Creatives, you need to figure out your 3 core routines
We are far too eager to sacrifice our well-being for the sake of our creative projects. To prevent that, we need to nail down the routines that takes care of us first.
I’ve just spent almost 10 days workationing in Port Dickson and Georgetown, Penang, while trying to honour my ancestors on Tomb Sweeping Day and squeeze in a writer’s retreat at the same time.
I never do anything by halves, not even vacations.
Is it even surprising that I often push aside my well-being for the sake of my many, many work and passion projects? And that burnout is a regular thing for me?
Recently, I got a lot of a-ha moments when I recently listened to Cal Newport’s podcast, Disciplined Laziness.
One aha moment was that I was doing too much. (Well, no duh!)
But while I’ve always known that I was doing too much, I never understood how prevent it. I could never achieve the clarity needed to know when enough is enough.
Cal outlined a very simple framework for me. And this was my second aha moment.
On minute 37 onwards of that podcast, he suggests that we have three core routines:
Health & Fitness (eating and exercise)
Reading (moving away from distractions and to remain focused on complex thoughts). He discussed how in his podcast episode, Joys of the reading life
Community (how to remain connected with friends and family)
The key is to get these routines down to the point until it is “humming in the background”, becoming such a foundation to your life that you do it without thinking. Like brushing your teeth.
Here’s aha moment number three: Once you nail down your core routines, do one major project.
And do only one major project at a time. Once you finish that, start the next one.
This made me chuckle. Remember that writing retreat I just had in Penang? As I spoke of before, I’m having a Depth Year where I’m trying to finish my unfinished projects and read unread books in my library.
As a first step, I listed down all the unfinished short stories I have on my hard disc. The final number made me laugh out loud.
I have 26 unfinished stories.
If I’m to include my novels, it will be 31 unfinished stories.
After listening to the podcast, I totally understand my fear of embarking on major projects now. I am afraid that I’ll end up burned out again.
This makes total sense. Because I never really nailed down my three core routines, I ran the risk of sacrificing my quality of life to my projects. Instinctively, I was protecting myself from getting burned out again by subconsciously stopping myself from starting.
I remember reading about an indie author who let his health slide away completely just to publish on a massive scale to meet Amazon's algorithmic demands. He gained lots of weight and wrecked his back from too much sitting. As a person struggling with these issues right now I definitely do not recommend it.
I'm just like this author, but fortunately not on this extreme level.
I have a "rough" health and fitness, reading and community routine. However, I was never consistent with them because they are "not there" yet. Meaning, the routines, often borrowed from other people, are not a good complement and fit for my personality yet.
My health and fitness routine is getting there, however. I've finally figured out how to cook healthy meals and to use a gym in a consistent way.
But as for reading and community? Barely there yet. I’m still spending too much time on social media and I’m constantly distracted by the things I want to read and watch.
My problem is I have far too many choices and too few boundaries in managing these choices.
My next mission is to finally solidify my three core routines. Once done, I believe I am ready to finish my 31 unfinished writing projects. Stay tuned!
What I’ve written and recorded
For some reason, I find myself afraid to pull the trigger on the domain transfer from Squarespace to WordPress. The hesitation is getting silly, but it is probably my brain’s protective measure against starting a new project as I explained above. I appreciate it, brain, but can we do it by end of April, you think?
But here are the articles I’ve written lately - I’ve been super productive on my blog lately!
Africa Brooke's open letter, "Why I'm leaving the cult of wokeness" gave voice to what many have hidden in their hearts, too afraid to speak up.
Unboxing Onyx’s Boox Leaf 2 eReader
I've had a Nook (Barnes & Noble), and several Kindles and was thinking of getting a Kobo next. But I then discovered Boox. This is part of my effort to move away from using smartphones as a reading device.
Strange Tales of Tang Dynasty – review
Liking Strange Tales of Tang Dynasty as much as I did really surprised me. It wasn't the popular, addictive, idol-driven drama that tends to get a lot of attention, but it delivered solid storylines and performances.
Utterly random episode 3: What it means to be multilingual in Malaysia
In this episode, I talk about why Malaysians are multilingual, how people react to this, and the politics of language in Malaysia. And you get to hear me speak Mandarin, Hokkien, Malay and English.
My misadventures with furniture
The epic saga of me trying to buy living room furniture, pillows, and mattresses that will please my Princess and the Pea fussy body.
I survived a janky hotel in Georgetown
I never wanted to leave a hotel immediately after checking in before but there's a first time for everything. This is my first stay in a janky hotel and not a super great start for my 2023 visit to my hometown.
It's April, and that usually means I'll return "home" to Penang for Cheng Beng or Tomb Sweeping day. Of course, I also take the opportunity to enjoy my time there as well. Here's my travelogue.
Until next time!
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Oh, and I like idea of the 3 routines. I’m sorely in need of prioritising exercise, so this was a good reminder.
Sometimes things aren’t meant to get finished - I tell myself to justify having so many unfinished things haha