Routine, Habits and Environment
The world has lived the C19 dream for six months now, it is interesting to look back at who we have become as a society. There are some interesting trends and behaviours that have come to fruition; some positive and many not so positive. My goal in this post is to look back at this time in my life and see how my routine and habits have changed (and hopefully evolved) given the environment constraints that have been bestowed upon me.
Life as we know it….
First some background on my journey as it is quite unique. I plan to post a more elaborate blog on my journey however let me summarise briefly. My last two work trips in early March were to Spain and France respectively. Both countries at the time were experiencing a large increase in C19 cases. Once back at home I spent the majority of my time at home with my wife venturing out for our one hour walks and trips to the grocery store. Interestingly enough in the first three months of lockdown we cooked each and every meal at home. We didn’t engage in any take away / home delivery service during that time.
Yet things always change ….
Unfortunately in late June my family suffered multiple medical issues and I made the difficult decision to fly back home to Australia. Part of the journey to Australia required me to undertake two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine. Once completed, I finally arrived in Brisbane to support my family. My time in Australia was just shy of two months. Furthermore, I only flew back to the United Kingdom at the end of August. Fortunately I am now back into some sort of normal routine. Yet getting back to previously established habits along with the learnings in this post have been an interesting experience and worth sharing.
For those who know me well know I am a routine guy. I like to schedule and block time and believe in the concept of habit stacking (read James Clear’s book Atomic Habits for additional information including my book review). Yet when one makes a significant change to their environment it is challenging to maintain existing habits and routine. For examples, I could not access a gym for two full weeks given I was confined to a small hotel room. I also didn’t have access to kitchen facilities therefore I only ate what was left at the front door of my hotel room three times a day. Once free from quarantine I was living with my parents again thereby aligning to their timing and routine. Again, I had to adjust as best I could during that time. I worked at times very long hours given time zones (think UK and US) as well as balancing the support I was providing to the family.
The most interesting observation for me was the degradation of routine and habits due to lack of physical compartmentalising. When in hotel quarantine, I had to eat, exercise, relax, sleep in the same place. At home and in my normal routine I would work in the office, eat at the kitchen table, relax on the couch in the living room and exercise at the gym. Each day in the hotel became harder given this reason. I found it harder and harder to focus on the specific tasks at hand given lack of compartmentalising.
What’s the learning?
I’m now back in London, aligned with British Standard Time, with my wife and in my own home. My routine is back to where it was in early July but with many learnings. One learning was the purchase of a TRX, chin-up bar and gym rings so that I can exercise in pretty much any location that has a door frame.
1. Habit Stacking
There is no turn key solution to resolve the environment issue. What one can do is to habit stack to help alleviate the friction of habits and routine. For example, leaving your gym clothes next to your bed at night. Therefore in the morning you remove the friction of deciding what to do/wear. Instead put on your clothes and go to the gym without thinking about it.
2. Rigorous Scheduling
The second aspect is to be rigorous with scheduling your time. This can be challenging for couples and families. In my situation I would block out time in the hotel to workout, to eat, to relax. That way I could conceptually compartmentalise my time and establish a routine a little differently. I used the same approach with my family – schedule my critical times and let them know when I’m available. I’m not advocating you schedule your entire day. Instead the key habits and routine so you don’t miss a habit more than once. This is a good rule to live by.
Everybody has different environments, constraints, personalities and commitments. It is important to step back and think carefully about the long-term. Life in C19 can be restrictive and will not let up for a long time. Furthermore society and how we live will never be the same as pre-C19. Being able to adjust life/environment efficiently yet maintain our routine and habits will be critical to ensure progress and momentum is being made.