What was in the beginning widely billed as the “new normal” has already started to feel, to some degree, normal.
That’s not to say our fears and anxieties have been relaxed; there’s a lot to still be justifiably anxious about, from the physical health of ourselves and our loved ones to the financial health of the world we’ll be left with once this is all over. But in small ways, as the days pass in and out, we’ve already begun to adapt to this new shape our lives have taken, including by adapting our routines. Whether it’s by tweaking our morning regimens to start the work-from-home day on a more refreshed note or by creating new EOD checklists, part of staying sane in this moment has a lot to do with how mindfully we’re structuring our time.
Recently, we heard from C-suite and senior leaders about the daily routine adjustments that are helping them stay productive while ultimately protecting their well-being. Here’s what they had to share.
1. They’re ditching the “work-life balance” binary.
“Rather than have two separate to-do lists for work and life, I combine both,” Sam Williamson, owner of CBDiablo, said. “The reality right now is that no one can work a normal 9-to-5 day because you're always going to have distractions. I like to structure my to-do list around how I think the day will unfold.”
Shanna A. Hocking, Associate Vice President of Individual Giving at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and founder of Be Yourself Boldly, agreed, sharing that the pandemic has only reinforced her belief in work-life integration.
“As a leader and working mother, I have worked to integrate my career and my family, and this crisis has reinforced that everything is integrated,” she said. “There is no work time or family time anymore. I maintain a schedule and have frequent meetings throughout the workday, while also realizing I need to take breaks to support my son’s learning or other activities or just see how he’s doing. He also has a knack of walking into every video call I have!”
2. They’re using their calendars for more than just scheduling meetings.
“Time-blocking has become more important for me than ever,” Jacqueline Phillips, Head of Marketing at amoCRM, said. “When I mark times for starting, ending and breaks into my calendar, it helps set a clear boundary between work and home.”
3. They’re waking up early, and using the extra time mindfully.
“I get up an hour before the rest of my household so I can plan my day in peace and quiet before my family gets up,” Melanie Stevens Sutherland, Clinical Director at Body Co., said. “I start off by writing out my gratitudes and goals every day.”
Carla Williams Johnson, founder of a media marketing consulting practice, says her mornings take on a similar form.
“I must say that this pandemic has forced me to take care of myself,” she shared. “I've made it a ritual to meditate and journal every morning before I do anything. I must take those few minutes before the sun is fully up to breathe and collect my thoughts. I also have a good breakfast, something that I would always take for granted before."
4. But they’re also protecting their sleep routines.
“I have found it quite the challenge at first — adapting my daily routine now that I am working from home — but there is a new pattern forming,” Bridgette Norris, Marketing Director at EcoSecretariat, said. “I am sticking to my sleep routine, so even though I don't have to consider travel time anymore, I am still getting up and having my shower and breakfast at a similar time. I feel doing this is keeping me motivated and preparing me for my work load.”
5. They’re hyper-protective of their mornings, too.
“This crisis has upended a lot of things about life both at work and home, and now that work has pretty much taken over home, it’s more important to have consistency and things that are familiar,” Christopher James Foust, Founder and CMO of Motus Creative Group, said. “This is why my morning routine hasn’t changed a bit. It’s a time for relaxation, reflection and family. Keeping this time sacred is arguably more important now than before. Regardless of how your morning routine has changed or not changed, it’s imperative that you start it off on a positive note. Those first few hours will determine the success and outlook for the rest of your day.”
6. They’re building in family time throughout the day.
“As a CEO, I cannot afford to slack on work, and as a dad, I desire to take advantage of the quarantine to spend more time with my family,” Reuben Yonatan, Founder and CEO of GetVoIP, said. “One thing is for sure, though: any extra time I carve out, be it a lunch break or any other break, I spend it with my family. Also, when making my daily to-do list, I make sure my day ends earlier than usual — between 3 and 4 p.m. That way evenings are for my family.”
7. They’re setting aside time to connect with their team members more.
“During this crisis, I'm finding myself on the phone with employees more than ever. Whether it's giving feedback, providing direction or just checking in, it seems like almost half my day is spent talking with employees,” Matthew Ross, Co-Founder & COO at The Slumber Yard, said. “It's just the nature of everyone working remotely. My employees are usually all in the office so it's been a difficult transition for my team and I to adjust to working in separate locations.
8. But they’re also not shaming themselves if they can’t be constantly available.
“As a working mom, I had to accept the fact that I can’t be everything to everyone right now,” Kristi Ruprecht, Chief Strategy Officer at Hoot Design Co., said. “I was setting unrealistic expectations on myself to perform 100% at all my roles, even though none of them were compartmentalized like they normally are. I had to be OK with prioritizing in a different manner than usual.”
Now, Ruprecht says she’s setting more boundaries, and not shaming herself for needing them.
“I had to allow myself to not be the always-available, always-on coworker that I usually am in the office,” she said. “I worked with my team to set aside a break in the middle of the day that allows me to give focused attention to my daughter and get her down for a nap. It has become a break I need in the middle of the day to clear my head, to be able to enjoy some time outside, and create the structure that my daughter craved.”
9. They’re giving themselves stricter deadlines.
“Before, I would allow myself to work at all hours and work until I felt like I wanted to be done,” MK Andersen, owner of Your Day, said. “Now, I give myself hard deadlines to connect with my SO or friends. Having the boundary has made it all feel less like work is an all-consuming part of my life, especially since work is also very focused on a response to COVID with weddings and events being postponed.”
10. They’re using a “top 4 tasks” method.
“The notion of figuring out what is essential work and what is nonessential work is even more necessary during these times, since most of us are finding that our productivity levels are not what they used to be,” Tiffany Napper, CEO of a PR + branding agency, said. “When battling work-from-home distractions and processing the ever-changing information, it’s impossible to expect ourselves to be able to accomplish today what we could accomplish yesterday or one month ago. I’ve found that my weekly ‘top 4 tasks’ method is a saving grace during this time. As long as I accomplish my four priority tasks of each week, I know I’m moving the train forward, and I can work on the less essential tasks if I have energy and time left over.”
11. They’re ritualizing the end of the work day.
“My team's Check Out meeting — where we review our progress, where we can improve, and what tomorrow looks like — helps us create a distinct ending to our day, so our work doesn't drag into the rest of our evening,” Jill Bejger-Frederick, Marketing Director at RoadBotics, said.