As we’re all well aware, we’re living in strange times. As a result, our daily lives have become disrupted — including the routines that we’ve worked so hard to establish and maintain. That may not sound important with everything else going on. But, getting off track does have repercussions — namely negatively impacting your productivity, health, and well-being. The “back to routine” problem happens when you get back from vacation, and it happens when the kids go back to school. Here is getting back to your routine after it’s been disrupted.
There is a silver lining, though. Regardless of whether your routine has been broken, or you’re taking this opportunity to start a new one, you can quickly get back on track by taking the following steps.
Become more resilient.
No matter how organized and self-disciplined you are, change is inevitable. And, as a result, that will shake-up your routine. The sooner you accept that, the faster you’ll be able to bounce back.
Instead of resisting and avoiding change, learn how to cope with it by building resilience by:
- Evaluating your level of control. Don’t fixate on what is out of your hands or point fingers. Instead, focus on what you do have control over. For instance, your kids may be home from school because it was forced to close. Obviously that will interfere with your work routine. But, you may be able to adjust your schedule so that you work when they’re taking a nap.
- Practicing self-care. It may sound trivial. But, tossing your whole routine happens after some losses — and is a type of loss. Acknowledge it and learn from the experience as you move on.
- Checking your thought patterns. Kathleen Smith, Ph.D., LPC, suggests that “you take the time to examine your thought patterns and assess how rational they are.” You can do this by slowing down your mind through relation techniques.
- Remaining in the present. Don’t get stuck in the past or obsess about the future. Focus on what you have to do right now.
- Finding your priorities. Determine what’s most important to you. If you’re having trouble, revisit your goals and values.
Follow your usual patterns.
“To get on track when your routine is broken, you should follow your usual work patterns,” suggests Kayla Sloan in an article for Calendar. “Even if you begin your day several hours late, do the same things in the same order.”
“As an example, start by checking your messages and looking at your calendar,” adds Kayla. “Respond to your emails, grab your coffee or water, and settle down to work at you normally would.”
“Keeping your work methodical without deviating from what you normally do can help get things accomplished faster.” More importantly, continuing whatever routines you can help build momentum. You can then use those feelings of accomplishment to keep the routine going.
Schedule your habits into your life.
“Give your habits a specific space in your life,” writes the one and only James Clear. And, you have “two main options for making this happen,” he adds.
The first is to put it on your Calendar. I know that may sound too simple. But, it works because this gives “yourself a time and place” to follow through. For example, if you want to get back to a writing routine, that block out a specific time in your Calendar for that activity.
The second option is to tie habits to your current behavior. “Not all of your habits will fit a specific time frame, but they all should have a trigger that acts as a reminder to do them,” explains James.
A classic example would be to start or renew flossing. To follow through with this, floss directly after brushing your teeth. “Same order, the same way, every time.”
“The bottom line is this: it might be nice to tell yourself that you’re going to change,” writes James. But, “getting specific makes it real and gives you a reason and a reminder to get back on track whenever you slip up.”
Remember your “why.”
As motivational speaker Les Brown has said, “When your why is big enough, you will find you how.” Personally, that may be the best advice when it comes to beginning or revamping a routine. For a quick pick-me-up, hop on a YouTube and listen to Les Brown.
If you don’t have a purpose behind whatever it is that you’re doing, you’re going to be less motivated to stick with it. Trust me. It’s as simple as that.
Create an optimal environment.
Let’s say that you’re currently working from home. Do you think that you’ll be able to get back to your regular workday routine if you’re working in the living room with your kids screaming in the foreground?
Of course not. It’s just not the type of environment that can help you get back into the zone. Instead, you may want to work in a quiet part of your room during your regular working hours since there aren’t as many distractions.
Ask for help.
I’ve shared this story in the past. But, I’ll repeat as quickly as I can.
Years ago, I joined a gym. I went three times a week with a friend. It was a win-win for both of us. We got to hang out together while also pushing each other to work out. Unfortunately, he changed jobs, and his schedule changed. Once that happened, I also quit going to the gym.
The point is this; don’t go on this journey alone. Turn to your support systems like your family and friends. Work with a coach or mentor. Join a support or organization. When you get ahold of your support systems — they can help motivate you to commit to your routine when you don’t feel like it.
Take a reset day.
It’s never easy to commence a new habit or jump back into one. But, to ensure that you don’t go too far off track, Brett and Kate McKay recommend you take a “reset” day.
“A reset day is a weekday that you take off from work, dedicated to getting your life in order,” writes the McKays. For some, that means using a vacation day. For entrepreneurs, that’s realizing that it’s perfectly acceptable to take a day off.
Couldn’t you do this during the weekend? Sure. But, it may be tricker between chores and spending time with your family. “A weekday reset day,” however, “gives you eight dedicated, distraction-free hours, by yourself, to set your physical and metaphorical house in order — to recalibrate everything that’s gone awry.”
So, how should you spend your reset day? Well, here’s what Bret and Kate recommend spending an hour on things like:
- Cleaning your home.
- Doing a brain dump.
- Tackling as many of your to-dos as you can.
- Reviewing high-level goals.
- Creating or re-establishing a routine.
- Making a plan to not get off track again.
- Tieing up any loose ends.
Be the tortoise.
A couple of years ago, my cousin tore his MCL while skiing. After he made a full recovery, he was ready to hit the slopes just like he did before his injury. Of course, that didn’t happen.
Like any other athlete, because he wasn’t experiencing any pain and had the green light from his doctors, he was ready to pick up where he left off. In reality, he still needed to rebuild some muscles and stamina before that happened. In short, he had to be the tortoise and not the hare.
The same concept is true with routines. Don’t burst out of the gates. Take your time and work your way up.
If all fails, start the habit again, the right way.
“If you’re just having a tough time restarting, you might need to start back from the beginning, with the basics,” writes Zens Habits founder Leo Babauta. But, what exactly does starting from square one entail?
According to Leo, begin by focusing on just one habit at a time for 30 days. He also recommends “making it public, giving yourself rewards, finding a trigger,” and “being as consistent as possible.”
“All of these are the effective habit-change principles” that Lep has discussed in his book “The Power of Less.” So, if you’re still struggling to get get back on track, it wouldn’t hurt to pick Leo’s book up.