whistle Test

Fri evening and Dave did something very routine, he went to the theatre. TBH, I’m not a great theatre fan. It just doesn’t do anything for me but my Dave loves it. So while he was there, I stayed over at his place watching the soaps. If theatre is his routine then the soaps are mine.

But where I went out of routine was to stay up and watch a special on BBC Four all about The Old Grey Whistle Test. Meant I stayed up late till Dave finally got back. Me staying up very late, even at weekends, is not routine. But it was great. I love TOGWT remembering it in the 70s and 80s with loads of great music. Brilliant to see the musicians and feel the emotions of that challenging and exciting show.


A complete routine that comes around every Sept and I love it. Cheesy and it gets a bit dull in the middle of the series but always a welcome addition to the oncoming seasons of autumn and winter. First programme on Saturday and the fun one when they pair up celebs and dancers. Not as good as the first lots of actual dancing where the really crap celebs make themselves known.


Our routines are destroying the planet. We over-indulge and waste as a matter of routine. Which means forests are cut down, wildlife destroyed, landfills filled up, and the temperature rises. Non-routine is going to save the planet as well as new routines that help the planet.

I carry on looking after my plants and spending time in nature. I also like to potter around the charity shops but I must stop falling into the routine of buying stuff for the sake of it and because ‘it’s for charity’. But I have developed my beneficial routine of trying to offload stuff and live with less.

Close up of nature

A hard lesson at the Exchange

Went to the Notting Hill Exchange on Tues with a load of DVDs to exchange. Turns out that they are inundated with these at the moment. There is a new routine of people having a big clear-out post-lockdown. And the main things people are getting rid of is DVDs and CDs. So literally a massive pile of DVDs that I must have spent around £250 on (at least) and I got just £5 worth of exchange vouchers.

The routine of work

There can be no doubt that work is a routine. We do it because we have to. And hopefully in doing so we also enjoy it and get a sense of fulfilment. Thankfully this is true for me in my current role. I am advancing the Tech for Good agenda – getting not-for-profit organisations better in their use of digital for the benefit of those most in-need.

And I am learning so much in particular about the nuts and bolts of running tech projects. On my own last week as my colleague Jeantine was on a well-deserved refuelling break. And my focus was in getting the teams in place to do our first of three Discovery projects and the big Delivery project. More details soon.

Also tuned into last week’s big Responsible Tech summit. Good but heavy going not least because of the times it hit the UK, 3.30-10.30 pm. Definitely need to re-watch some of the sessions once the recordings are released.

Routine and non-routine in the future

But, as I have alluded to previously, I am thinking longer term about the future when I will cease having the routine of work. One day (and it’s certainly not imminent), I am going to stop working to live on my pension and savings possibly also doing a bit of paid work to supplement. I am determined not to get into a routine of working simply because of a pressure to do so. I want to make sure I have time to enjoy life as non-routine before I die.

“Reality is something you rise above.”

Liza Minnelli

Indeed, I have a sort of plan for when I ‘retire’ to do something that is both non-routine and routine. The non-routine will be to not just stay in this country. A new routine of regularly spending prolonged periods abroad. But with a non-routine of travelling and living as well for the environment as possible. So journeys that are slow but as important as arriving at the destination.

outside a street cafe at night

Family and friends


Spent time with mum which is clearly part of my regular weekly routine. But it reassures her and it’s that thing about quality time with older people whilst they are well. Because one day they won’t be there – as will none of us. Though her moaning can do my nut in. Pretty sure I get on her nerves as well at times. As she says, ‘Kids – you get worse as you get older’.


So she’s out of quarantine and unleashed on Soho. Met him on Old Compton Street where he is holding court. Philip seems to know every Muscle Mary in London. A lovely lunch chatting about life in general and what we are going to do in the future. Indeed, I’m in Torremolinos with him for nearly a fortnight end of October and early November.


Great to catch up with my old Tech for Good mate Joe. You can find out more about him on his website Not only do we share a passion for TfG but also for looking after the environment. Though Joe is doing more practically than me. Unfortunately he has had a very non-routine summer but he’s dealt with it admirably.

The Week Ahead

  • Really want to get back into my good routine on eating and losing weight
  • That includes getting back into lots of long walks to burn calories and help my mental health
  • Some developmental work meetings
  • Got to to do an all-staff presentation on Tues which is making me a wee bit nervous
  • London Tech For Good meet-up Mon evening which I hope to make
  • Some non-routine stuff including a couple of catch-ups with friends I haven’t seen for quite a while – Matt and Zoe
  • And a trip with Dave to the theatre on Friday to see a play about the legendary comedy actress Yootha Joyce
  • Not sure I will manage to finish either of the Mantel or Chiang books next week but we will see
  • Definitely try to continue my rewarding personal development routine
  • Carry on with my battle to live more sustainably and help save the planet
  • Hopefully QPR can get back to winning ways after a week of 2 lost games – come on Rangers, stop fucking it up!
QPR old skool

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.