I interviewed hundreds of people in search of the perfect routine. I realised there isn’t one

In our pursuit of improvement, we’re often told consistency is key. But obsessing over productivity means ignoring how our days vary – and how we vary within them

In our culture that places productivity on a pedestal, an optimised routine has been sold as the salve to all kinds of dilemmas. Lost your job? Stick to your routine. Experiencing anxiety, depression, or grief? Find a routine. Living through a pandemic? Get a new routine.

Sometimes we do need the support of a schedule. Routines are beneficial – they appear solid, they promise order, they seem reliable. They can be comforting, providing a sense of certainty and control in a world that offers neither. For some, a routine is crucial to reduce decision fatigue and simply get through the day, but for others the constant vigilance is exhausting.

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