fitness · habits

Thoughts on not changing everything while everything’s changing

Let’s take a poll: how many people are already tired of those articles with the 10 things you MUST do to survive working from home/social distancing/etc.?

A crowd of women, all raising their hands.
A crowd of women, all raising their hands.

I thought so.

Probably most of you have seen this sample COVID-19 daily schedule for families trying to work, study, exercise, eat, rest, play and sleep at home together:

A daily schedule with time slots for almost everything.
A daily schedule with time slots for almost everything.

There may be people who run on schedules like this one, pandemic or no pandemic. Frankly, I’m skeptical. My sister home-schools her kids, and one of the virtues and vices of home-schooling is the flexibility and flow of their activities. For them, the educational and the utilitarian and the recreational sometimes overlap. As long as they meet the goals my sister (and her state home schooling association) set for the kids, it seems fine. All roads may not lead to Rome, but many do, including theirs.

Let me put this out there (for the five of you on the planet that don’t already know this): I’m not a scheduler. I try to make schedules to plan out my day or week (month? oh no…) . I make to-do lists, clustering tasks into categories, prioritizing them, marking them off when completed. Sometimes that works a little. I do keep an accurate appointment calendar on my phone. And yet, I’ve never kept to a dedicated routine for managing my time at home.

I get up in the morning (early, late, whenever my plans for the day tell me I must). I make coffee (obvs), and sit down right away at my computer. No, I don’t:

  • get dressed right away
  • meditate
  • do morning yoga
  • clean anything
  • go for a a run, walk, bike ride

I just work. What work I do first depends on what’s most pressing and then move down the priority list. I know, you’re not supposed to do the pressing work all the time, or you’ll miss out on doing the important work.

Woman shrugging. Whatcha gonna do?
Woman shrugging. Whatcha gonna do?

The thing is, I’ve always been very, uh, “flexible” about my work-from-home style. I interrupt my work flow to talk with friends on the phone mid-morning sometimes. I do mid-morning or afternoon yoga often to clear my head. My work day doesn’t end early/at the same time every day; I happen to be writing this blog post at 11:47pm. That’s me.

(sidebar: I use the Be Focused app with the Pomodoro technique– 25 minutes work, 5 minutes break, repeat– to help me get up out of my chair and move around. I often do small household chores during the breaks, and it works for me. Tracy introduced me to this method and has blogged about it here, and Cate recently blogged about it here).

This informal way of working seemed more or less fine. But then life changed, and now I do everything from home. Maybe it’s now time to start scheduling my time in a more focused, disciplined, regular, accountable way.

I can't! I'm not ready!
I can’t! I’m not ready!

There there… It’s going to be okay.

Innocent picture of one child hugging and soothing another. Additional soothing provided by soft-focus black and white image, and flower in hair of one child.
Innocent picture of one child hugging and soothing another. Additional soothing provided by soft-focus black and white image, and flower in hair of one child.

The fact is, my work life from home has changed a lot. Now that I’m home everyday, I do a lot of things differently:

  • I’m cooking every day
  • I’m doing a lot more dishes and kitchen cleaning!
  • My sleep hours are more grad student-y: 1:30am to 10am (if left to my own devices)
  • I’m doing more live yoga classes, courtesy of Zoom, and I love it
  • I’m doing more emailing with individual students, soothing and reassuring them
  • Technology competence is more important, so I’m working on that
  • My friends and family need soothing, as do I– we vent and reassure each other daily
  • I want more outside exercise, which is still a work in progress
  • I want to think and write and read

That’s a lot of change to roll with.

So I hope I can be forgiven (by whom? myself, I guess) for not scheduling all these activities by the hour or half-hour in a daily planner.

The sad bear says, "I'm sorry. Forgive me, please."
The sad bear says, “I’m sorry. Forgive me, please.”

Here’s an idea, dear readers: I’ll forgive myself for not scheduling all the hours of my day, if you’ll forgive yourself for something you’ve been chastising yourself about since the world went topsy-turvy. Anyone want to share what’s come up for you in the course of all this change? I’d love to hear it, and I will be soothing and reassuring.

A dog and cat, soothing each other in oooh-worthy style.
A dog and cat, soothing each other in oooh-worthy style.

