Lockdown - it's a funny old time, and all of us are affected differently. However we are affected, many of us are experiencing changes to our usual routine. If your daily tasks and timescales are currently more flexible than they were pre-lockdown, this is the perfect time to experiment with the best daily routine for you.
How important is routine?
When I used to work in a '9-5' corporate job my morning routine involved getting up at the same early hour, having a shower, rushing to work and eating breakfast at my desk. I always craved more flexibility in my day and longed for the time when I no longer had to follow a set routine. When I became self-employed I had all the flexibility I wanted. And, lo and behold, I suddenly craved routine! Why? It provides us with structure, logic, comfort and familiarity.
In those first few weeks and months of being self-employed I decided to carve out a new routine. And I experimented with what would work best for me. If you currently have more flexible working hours, now is the ideal time for you to do the same. Consider the following:
Starting your day What gets you in the best frame of mind for starting the day? Do you need a slow, relaxing start with a big cup of coffee whilst listening to the radio? Is it a dog walk while the streets are still quiet? Going for a run? Meditating? A long shower? Or perhaps a combination of all of the above? Experiment with different ways of starting your morning. You may be surprised that what you've always done in the past doesn't necessarily work best for you.
Exercise What is the best time of day for you to exercise? Maybe you always used to go the gym after work but you discover that lunchtime exercise is more beneficial for you - maybe it helps you feel more energetic and you're able to get more from your workout. Or perhaps exercising first thing sets your day up perfectly. Finding the time of day that suits you can be the difference between a gruelling workout you don't enjoy and an energising session that leaves you feeling great!
What time of day do you feel best able to focus on mentally demanding tasks? When are you able to think most creatively? And how long can you keep your focus before taking a break? Focus is considered to be so critical to success. So if you know which times of day you are at your most focused, when you have your best ideas and when you prefer more routine tasks you can plan your day to get the most out of your 'ups and downs'.
Meditation If you meditate, what time of day works best for you? And if you don't meditate, what a great time to start! Experiment with different times of day and different lengths of time. Do you feel more benefit from one long session or several shorter ones?
Lunchtime and breaks How long do you need to take for lunch in order to feel ready for the afternoon? At one company I worked for, the boss insisted that every day each member of staff took an hour's break and left the building at lunchtime. To begin with I found it really hard - the job was stressful and I had so much work to do that the idea of leaving the office for an hour seemed ludicrous. But I began to realise how powerful it was. I returned to my desk refreshed, focused and ready for the afternoon. What activities can you do during your lunch break that help you to switch off, relax and recharge? Do you need to be outdoors or doing something active? Do you need a break from people or do you need social interaction? Also consider how many other breaks you need throughout the day. If you take 15 minutes mid-morning and mid-afternoon does this help you feel more productive?
Bedtime And lastly, what sort of bedtime routine do you have and is it working? Are you getting a long, deep sleep and waking up feeling refreshed? If not, experiment with this too. What time do you naturally feel tired? Some of us believe there is a 'right ' time to go to bed and we will stay up until this time regardless of how tired we are. Others will go to bed when they're not even tired simply because 'bedtime' has arrived. Pay attention to your body's natural circadian rhythm. Also notice what helps you prepare for sleep. Is it a book, an evening walk, some mediation or a hot drink?
Bringing your findings back to a 'new normal'
As we all begin to find our new normal over the coming months, some of us may be able to work more flexibly than we did before. Companies may provide more opportunities to work at home or may offer more flexible hours. For others there will still be a requirement to adhere to stricter hours. Either way, you can still incorporate some of your findings into your new routine.
For example, perhaps you discovered that you feel great if you mediate first thing in the morning so you choose to get up a little earlier to fit this in. Or maybe you find that a lunchtime run leaves you feeling totally refreshed and able to get more work done in the afternoon - so you choose to go running instead of staying at your desk or in the staff room. You may have learnt that your creativity peaks mid morning so you schedule more creative tasks for that time of day.
Use this time to experiment with how to feel at your optimum throughout the day, noticing what changes you can make and what habits you can form. So that when life as we knew it returns, you can be at your absolute best!