4 Tips for Refreshing Your Routine
Months into the winter stretch of this pandemic, every day feels the same. If you’re tired of the hamster wheel of working from home and staying bundled up inside, you’re not alone. Here are a few tips on how to stay grounded in what will hopefully be the last few months before emerging from our burrows.
Create a more loose schedule with time blocking
I thrive on boundaries and timelines, but I’m also overwhelmed and frightened by guidelines and routines that become too rigid. This is why I’m a huge fan of time blocking. This system allows you to stay on task without feeling like a strict regimen.
For example, every morning, I'll read for 30 minutes from 8:30-9:00 AM before I start my work. But each day I have the liberty to choose what I read — and intentionally choose a different type of reading each day — so the ritual doesn’t grow stale. Maybe one morning it’s The New Yorker and the next is a chapter of a novel I’ve been reading.
Maybe "work out" is on your calendar from 9:00-10:00 AM every day. Fill a jar with slips of different workouts, and pull out a new surprise every day. If you still find your routine escaping you or boring you, you might need to note your rhythms.
Note your rhythms
Patterns have purpose. Your routine may feel dull because you're doing the wrong things at the wrong time. Start tracking and paying attention to how you feel during different parts of the day. Likewise, monitoring how you feel during different parts of the week is also helpful.
I noticed that I was more productive — strangely — in the middle of the week when I’m not being bombarded by emails after a weekend away. I initially thought task batching was smart and could help me focus, but found that back-to-back meetings only drained me. I began to notice that if I have meetings right before lunch and at the very end of the day, those checkpoints help me to focus because I know I have to get things done before each one to complete my tasks for the day.
Everyone is motivated differently, so figure out when you are most productive and what pushes you across the finish line. Your routine may not be working because you need to create a new one entirely. Don’t be afraid to change your flow!
Do one new thing a week
To switch up to your routine, try something fun and new. I’m the queen of making excuses for why I don’t have time for pure, unabashed, unproductive fun — even when I’m desperate to do something different. With everything on my plate, it just seems overwhelming and impossible — but it isn't! Extra time for new, fun activities doesn’t fall from the sky. The easiest way is to work play into the everyday tasks you already have to do. You have to eat, right? Crown your Wednesday dinners new recipe or restaurant night. Dub your Sunday cleaning hour as an opportunity to listen to a new podcast or album while you sweep and shine the house. Having something to look forward to can make routines fun again.
Take time off
Feeling fatigued is a byproduct of burnout. If no changes seem to be helping, you may just need a day or two off. In the midst of a recent stress rant, my mom told me something truly powerful: is the world going to fall apart if this one thing doesn’t get done this week? We all need a break. Take time to refill your tank by emptying it first completely. Read, stare, walk, hike, sleep, or do whatever it is you need to do to feel like a human with a soul again. Don't feel guilty about using paid time off in the middle of the week! I’m giving you permission to take care of yourself — you deserve it.