"Let life enchant you again." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Simplicity
August 17, 2011

Daily Routines And Small Rituals

Part of the challenge of moving to a new city is establishing daily routines and rituals.

In Hong Kong my days had a pattern and rhythm that had evolved over five years. OK, in the last few months I was spending a lot more time in cafes and less time at my desk. But, the pattern that got me through a lot of work and new projects during 09-11 was a solid and productive one. It grew in response to the city, the way I lived, the challenges I faced, and the vibe of Hong Kong.

I don’t yet have a pattern of life here in Singapore. Being in a new city is a bit like running through mud; crazy, messy, and tiring. I’m slowly finding my way, walking around the neighbourhood, getting used to the food (which at our local Hawker Centre is awesome) and discovering where to get basics like lightbulbs and decent coffee.

In a way, life is very small and pedestrian right now. As a creative, “architect of the mind” kind of guy, that’s a little hard to take.

Most of my decisions these days are modest (where to put this vase, which knives to keep or throw out). All this unpacking and arranging is important, even though each decision is, in a way, basic and simple. I’m being inspired by reading Winifred Gallagher’s House Thinking, which raises some fantastic questions about how the design and organisation of a home shapes the way we live and think.

After breakfast, everyday, I walk through my new home and make lists for each room. These are the tasks for the day. I’m keeping those lists small and focussed. It takes at least half an hour to make the lists and review what I didn’t finish from the day before. Then, I take a break for coffee and come back and tackle the lists, without thinking about the tasks, in true GTD style.

That takes me through to lunch. By then it feels like I’ve done a lot. Since I’m still sorting stuff that was in storage for five years, my mind is prone to wander without that kind of organisation and discipline. Daydreams full of nostalgia are not good for feeling productive. After lunch, I do some email (there’s still plenty of boring logistics to go through, setting up company here and so on), some writing, maybe play a little guitar. If time permits I look at my plans for the next few days and weeks. Then it’s off somewhere local for dinner and an early bed.

It’s a challenge to accept this kind of routine. I want to do be doing big important stuff – writing new music, taking photos and so on. But, this season is small and domestic by necessity. In a couple of months all this will be over and I’ll have space to relax into the work. I’ll lose the liberty of being anonymous in a new city and fresh projects will start to fill up my time.

For now, it’s back to the grind of the small rituals. Next task…

gweipo 13 years ago

It is funny how starting here again reminds me of my daughter’s first few months in Kindergarten. They did a unit of enquiry on their environment.
Aged 5 they started by exploring their classroom, then the kindergarten section of the school, then the rest of the school and the highlight was a bus trip around the neighborhood and village the school was in.

I feel pretty much the same way. The first week I barely left home and even had groceries delivered. Then my perimeter extended to around the neighborhood for walks and runs and bike trips, and slowly I’m going further and further afield …

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