Do what works, until it doesn’t

Do what works, until it doesn’t

Do whatever works, until it doesn't | Modern Mrs Darcy

I can’t remember where I read these words recently–it sounds like the sort of thing you’d spy on a magazine cover in the checkout line–and they struck me as extremely wise, and extremely obvious. But sometimes I need the obvious spelled out for me.

I firmly believe that the rhythms and structures of your life don’t have to look like anyone else’s: they just have to work. My family’s been in a good groove for a while now, but lately I’ve been noticing we’ve undergone some shifts, and it’s time to do some tweaking.

I used to love writing in the evenings after the kids went to bed. Because they went to bed at 7:00–7:30 at the latest–Will and I would put in a solid hour of work after bedtime, and still have plenty of time to talk and decompress before going to bed.

But that old routine that worked so well for a year or two hasn’t worked for months. Just one year later, they go to bed at 8:30, and it’s time for a new routine. Do what works, until it doesn’t. It’s not easy to invent new routines (we’ve been gradually shifting to longer morning work hours), but it’s easier than pressing through with structures that no longer make sense for my family.

And then there’s the running. For years, it was impossible for me to work out before breakfast. But now Will doesn’t leave for work at 5:30 and the kids sleep past 6:00, and for the first time in years, it works. I’ve been getting in morning runs, four days a week, without having to get up in the 4:00 hour.

It’s helped me to realize that there’s never any one solution. I can’t find routines that suit me and keep them forever. But I’m learning to acknowledge that changes will come, and when something isn’t working, I don’t have to force it: I have the freedom to find something that works better.

Do what works, until it doesn’t.

It sounds so obvious. But I needed to hear it.

Have you made any tweaks lately? What changed?

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  1. D says:

    I agree. I am lucky enough to have a boss who understands this and lets me rearrange my work schedule to leave a few hours early one day per week to volunteer at my sons’ school. It’s making a difference for my son–it’s working for us!

  2. Ana says:

    Hahaha, YES! I am thinking through some shake-ups in our family’s schedule as well. I tend to get stuck in a rut, and it never even occurs to me that I CAN CHANGE THINGS if they aren’t working. Also I get hung up on the “new schedule” having to be perfect—work out every detail, every possible eventuality before I implement it. I also need to realize that if the new way doesn’t work, I can always go back, or look for something completely different.

  3. Shannon says:

    Yes, I was just talking with a friend about this. Our oldest stays up until 9 p.m. now and it has really changed how much, if anything, gets done in the evenings. It took me a while to figure out why the evening were feeling so “off” and I still have adjusted the schedule to make up for the change. . . . . Maybe a new years resolution. 😉

  4. Kelty says:

    So true! I saying just this very phrase to a loved one with an itty-bitty baby the other day. You get so much practice at this in the first year! A good friend said this to me when I was in the early-baby days and it was so freeing as I was trying to get my mom-legs under me.

    It’s so easy when you’re a new mom (or an any stage, I guess) to read some parenting book and freak yourself out that you’re going to ruin your children forever if you do this or don’t do that. If it’s working, it’s a good sign that it’s probably right for your family until it doesn’t work and then you figure something else out. Like so many things in life, there are usually several good ways to skin a cat. Also a good reminder for me not to judge others that do things differently.

  5. Yes! With a new baby in the house, all my routines have had to change. Gone are my morning runs (never know when the baby will wake up wanting to be nursed) but working out on my lunch break is working ok for now. (Luckily my boss doesn’t mind me taking a bit of a long break!) I’m still trying to figure out a good housekeeping routine with more laundry and a baby always wanting to be held.

  6. Tim says:

    For us, we used to work out in the evenings. Then the kids came along and we eventually found that mornings were better. The kids are grown, but mornings still work well. So we are doing what works while it still works!

  7. Allie says:

    Love this advice. It’s so freeing! My 18 mo old just dropped his am nap over the past couple months so we’ve been dealing with that. When will I get dressed? Will I ever drink my morning coffee hot again? 🙂 But with the change, there have been some benefits too, such as being able to get out earlier in the day and a longer chunk of time in the afternoon to do stuff.
    Thanks for the reminder!

  8. Stacey says:

    This is so true! My little ones have been going to bed later for a bit now and I must admit, I am still trying to adjust. Maybe with this mantra in my mind, I will finally make a shift!

  9. Yep, life changes and so schedules change. We all have to tune up from time to time. This shouldn’t be a profound point, but the entire structure of personal essay writing — which is what blogging is — kind of works against it. We write in epiphanies — a realization that something should be as such. But of course, few things can be as such forever.

  10. Gabrielle says:

    So true! I struggled with getting everything done in the mornings (chores, homeschool, whatever!) for the longest time. We are a confirmed night owl household and when my husband started working a 12 hour night shift in September, and I started working at a family business in the late morning/afternoon hours, I finally threw up my hands and went with the flow. We sleep in late, stay up late, have “dinner” at about 4:30 before dad goes to work and do school in the evenings. It has made such a huge difference in our school time! I was afraid my boys would be tired and cranky, but instead they seem to be able to settle down and focus much better in the evenings, and our mornings and afternoons are freed up for activities outside of the house.

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  12. Janssen says:

    I’ve been thinking this same thing. When we met, my husband talked tons about things that were sustainable – how he wanted to do things he could do FOREVER. But that’s just not practical, I’ve found. You might have one year where you can work out 90 minutes a day, and other years (or months) where 30 minutes three times a week is as much as you can possibly fit in.

    I love all your posts – I don’t comment a lot, but thanks so much for your thoughtful and well-written posts on so many fascinating topics.

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