14 thoughts on “Thoughts on not changing everything while everything’s changing

  1. Hallelujah to the non-schedulers out there! I work from home and I don’t schedule either, but I do usually have a short list of things I want to do in a day. They usually get done based on need. I eat when I’m hungry. When it’s my turn to cook dinner I usually do it around 3pm and reheat or finish it off at a more socially acceptable dinner time. I just go with my flow, lockdown or not.

    1. Yep, that sounds like me. Yes, eating when hungry! Again, it’s not what the advice columns say, but there are many ways to roll. Sounds like you’ve got your system down pat! Yay you, Tanya!

  2. I have to forgive myself for sometimes/everyday now it seems, sitting in my favourite chair with the view of the woods and getting frozen in it. I know that i should be moving my body more and there are things I could be doing to fill the endless hours here at home alone while my other half is being essential. But I struggle to move, I feel safe here but I also feel guilty and annoyed with myself for doing this.

    1. HI Brenda– You’re not doing anything wrong at all. Feeling safe is of primary importance right now. It is so great that you found a way to feel protected and good while you’re home alone. My therapist tells me that feelings come and go. The frozen feeling has come, and it will go. Are there all sorts of things you could do to try to unfreeze yourself? Yes. You already know about them. My one piece of advice is this: as you are sitting in that favorite chair, looking out at the woods, see if you can tune in to how you’re feeling there and then. Maybe enjoy and explore it. That feeling state will make its way though you and then some other feeling state will show up. I experience this both in therapy and in yoga.

      If you want to update me later, I’ll keep checking the comments. Take care,


  3. Yay for not too scheduled! As for forgiveness–in the midst of a pandemic, when I feel like I should be thinking about noble things others are doing or I ought to be doing, I’m sometimes thinking about when I’ll get to wear a nice dress again and my favourite green velvet boots and whether I’ll do a good job coloring my own hair.

    1. Hi Mina– Oooh! Green velvet boots! I now want some.

      We get attached to all sorts of features of our lives, both great and small. I just bought a pair of bright colored puzzle-patterned clogs, but I have only worn them once outside. 🙁 Yes, this type of sadness or focus totally resonates, as well as the backlash we can impose on ourselves for having those feelings. We’re big enough and resilient enough to have room for both of those feelings to happen, and then to move on. That’s what I’m focusing on these days. Hope you and yours are doing okay.

      1. I’m also fretting about my hair growing out. (#shorthairedperson) Then I remember that I have literally nobody to have nice hair for (partner under quarantine in India) and I get quite sad.

  4. Catherine, I seriously couldn’t love this post more! I’m a homeschooling/part time working mom, and yes it’s true, not only is it a virtue that we get to be fluid, it’s actually a necessity. Because unlike people who work and send their kids to school, we don’t have someone keeping us to a schedule, we have to figure it out ourselves and that can sometimes work best with no schedule. For a long time, when my daughter was younger, I felt bad that I didn’t have strict routines like many mom’s I knew. But, over time, I realized we did have our routines and “schedules”, they were just a lot looser than most people’s and open to change.

    1. Thanks so much for writing in, Ms. g! My sister will be glad to read something from a fellow home-schooler and loose-scheduler. She and the kids do all sorts of things together, and as a result the kids know a lot about home improvement and are handy with home improvement tasks (painting, etc) in addition to learning history and literature and science, etc. They also love cooking and checking out interesting local restaurants/food trucks/ dives, etc. I bet you and your family have some good stories to tell about the unexpected benefits of combining school and life!

  5. Catherine, we were LITERALLY SEPARATED AT BIRTH. 🙂

    I forgive myself for falling somewhat off my “sensible moderate drinking” wagon. My goal is to feel some weight lift at night, but also to wake up clear-headed in the morning as much as possible. Beyond that, I promise nothing.

    1. HEY SIS! We really were! I totally get you. These days, drinking at all after say, 8pm, gives me serious acid reflux. Well, last night around 10–10:30 I had a glass of wine exactly for the reason you said. And man, it was a mistake– I was up in the middle of the night with unpleasant reflux. Yes, clear head is important, yes, lift of some of that weight is important. Let’s both forgive ourselves right now. And don’t forget to call mom! 🙂

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