Broken Routine? Time to Fix It

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Despite lockdown rules starting to lift, you might be noticing that your ‘normal’ routine hasn’t simply resumed. This begs the question – what is normal? 

The ‘New Normal’

We’re all a little tired of hearing this phrase; the idea bounced has been bounced around for months now, but there’s a good chance we still don’t even really know what it means for us. Does it mean we’ll be wearing masks in supermarkets forever? Or that Covid passports are going to be the only route to attending festivals and big events? The future is still uncertain, and much of this is out of our control, so instead let’s focus on what we CAN control.

Each of our own personal ‘new normals’ is going to look slightly different, but the likelihood is, that even now, our pre-Covid routine is having to be adjusted. 

Your Old Routine: The System

So, let’s start by thinking about your exercise routine, before our worlds became flipped upside down last March.

Perhaps you had an office job, where you needed to be in work for 9am. Take yourself back to February last year, your routine might have looked like this:

  • Before bed, you prepped your lunch for the next day, and booked yourself onto the after-work gym class at 6pm
  • You packed your gym bag, leaving it by the front door, so you literally couldn’t get out without grabbing it
  • You’d have your work clothes laid out ready to put on in the morning
  • Your alarm would be set, so in the morning, you’d simply shower and dress, and head out the door, gym bag in hand
  • Post class, you get home, shower, and get yourself into some comfy clothes to settle in for the evening

This was the system, and this system worked like a well oiled machine. You’d be well-fuelled from a thought-out lunch, and be raring to get to your class as you left work. 

And Now…?

Then of course… Covid happened. We won’t delve into the challenges of lockdown now, because we all lived it – but, as restrictions are starting to lift, let’s revisit the example above. This time round, you’re now working from home, and are only visiting the office for the odd meeting once a fortnight. The dog gets you up at around 8am, so you don’t even feel the need to set an alarm anymore. If you have no video calls that day, you might not even bother putting on work clothes, so you stick to your comfy trackies and old t-shirt. You’re at home for lunch, so you can simply throw something together when you get hungry. Harmless, right?

Perhaps… but what happens when you get distracted with emails, reaching 3pm and suddenly realising you haven’t stopped for lunch? In a rush, you just grab a piece of toast and another coffee as you’re hit with tiredness. Work drags on, and you realise you’ve forgotten to book on to a gym session, and you can’t remember where you left your trainers anyway, and you’re already in your comfy trackies… so the gym can wait. And the cycle repeats.

So what happened to the system? You felt like you didn’t need it. But let’s be really honest when comparing the two scenarios – did the pre-covid system work? Yes. What about the post-coved non-system? Maybe, sometimes. If you feel like it. If nothing’s on telly. If you remember to book on to that class.

Rebuilding the System

Let’s get practical now: how can we rebuild that effective system? 

Think about systems you already have in place in other areas of your life that work. A shopping list for your food…direct debits for your bills, meaning your payments are taken care of without the need for conscious thought every month…a calendar for your work meetings, meaning they are a given… these systems work, by taking away the need to remember, and the need to decide.

Decision Making Abilities are Finite

Which means: we can only handle making so many good decisions in a day. And when we run out – anything could happen. It’s easier to give in to stresses, or even waste so much time procrastinating that we miss the opportunity to make the better decision. You’re probably making a lot more decisions in a day than you realise – what to wear, what to have for breakfast, whether to watch the news or not, whether to check your emails or shower first, or eat breakfast then shower, or not shower at all – you get the idea! So the key: take some of those decisions off your plate, and make them in advance.

Prepping food the night before not only means it’s there and ready (saving time when you may be having a busy day) but it takes away the decision of what to eat, when your mind might already be on a dozen other things. The same applies for choosing your clothes, or booking onto a gym session in advance.

So let’s check out these simply ideas in more detail:

1. Set an alarm even if you don’t ‘need’ it

Just the idea of having the alarm will help cement a positive routine, even if you end up waking up before it. It’s about mindset – and committing to that get-up time will enable you to hit the ground running in the morning.

2. Prep your food the night before

This might sound like a tough one, but it works wonders. If you’re planning to hit the gym before breakfast, it might mean even popping a banana on the kitchen counter, next to your empty coffee flask next to the kettle, and a bottle of water, so you can get out the door in minutes. Have a wholesome breakfast ready for your return, to eliminate or at least attempt to reduce those reasons to bail! Consider prepping your lunch, or at least prepping some of it – chopping up veg ahead of time (or buying pre-cut veg packs!) will mean chucking together a stir fry on a quick lunch break will only take a few minutes, and steer you away from grabbing less wholesome options.

3. Book yourself on to a Gym Session in your own diary

This doesn’t just mean booking in on the gym’s system – book your training session into your own personal diary too. If you plan those slots in advance and block the time out, you’ll start seeing them like other non-negotiable bookings, like an important meeting or appointment. If you can get used to that idea of having committed to that slot, it becomes a habit: a necessity in your day. This can also be used for other forms of ‘you time’ – book in a walk, or half an hour to read.

4. Lay out your clothes in advance

That new gym T-shirt your brother gave you for Christmas, that you haven’t worn yet? Put it out. Lay out your whole outfit – including your socks and shoes. Commit to the idea and the booking you’ve made, and get excited about it! You can really look forward to it. AND… eliminate the possibility of bailing last minute because you can’t find your shoes.

So there we have it… some simple but effective ideas that could start fixing and re-shaping a broken routine. Think of this new system as an experiment. Give it a week or two and then reflect: did that system work for you? If not, try something new. Notice what works for you, and what doesn’t, and be realistic about what is sustainable. 

Adele Wayt

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