COVID-19 has affected all of our routines, some out of necessity and others out of our emotional responses. It has also changed our habits which may be one reason we feel so out of sorts.  Although routines and habits are similar, habits are repeated actions that happen with little conscious thought.  Routines need some attention.

For example, your commute to work was routine. (Although some days you may have done so on automatic pilot.) Washing your hands was a habit.  Now you are not driving to work, and you are focused when you wash your hands.  Eventually that routine, repeated often enough, will become a habit.

Many parts of our job were habits.  Signing in, opening the library, and booting up computers were automatic — habits. Interacting with students and teachers were, for the most part, comfortable routines that were a regular part of your day.

Routines help us organize our time.  Knowing what we accomplished at the end of the day gives us satisfaction and the incentive to keep on going.  With our old routines gone, we have put some new ones in place, but they aren’t always as good a “fit” as the old ones.  Our lives work better when there is structure.

In thinking about our interactions with others as a “routine,” I found a post by  Eric YaverbaumHow One CEO, Positive for COVID, Is Continuing to Lead. I am hoping his leadership style, which he says was always rooted in “openness and optimism” will help him defeat the virus as well as offer us some pointers.

Check in to start your day – Many of you are required to do this, but if you aren’t, make a point of officially starting your day.  It’s helpful if you do it at the same time each day. Differentiating between work and non-work is particularly important when home and work are the sharing the same space.  If it helps – change your clothes. It tells your brain you have begun working.

My first September after retirement, I indulged myself in sleeping late and lounging about in sweats and going without makeup. I soon discovered I was getting nothing done.  How I dressed affected my attitude and my routines. To this day I get washed, dressed and put on makeup even if no one but my husband sees me.

Support and gratitude- This doesn’t sound like a routine, but it deserves to be.  You support your teachers and students every day, but you should be aware of doing it regularly. Equally important is to be a cheerleader to keep them going. And don’t forget to get the support you need. Use your PLN, family and friends to bolster you.

Gratitude both in and out of work will help keep your focus on the present. You can use a small notebook or a Google doc to regularly note what you are grateful for and writing it down can become a very inspiring routine. Before or after your lunch and as the last thing in your workday, reflect on what you have in your life that makes you grateful.  It’s one of the simplest techniques I know to keep a positive mindset.

Take breaks – Don’t sit in front of your computer all day.  Get up and do something you like.  For me, of course, that’s walking, but give yourself at least an hour to separate yourself from your tasks. Pick a new series to binge watch, take out that coloring book again, look for a new recipe. And if it stresses you – stay away from social media.  Find the things that fill you up and make them part of your routine.

Cultivate empathy and compassion – This must always be for yourself as well as others.  If kids are late getting something done (students or your own kids), find out why.  If you don’t get a response from someone, assume they have a good reason when you check back in with them.  Don’t beat yourself up for what you haven’t done.  Celebrate what you have. Cheer on the people in your life, including yourself. Every step forward is an achievement.

It’s been a tough few months, and it is likely to continue for quite a while.  Given the routines we’ve been forced to adapt, we need additional ones that give us the support we need to keep going.  We need to nurture and cherish the things in our lives that are working, be grateful for the support that’s available, and keep finding more things that make us – and those around us – feel successful.

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