Why Routine is important to Aspies
Ah routine… how I missed you so!
I love my routine. No, I mean I really love my routine! The safety of knowing what I’ll be doing at what time and which people I will see at which time – definitely helps when I’m not always certain of peoples names! The peace of knowing what to expect without empty gaps I have to try and fill myself! Heaven.
My job does mean I have a lot of ‘unstructured’ time that I have to organise myself. This is why I live by my ‘to-do list book’. Every task I have to complete is written down. Ranked in order of priority, split into sub-tasks and then crossed out when complete. This means my unstructured time isn’t really unstructured time it’s ‘to-do list’ time!
But as we all know, a few weeks in school is followed by a holiday, which for me is a mixed blessing!
Don’t get me wrong, I love the quiet that comes with the holidays, no bells, no tannoy, no noisy corridors…. ah bliss. And lets not forget the true pleasure of waking up later than usual and enjoying feeling refreshed.
However, once I’m up and I’ve had breakfast and a cup of tea, that’s when the sense of loss kicks in. What am I going to do all day? That sick feeling creeps into my stomach. So many options of things that need to be done. Cleaning, washing, DIY, shopping…the list is endless! What do I do first?
Breakfast finished. Morning TV shows finished (watching Jeremy Kyle is my guilty pleasure!) Now what..
Still sat on the sofa deciding whether to clean the kitchen or the bathroom. The kitchen irritates me as I can see the mess from the sofa,but the bathroom needs a deep clean. If I clean the kitchen, I’ll make a mess of it in 2 hours when I make snacks. However, if I clean the bathroom the bleach may trigger my asthma.
Dog traipses muddy footprints in from the garden. Another reason to clean the kitchen. Another reason to leave it as he’ll probably only do it again later.
Still sat trying to decide what to do. Realisation that I’ve now wasted 30 minutes trying to decide. I could have cleaned the kitchen by now if I had started at 11. Depressing.
Decision made. I’ll do the kitchen. Next check the time – 11.45 – urgh. I hate starting jobs half-way through the hour. Wait until 12.
What was the decision I made? Got distracted by my phone and now I can’t remember which one I decided to do. Damn.
Dog walks past me with muddy feet again. I really should close the kitchen door. Kitchen! That’s what I decided to do. Now there is 4 minutes to go.
Is it 12 yet? 2 minutes to go. Itching to start but have to wait. Try to decide what to start with. Floor? Units? Worktops?
Worktops, units, floor. Decision made. 1 minute to go.
Thank god! I can start. Ready. Set. Go.
I’d bore you with another hour but I think you’ve probably got the picture. All this angst just because I’m not in my routine. Once I start to clean, that sick feeling gradually disappears, until I find myself scrubbing the kick boards in the kitchen feeling much better. However once I’m done though that feeling slowly seeps back until I find myself on the couch again.
Then repeat. And again. And again…
I was once told at university, that when people with autism are not in their routine, they lack the social imagination to know what to do. For me, I can imagine plenty of things I could or need to do, but I just can’t decide! It’s the same reason I chose the same curry from the ready meal section. And why my wardrobe is split into work clothes, casual clothes and ‘wear-only-around-the-house’ clothes. Because decisions are exhausting and time-consuming and best made when it is something important.
Another plus of loving my routine is when I back into school early on the first day back after holidays. I enter the staff-room with a spring in my step, a smile on my face and an eagerness to get stuck back in – much to my colleagues annoyance I’m sure!