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My Friend, Routine

I’ve never been in favor of having a routine.

Most of my life I’ve been spur of the moment.  Spontaneity was my friend – and still is.  Not knowing exactly what’s going to happen has always been appealing.

As much as I love being spontaneous, I find that when it comes down to getting stuff done – especially as a cartoonist – it’s not always best.

For many years I found myself just randomly working on my business (cartooning is a business, you know).  It would be days full of me saying, “I think I’ll draw today.  Well, at least for an hour.  Then I might do some marketing or something.  And possibly, if I get bored, I can color pictures.  And then order pizza.  Mmm….pizza.”

No plan.  Nothing.  Just the what do I feel like doing today lifestyle.

So yeah, it wasn’t a grandiose plan.

I’ve learned that – especially as an artist – I HAVE to have a routine.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but some routine to keep me grounded.  Otherwise, I will just order pizza and not get much done.

One thing that I’ve taught myself is to start small.

I started by just writing things down in a day planner.  Yes, I still write it down.  I think it’s more effective then just typing it on my iPhone or MacBook.  Below’s the cheap day planner I’m currently using for this year.

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It’s not a huge effort to just jot down what I want – or need – to get done.  And you know what?  I tend to actually DO the things I wrote.  Not always…but I’m usually pretty close.  And if I miss a beat, I can typically pick it up the next day and complete whatever it is.

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Above:  Examples of stuff to get done for a day.  My coffee machine was broke at the beginning of the month, so you can see that getting coffee is top priority during this time.

So, that small routine of just writing down what I need to do isn’t massive.  But, I think it was big because it led to bigger things.

Altering my routine is a great thing to keep in perspective, too.  Just because you start a routine up doesn’t mean you CAN’T change it.  Adjust it a bit or scrap-it if it’s not something worth doing.  An example of an area I’ve had to change is my book reading habit.  My daughter now enjoys going to bed about the same time I typically start to read, so it’s been cut short by about a half hour or so.  But, it’s okay.  I still get through the books.  It just takes a little longer (and it’s kind of beneficial when you hear what time I’ve been waking up nowadays).

A lot of my daily routines consists of writing, marketing and reading.

You’ll notice drawing isn’t in there.  When it comes to physically drawing things, I don’t mind not doing it everyday.  It gives my hands a chance to chill out and I tend to do better after a little more time off from cranking out off-the-wall cartoons and illustrations (or whatever they may be).

Working out and going to the gym isn’t on there either.  For a lot of people it would be, but not me.  I tried for awhile.  And I don’t make it regularly because it’s not a top priority right now.  I try to get to the gym a couple times a week – and I’m happy with that.  It’s weird but I think I feel better doing that then I did when I went all the time.  Is it healthier?  Eh, who knows.  But it works for me and my schedule.

One of the routines that I recently have added about three months ago has been to wake up at 5:30 AM.

I highly recommend it.  And that’s coming from a night owl (this guy).

Mornings are a golden opportunity for me to get a lot of odds-and-ends worked on (especially with a nine-month old at home).  Often it’s coloring cartoons, marketing or something else.  Doing this also can get me on the drawing board as early as 7 AM on days when I do draw.

With routine, I’ve found I really have to fine-tune it to suit my needs.  Kind of like altering them, but more specific.

An example of this is my writing.  I used to think my writing was best done in the mornings.  However, about six months ago or so, I’ve found I’m much more solid at it in the afternoons – around 3 PM or so.  Also, instead of writing on the couch, I’ve changed it to my bed.  I write the best in bed.  At three in the afternoon.  Crazy?  Sounds like it, but hey – it works.  If you’re a client, yes, that work you paid me for was probably created mostly on pillows.

One other note about routine is this:  I don’t beat myself up if I’m not perfect at it.

You bet there are days I sleep in past 5:30.  Of course I don’t always make the gym a couple times a week.  And surely you don’t think I drink coffee everyday (actually, well….yeah.).

I do my best.  And as long as I know I’m doing what I can, it works for me.

Routine has also made me realize that you can eliminate the excuse of “not enough time” for things also.  There is time.  Though I don’t want to think about it, if I had to, I would wake up at 4:30 AM if I really needed that extra hour.  Of course, that might add a few more bags under the eyes, but hey – I’ll do what I must.

And spontaneity?  I’m still as spontaneous as ever.  I’m just more spontanious in other parts of my work where I should be.  Especially with my drawing.  It’s another reason I love to draw by hand still because I become very spontaneous with that (and my writing).

There are some things I probably will never be a fan of; like soccer, mushrooms and those lousy Friends reruns.  However, routine and I have quite the bromance going on now.  I’ve become a fan of it.  And spontaneity can hang out, too.