When things around you are in a state of constant change, life can get unnerving, stressful, and fatiguing. In such situations, it is important to find ways to create your own little world of certainty where you have some degree of control over what happens to you. We are now in the 8th month of the COVID crisis and every few days there are new things impacting how we live, work or play. There’s a need to bring some degree of stability and certainty in our lives, and Daily Routine is the secret that can do that for you.
By now we know that we are going to live in the current Lockdown-Unlock way for a few more months at least. Maybe many of us have already settled into a routine, but the unsettling of our erstwhile ways of living our lives has definitely created an unsettling of our routines too. So, what can we do? Here are the 5 big building blocks of your day that will help you get your routine and life in place:
#1. Time to Wake, Time to Sleep: This is the first piece of the framework and an absolute essential in ensuring certainty, stability and wellbeing. Just because we now work from home and the kids don’t go to school anymore, we could easily allow ourselves and the family to digress from sticking to this time. As this would derail the entire day’s pattern, it’s really important to have a set time to wake up and sleep at the same time, just like we did during pre-covid times.
The exception to the rule would be for the weekends or some holidays. For this routine to settle, it is important that the entire family is tuned to it and agrees, and stays with it. This does not necessarily mean that everyone wakes ups or sleeps at the same time. It could be worth your while to wake a little earlier than your kids to get that special time for yourself while you sip a quiet and peaceful cuppa. If you live alone this becomes even more important to watch as you don’t have to answer to anyone else and can completely go off any routine, leading to disrupted sleep cycles that will impact your entire wellbeing.
#2. Chores, Chores, Chores: The biggest change after WFH is the fact that we are now doing many of our household chores ourselves, instead of having the blessed helping hand of our often under-appreciated house help. So, it’s important to have a set routine around this too. A discussion with the family on who takes care of what and at what time is essential for this.
Chores of different natures can be assigned to everyone, including children. So, while most of the cooking will probably still fall on the women of the house (it will take quite a long time for this to change), other chores can be distributed. For example, the kids make their own beds as soon as they get up or help to set the table for meals. The man of the house can take on buying groceries and taking care of appliances, cleaning the house, etc. Clear responsibilities, some leeway in exactly how the tasks are done. and some small appreciation and exchanges from time to time will go a long way in helping keep the routine up and energized too.
#3. Get Moving for those Happy Hormones: One big thing which we all need to focus on while we are cooped up is to get the much-needed exercise, which forms the basis of good health and wellbeing. Fixing time for it will help ensure that it gets done. It could be yoga in the morning, Zumba in the afternoon, or a run in the evening.
Do not allow some other unforeseen tasks to infringe on this. If you must, then figure out a way to plan creative ways of including this in your routine. If you can’t do morning exercise, do walking meetings on your phone around the house. But get those minimum 5000 steps every day. This could be your much needed ‘me’ time or it could also be a fun time to do a group exercise activity with the family. A family that plays and dances together, stays together!
#4. The Workday Boundary: The biggest change has been WFH, and now the workday seems to find its way slowly into practically every part of our day. So, it’s essential to set a routine of not just time, but also an attitude to this part of our day. To create the right attitude and mood, get set for work. Take a shower, wear something other than pyjamas (or at least a fresh set of jammies). Have a specific spot that belongs to your work and make it your work bay as much as possible. Open your device not one moment before this time and resist the temptation to look at emails on your phone in the early mornings or late night as this is what insidiously infringes on your personal time more than anything else. Recognize that different people may start or end work at different times from you based on their preferred routine. So, don’t get stressed if you see an email from your boss which came in at 11 pm the previous night.
Also, if possible and especially if you manage a team, make sure you put people at ease about timings as long as most people are working for at least a few hours at the same time to finish up on meetings and discussions. Just like you start the workday at a certain time, shut your laptop at a decided time every day too. I know it’s easier said than done but try it for some days and have an agreement with your work colleagues that they can call you to post your workday, in case of an emergency. Work cultures are evolving, and you can start your own rhythm by gently but firmly inching towards what works for you.
#5. TGIF: Just as you work towards a routine for the week, also ensure that you get your fun time on the weekend, just as you would before COVID. Make plans for a movie night, host a watch party, catch up with friends online, book an online show to watch, register for a webinar to learn something new, join a meditation group, set up playtime with your kids so that they can get your undivided attention and don’t trouble you too much during the week when you are busy. Make sure your weekend is different from your workweek. This is the time to sleep in late or stay up late too, even though that might not be the best thing for your circadian cycle. Hey, everything can’t be done based on an ideal cycle, right? We need to live and laugh too!
Basically, live your daily routine as close to the one used to pre-covid, with creative and fun ways to deal with the changes. We are in for the long haul and the comfort and predictability of the routine is what can keep us steady and stable during this time, more than anything else.
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