3 Steps to Creating a New Pandemic Routine

The Importance of Routine

As a business organizer and workplace productivity consultant, I often encourage my clients to adopt a routine. Routines offer several benefits, including making us more efficient and helping to build habits. The new normal of the COVID-19 pandemic has put the spotlight on some of the health benefits of routines. Right now, people are worried, stressed, and paralyzed with indecision. Having a routine can make you feel proactive and in control, even with all of the uncertainty around us.

Work and school provided the foundation that most of us built our routines around. And COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way we do both. Without cues from our work or school schedules, it can be hard to create a routine from scratch. 

If you’ve never created a routine or haven’t created a new one since the pandemic hit, now’s the time. It doesn’t look like COVID-19 is going away anytime soon, so working from home and virtual learning will be the default for the foreseeable future. The pandemic has forced a lot of things to change, but the fundamentals for creating routines haven’t changed.

Woman working on laptop at dining table with a notebook and a cup of coffee
Establishing a routine during the pandemic can help you manage stress and feel more in control.

How to create a routine

  1. List and prioritize your goals and responsibilities. 

Take some time to list all of your goals and responsibilities, i.e., the things you want to do and the things you have to do. Pay special attention to tasks you do regularly. Once you’ve listed everything, you can prioritize the most important ones and delegate or delete the others. 

Since the shutdown orders in mid-March, I have prioritized two responsibilities: keeping my family safe during the pandemic, and adapting my business so I can continue to help my clients. Focusing on those things helps me to determine which tasks are essential. 

  1. Structure your day or week and set boundaries.

Once you have your goals and responsibilities, structure your day or week around them. Start with your regular tasks from step one and pick a specific day and time for them. Take your personal preferences and unique situation into account. Try to schedule your most challenging tasks when you are most productive. When are the people you need to talk to available? What time are the kids asleep or busy?

Get as specific as you need to but build in some flexibility. Meetings are scheduled at inconvenient times. Things don’t go as planned. Interruptions happen. Be flexible enough to deal with the curveballs. 

My preferred routine is to do creative work early mornings, have client meetings just before or just after lunch, and do administrative tasks in the afternoons. Sometimes a client wants to meet later, or a class is scheduled during my creative work time. That’s ok. I can skip administrative tasks that day or push my creative time later.

  1. Experiment. 

Try out your routine. See what works and what doesn’t. If the new routine isn’t working for you, it’s okay. Trial and error is a part of the process. Experimenting is about trying new things. Routines aren’t permanent fixtures. They’re meant to be adjustable. 

Don’t be afraid to try something new or a little unconventional. For example, I usually do my grocery shopping at 6 AM. People sometimes look at me strangely when I tell them that. But I’m already up early to walk the dog, and the grocery stores are open. I can shop and have the groceries put away before anyone in my house is awake. It works for me. 

When the stay-at-home orders here in Houston were first issued, I started going to the store later because there were long lines at the stores when they opened. I briefly changed my routine because of the circumstances. As things calmed down and went back to normal, I’ve gone back to my normal routine too.

It can feel counterintuitive to have a routine when so much in our lives is uncertain, but that’s precisely when a routine is most needed. Take some time to create a few new routines and see how it helps you get things done and feel more in control in these unsettling times.

Comments

  1. Excellent point that all the normal things we build our routines around like work or school schedules have gone out the window! It’s the perfect time to create a new routine and freshen up what have been very static routines up to now.

  2. Concrete suggestions for navigating these unsettling days are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  3. I love your approach. I’ve vacillated during COVID. In March through May, my main priority was maintaining my mental health, so I focused on self-education, taking lots of continuing ed classes in my profession and for a work-related project. In June and July, I’ve tried to work on syncing my professional priorities with the changing landscape, as more people are interested in working again. Without daily routines, it would be too easy to fall into a repetitive cycle of checking social media and news sites. I keep reminding myself, as you show in step #1, of my priorities (daily, weekly) and what I want to see in myself when I look back on this strange year. Your approach is exactly what we need.

  4. Ellen Delap says

    It’s so important to connect your way to your routine. It’s what’s compelling that keeps you moving forward.

  5. I need to follow your advice. Some days, my routine is so out of whack. Great reminder to stick with it even through trying times.

  6. Wow this totally sums up what happened for me when I was laid off in 2009. I guess without realizing it, I’ve had some structure. Great article.

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