In the past 10 weeks, we’ve all had to face a new existence. For me, that’s primarily meant a) a shift to remote learning/home schooling for my 5-year old daughter, b) my wife and I’s work going virtual, and c) juggling home/work/school schedules between the family in order to tackle everything at home.
Being a creature of habit and routine, I knew I needed to experiment with new schedules and habits in order to adapt to this new period of life. Through experimentation, I wanted to share a few things I’ve found that have worked for me. I know I’ve experienced feelings of burn out, frustration, anxiety, stress attacks, and exhaustion. I had to continue to develop and tinker with new habits to be better at setting boundaries and staying present. Here are 5 behaviors from my own life that have helped me considerably —
Waking up early — I am naturally a productive morning person, but I’ve maintained that during quarantine. Right now, I wake everyday at 5:10am, immediately go into the bathroom to wash my face with cold water (helps wake me up) and then I go grab my phone in another room where I do a quick stretch routine. Then, I eat breakfast and power through what is usually a couple hours of uninterrupted work time (assuming my daughter doesn’t wake up early).
2pm cut off — in an effort to set boundaries, I’ve put a 2pm stop time on what I would call my top productivity hours. I’ve found 2pm is typically a natural “trough” time for me anyway where my productivity dips. Prior to 2, I attempt to be as productive as humanly possible. Knowing the cut off is there helps me set a boundary and really focus. At 2, in order to help myself disconnect, I take our dog out on a walk, which serves as a nice reprieve and separation. One distinction I should note is the “2pm cut off” is not a “I must stop work cut off.” I try my best to avoid absolutes — things are not always black and white. Instead, I position the cut off as “anything after 2pm I do by choice.” This way, if I choose to do work, that’s fine, but I’m also not going to feel bad or guilty for not doing it and instead spending time with my family, watching a show, listening to music, or doing whatever I choose to do during this time.
Planning the next day in advance — my life is powered off of lists — I have one for everything, both personal and professional, and they are organized in a hierarchy. I won’t bore you with the detail, but I will say I make a concerted effort to plan every day. This includes getting very crisp and realistic with expectations for each. I do this prior to the start of each day so that when I wake early, I can start immediately.
My wife and I started alternating days for helping my daughter with school — we’ve found this works well for all of us. It allows one parent to have dedicated time with our daughter in pursuit of her school work and allows the other dedicated time to focus on their work. Prior to doing this, the experience would feel like a juggling act where all three of us had different priorities during the day which we were all trying to get done without any set organization. The clear separation on roles and responsibilities for given days helps us plan our days and weeks more effectively and also helps our daughter maintain her own schedule and rhythm!
Listening to myself — historically this is a very hard thing for me to do but it’s come easier with practice over time. My natural inclination is to keep the engine running and max-out work productivity every single minute. I’ve found this practice is not healthy for me long term (surprise surprise), particularly from a mental health standpoint. No matter how great I feel on a certain day, the constant productivity engine will wear me down and drive me into a wall at some point. Instead, I’ve begun to think about my week holistically and more like an endurance race. I ask myself what experience do I want to have on Saturday? Do I want to be so tired I don’t have energy to spend time with my family? Or do I want to feel good about about the work I put in during the week and have Saturday feel like a high where my energy x productivity meet a perfect synergy? The latter of course. It doesn’t always happen like that, but it’s a good ambition. ;) This ambition guides how I attack my Monday through Friday.
What’s worked (or hasn’t) for you? Whatever your situation and own unique challenges, all the best-stay healthy and happy.