calendar schedule

Setting Better Routines

Covid has many of us working from home and a phrase I hear a lot is “I don’t even know what day it is anymore.” When you’ve had years of a routine, having to change cold turkey is hard. Don’t downplay it, it is going cold turkey.

So how can we deal with it?

I worked for 30 years in various offices. My day was very much driven by a routine – get up, get ready, eat, drive to work, do my job, have lunch, finish my job, drive home, make supper, dishes, chores, entertainment, sleep – then lather, rinse & repeat.

I started my own virtual administration business 4 years ago. Some things remained, but that portion that was my workday drastically changed. I no longer had the adjustment times of the drives to and from work. I no longer had a prescribed time that I was going to be taking as downtime to eat and recharge. My waistline got to face a regular test of my fridge being much closer if nothing else.

Being someone who has run projects before, I treated it like one.

Write It Down

On a monthly, weekly and daily basis, I started making lists. Writing down what needed to happen and when that had to happen. Once a month, I would take time to itemize my priorities, both my own and my clients, for the coming month. Weekly, generally on Friday afternoon, I’d look at the coming week and do the same thing on that shorter timetable. I would do the same every evening. What is tomorrow going to look like?

Schedule It

After I had that list of what needed to happen, it went on the schedule. For me, that’s an electronic schedule, but if paper works better for you, then use paper. Block out your time. Make sure you’re including breaks and personal time as well as your work. One, that stops you from overcommitting yourself and overextending yourself. Two, it can act as an incentive. You can see your time commitments easily and can focus without wondering what’s next.

Track It

Pay attention to the time you’ve allotted. Make notes for yourself. Did you over or underestimate the amount of time it would take to do a task? Is it one that you’re just learning, so it took longer but will decrease with experience? Is it something you thought should be routine, but this time, you ran into a snag that caused issues? Make notes on what worked and what didn’t.

Correct It

This brings us to our last point. Part of why I review my lists on three different timetables is because the allotment I assume on a monthly basis may not apply when I get into a project. I may be slowed down because of communication with a client. I may dive into a new software tool that winds up being much simpler because of transferrable skills from another tool which wind up being a near-perfect match. Adjust and correct your time blocks. That also counts for the personal ones. If you’re feeling yourself burning out, make more of them. If you find that you’re having more productive mornings, try to figure out why the afternoon is less so and if you can, add something that helps. For me, a 20-minute break to meditate helps me clear my head, is nearly as good as a nap for refreshing me and gives me the energy to continue with a busy day. So, it is in my schedule for the day, around the time I usually hit my own wall.

What Day Is It?

Can I promise this will clear up the feeling of “Jantembuary” that we’ve been dealing with as the days and weeks and months in Covid seem to blur into a single mass? Not completely. There are still days where I’m sure it’s Friday in the middle of the day only to realize that no, no, it’s Wednesday. But overwhelmingly, it helps give me a structure that means those days are few and far between (and usually precursored by a bad insomnia night) and I can get things done and adapt to emergencies and changes as they come.

What About You?

What tools and techniques are you using to help you keep the days straight? We all work better when we support one another.