When all else fails, a routine can keep you going. It's the dependable little machine that can help our bodies fly while we’re in drift-mode — not in a toxic TikTok ‘That Girl’ kind of way, but a way that’s essential to our overall wellbeing.
Personally, I’ve thought about switching up my routine for a while now. But I’m a creature of habit and thus far, I've been a little terrified at the thought of moving things around. I want to explore what it's like to change my routine because I know it’s not serving me 100% physically or mentally at the moment — which is more important than ever, given the persistent lockdown we’re enduring.
My weekday schedule has been pretty set in stone over the last nine weeks. It consists of getting up and working out, working from 9 to 5:30, then doing a songwriting session over Zoom until midnight — then waking up and doing it all over again. I know I need less screen time and more time management throughout the day to get outside, stretch and eat. I also desperately need to try and get up at the same time every day. It’s become a little cramped and frustrating, and honestly, a bit draining.
So, I decided to take on a co-worker's routine for a week. What better way to find out what’s not working than to do everything differently?
Waking up super early
The first change was waking up at 6 am — a feat that's worthy of mentioning as I'm a determined snoozer. I’ve been trying to set up a proper wake-up time for ages (it's usually somewhere between 7:30 and 8:30, depending on how late the session the night before goes). So waking up that early was hard, but another reminder that the hours between 6 - 9 am are elite. I did my usual workout during this time, however, the scramble that generally ensues to shower, eat breakfast and down a coffee before the workday starts didn't happen because of the amount of spare time I had. I had a luxurious, relaxed morning, which was a nice change. However, considering that I'm doing songwriting sessions late at night, I might not be able to continue this for the time being. But waking up earlier was a nice reminder to get up and go for a walk (revolutionary, I know!) if I can.
Actually taking a lunch break
I finished up my usual work commitments, and lunchtime rolled around. Admittedly, back in the office before Lockdown 2.0, I was much better at having a consistent lunch break. I think that's because I have people around who I commit to eating or buying lunch with in the office, which subconsciously forces me to finish what I need to get done by a certain time. I managed to get out into the sun during lunch as part of my routine swap, which rejuvenated my brain completely. I used that time to call my partner while on a walk, rather than listening to music (because I tend to be more tempted to scroll) which helped drag me away from the screen (and the world) a little more, which was another welcome change.
My co-worker doesn’t touch screens for the most part between 7:30 and 9:30 pm, which is truly admirable at the best of times, but particularly while we're stuck indoors. At the moment, my night-time commitments pretty much require me to be glued to a screen until sleep. So to compromise, I made an effort to leave my phone in another room while eating dinner before my songwriting sessions started for a much-needed eye-rest.
What I learned
Overall, the thing I’ve learnt most is that it’s okay to change. Routines are a must, but allowing flexibility is essential. More than anything, swapping out my daily schedule got me to confront my fear of change. I did things differently, and the world didn’t end — I actually felt more excited to do the stuff I usually do. I now know I was overwhelming myself with the idea of change, rather than putting it into action. I also feel motivated to keep the change going.
Naa Anang – sprinter and long-jumper – said as part of 2XU’s Change Maker campaign (a movement crafted to help make the world a healthier place for all), "Keep things simple. Set a goal and chase it day by day - this is about you being consistent. Then you'll know you're changing - consistency will help you see the growth."
I’m no professional athlete, but the sentiment rings true on any change. While my co-worker’s routine probably isn’t entirely for me, it's given me the push I needed to reconsider my stance on both change and hardcore discipline – and to continue mixing things up. Even if I don't consistently wake up at 6am after this, I'm pretty determined to keep making small changes that'll help me find out what's no longer good for me. I don’t know what the next changes will be, but I’m definitely down to keep making them.