Developing new routines in quarantine

Living in quarantine can lead to days that seem to stretch on for weeks–but with little opportunity to feel productive. Depending on the number of people in your home, it can create endless interruptions or long periods of silence. Adapting to new work protocols, switching to online work, and finding new ways to connect to others–they all take their toll.

Loneliness exists even when living with others—the lack of day to day connection with a broader world has been shown to reduce creativity, create brain fog. Isolation can mood swings, lack of focus, panic attacks, flashes of anger, flattened emotions, depression, loss of memory and declined cognitive function. We are wired for interaction–even introverts.

I find myself drifting through the mornings in our new reality, knowing that I have many projects that could be done but struggling to tackle any of them. The knowledge of many weeks of isolation ahead makes urgency fall aside.

We must acknowledge time and space for emotions and give ourselves the grace that our normal work habits are going to be compromised in extraordinary times. Yet as this time apart extends from days to weeks to potentially months, we find ourselves needing to find ways to create new rhythms to keep our businesses afloat. To make progress on deadlines. To create daily habits of work as a way to feel ourselves again and to tap into a sense of purpose that helps us to feel alive.

Keep a wide-angle view. The main goal for all of us is to stay afloat. Do not expect work to be an A+ effort.  Selectively choose what activities must be superior effort–due to external demands or work that aligns with our own internal compass. Give permission for the rest to be “good enough.”

Even in regular times, all parts of life cannot be embraced at 100 percent energy at the same time. We can have it all, but not all at once. Even when we have a clear vision for career progress, it is important to consider how to do so within the long-range view. Some activities are easier to accomplish in the early stages of a career, some in the middle, some at the end. By pulling back to a wide-angle view of our lifespan, we can help to make better choices about how to show up in the moment of any phase of life, and to be fully present within it, rather than lamenting on the goals that are best accomplished at other times. 

Make the most important daily goals about self care and connection. Trying times call for vigilance in self-care and helping others. I have faithfully used this checklist as an anchor to my new way of being as member of Quarantine 2020. I ask myself these questions, which I found on social media:

Quarantine 2020 oft quoted meme on social media

I have been leaning into a daily morning yoga practice, using an online exercise platform to push me forward. It feels like a delicious treat that in “normal” life would take up too much time. What chosen activity or habit might feel like a gift to you?

Create a weekly review plan.  Developing a framework for your week ahead can help to create some structure. Assess the week before it begins—Sunday evening or Monday morning are good times for a weekly review. 

“Your calendar will show what we value” is a useful metric for the task of prioritizing time when days blend together in quarantine. Begin with a broader sketch of the structure of your days. The blocks of time should be like categories—self-care (first!), plus meetings, independent work, and chores. 

It helps to sort like-minded tasks into groups. It gives a sense of a shape of a week and helps to clarify priorities.  Being aware that day to day tasks such as cooking and cleaning and caring for others might take much larger chunks of time than in a “normal time,” try to create a weekly schedule for our work time.  

During quarantine, activities during this weekly time might include:

  • Ask what tasks need to occur during quarantine and what can wait.
  • Think about how a weekly plan can incorporate time that aligns with what you value the most, whatever that may be.
  • Look back at the previous week, note what worked, and build off of those successes. 
  • Revise previously unrealistic timelines.
  • Develop a list of tasks for the next week that is less than might have accomplished during “normal” times, but long enough to see a path forward,

Observe the rhythms of your days. We have the time to be curious now. To pay attention to our habits and to try out new ways of being.  Log the time you want to value—exercise, writing, meaningful time with your loved ones. Review each week and notice how you spent your time compared to how you wanted to spend your time. Prioritizing time also means noticing how much time we are wasting on task that drain our batteries–social media scrolling, binging too much television, drinking that extra glass of wine.

Remember to grant yourself the grace to do less. The acceptance to feel the feelings and take care of yourself and others. The space to breathe and create ways of being that might endure beyond these strange times.

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