Train Your “Butler-brain”: a Plea for Building Routines

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Alev Takil on Unsplash

From time to time I go on meditative journeys (Covid-proof) and sometimes I find myself in spaces that go beyond my own mind. Often, these trips give me insights into how I live my life, and what the nature of our existence is.

The last trip I took showed me some insights into the nature of our consciousness. I saw that we can split up our consiousness into different parts. There is a higher consciousness that deals with our higher nature: the love we feel for others, the person we want to be, our highest goals. But there are other types of consiousness (including the subconscious) that take on different tasks. One of these I like to refer to as our Butler-brain.

The Butler is the part of our consciousness that deals with taking care of everyday chores: cooking, cleaning, routine work tasks, etc. Just like a butler or housekeeper runs the household of his/her lord, this Butler-brain runs the houshold of our day-to-day lives. When he (or she, this is a gender-neutral butler) is operating at top capacity, the mundane part of our lives runs smoothly and we can focus on the bigger picture.

For the butler-brain to run smoothly, however, we have to train it. In many ways, we’ve already trained it well. We put on our socks without a second thought. We shower at regular intervals without having to consciously plan it, and perhaps we have a couple of dishes we can cook without having our mind fully present at all times. Taking time to do these tasks consciously, in a mindful way, can reveal how well-oiled these routines can be.

What’s the advantage of a well-trained Butler? You can let go of worrying about these tasks and when you will do them since you can trust yourself (your inner Butler) to tackle them when needed. This helps create mental peace and stillness, time and energy you can spend on the things that matter most to you.

Yet, I personally, am not quite there yet. There are still plenty of area’s in my life in which I still need to give my butler-brain some extra training. Having a weekly routine for cleaning my floors, for example; or making a weekly meal-plan.
The way to train your brain to do this, is by consciously creating routines. A task that gets repeated often, becomes more efficient if it’s repeated in the exact same way. When you vacuum, start at the same place and take the same route each time. When you prep your bag for work, follow the same list of tasks in the same order for it to run smoothly every night.

When our routines don’t run smoothly and we start to panic, we sometimes hand the controls of our household over to the Butler. Can you imagine what happens when the Butler is suddenly put in charge? She’ll do what she does best: Go for every single chore or task you can imagine and put it all on the to-do-list. Such a long list calls for all the energy and time we can muster, and before you know it, you’ve spent an entire day (or weekend, or week) running around like a headless chicken doing bits here and there but completely losing sight of the bigger picture.

I suggest starting small when training your Butler. Start with small tasks that take only a few minutes. It could be ‘washing the sheets’ or ‘unloading the dishwasher’. Sit down for a few minutes with pen and paper and write down the most effective way to do this task (for example: unloading the bottom rack first and putting everything on the counter before putting it away). Put this written out routine close to where you perform the task, and in the beginning, pay special attention to doing it this way. Do the chore in a mindful way and get intimately acquianted with this specific aspect of your day to day life.

Knowing you can do this well, and that you have a ready-made plan to do this single thing, means you no longer have to worry about it. You learn to trust yourself to meet your own needs and the needs of your immediate environment (yes, your house has needs, too).

As you train that Butler, one step at a time, you’ll see space appear in your life where there was none before.

Now what will you fill it with?

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