I’m trapped in my flat.
Not literally, obviously. I’m trapped in the sense that Chaz needs to be close to the hospital right now in case anything happens, and we live literally 3 minutes from the maternity ward (for which I’m thanking my lucky stars a lot at the moment). So most of my meetings now are in places near to my flat, most of the time we go outside it’s to places close by and for the next five or six or seven weeks or even longer, it’s likely that most days will feel the same.
It’s like a strange scene from the movie ‘GroundHog Day’. A world in which every day is exactly the same dulls the senses, but undeniably it also offers routine and rhythm. These are two things that I have rarely had in my work life. Sure I crave them, but I also crave lots of things that make routine and rhythm trickier: I’ve done lots of jobs where I’ve travelled (the short hops to Lisbon type and the slow train to Luton type), I’ve done the start-up thing where you burn the midnight oil to meet a deadline and then collapse and write off the next day for recovery, I’ve done the CEO thing of breakfast meetings and evening canapé receptions. In fact, perhaps the reason I love my Daily and Weekly Checklists is because they’re the only sense of rhythm and routine I ever seem to have!
So I can look at this open schedule due to my cancelled trips as something boring and monotonous, or I can look at it as an opportunity to develop routine and rhythm. And who knows, by the end of the month I may even be able to spell the word ‘rhythm’ without a spellchecker too.
I’ve just spent a month offline, so now designing a daily routine that encompasses lots of offline time (to avoid distractions, to avoid time wasted and quite honestly to avoid dicking around aimlessly on Facebook) should be quite easy, right? In my month offline, I developed some great new habits. I felt calmer, I felt happier simply experiencing things rather than feeling the urge to validate them by sharing them with people who didn’t really care. Certain thought processes really shifted – even from just 4 weeks of being offline. However, within a few days of coming back, I’ve noticed myself settling back in to bad habits, particularly where the new habits were formed in a different location.
Good habits begin at home and they begin in the detail, so I’ve set up a daily routine for me to follow this month and next month. I’m sharing it below. The exact details aren’t important, but a few things struck me as I put this together which might help if you wanted to do something similar:
Keep it simple!
It may look complicated, but I focussed on dividing the day into chunks. And some of this is already familiar – I already had my Daily Checklist printed out next to my desk, so I simply added things around it. And I was in a good routine of “Going Dark” for the mornings before all these productivity experiments messed with all that, so I’m familiar with how that works already. I decided anything longer than 1 page was too complicated and I used that constraint to help focus on what’s important.
You’ll notice my morning doesn’t start too early, that’s because I know me too well. And by adding in some fun time on the internet, I’m acknowledging that there’s no point pretending living without it forever is anything other than inconvenience and martyrdom.
I’ve very deliberately got breakfast booked in with Chaz at a set time. It makes us both accountable to each other (Yes, she did have a say in this, before you ask).
Pepper routine with choice and freedom
I’m someone who hates to pen myself in. I’m pretty impulsive in my general work style and a bit of a contrarian in life, so blindly following instructions isn’t a strength of mine. As I started to schedule in running and exercise, my brain started shouting “But what if I don’t feel like it?”, “But what if it’s raining, you idiot!” and so on. So this routine gives me the flexibility to choose in the moment – from a list of things I know will be useful and do their job.
Here’s the full routine…
7.30 – small glass of water, short run OR 30 mins meditation OR 30 mins stretches, weights & floor exercises, pint of water
8.05 – shower and dress
8.20 – breakfast with Chaz
8.45: Daily Checklist
– calendar: what’s in today and any looming deadlines?
– toodledo: create my post-it note for today
– resistance: what am I resisting and why? what’s the way around it?
– attention & energy: what big rocks need the most energy?
9.00: Go Dark (make stuff)
– wifi off, phone off.
– what can I work on without a screen?
13.00: lunch & reconnect
2pm – 6pm – Collaboration time
(Mondays: off; Tues – Fri: Mixed between TP & a new project I’m cooking up)
6.00pm – Sam Daily Call & any follow up actions
6.30 – 7.30 – Internet Hour (fun!)
7.30 – Go Dark for the evening
– meditation, read books, listen to music, pay attention, run, watch TV with Chaz, go out.
So here I go! This might be the only time in my life I ever get to experience rhythm and routine. And this might be part of the lemonade I make when “life” threw me a lemon. Wish me luck!