Spending your hours, days, and therefore your lives, more intentionally.
This article is cross-posted from my weekly newsletter, The Sunday Soother, a newsletter about clarity, intention, and useful tips for creating more meaning in your life that goes out every Sunday morning. Subscribe here. I am also a coach who teaches you mindfulness and thoughtful self-reflection so you can stop second-guessing yourself, make decisions confidently and live the life you’ve always dreamed of. You can learn more about working with me here.
Happy Sunday, friends. Let’s talk about intentional ways to spend your time — and therefore, your days, and your years.
When I left my full-time job last fall to start my coaching and writing business, I was so excited to have my days all to myself.
“I’m an independent business lady now!” I would shout to anybody who would listen (aka primarily my plants, since I live alone). “No more of this 9–5 bull for me! I create my schedule from now on — AND MY DESTINY!”
Two weeks later I was crying in my pajamas on my couch eating peanut butter out of the jar, staring wistfully out of the window, wondering when, how, please, if anybody would just come save me from the horrors of having to create my day-to-day schedule and please god could somebody else JUST TELL ME WHAT TO DO EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Today, three weeks into self-isolation in most places in the US, you may have a deep understanding of what I experienced last fall: the deep horror of being exclusively responsible for every single hour of your day, week, month.
Despite my previous struggles with working from home and running my own business, I only realized this was possibly an issue for folks in the last week, when three separate clients asked me to dedicate their coaching sessions to helping them set up a daily and weekly schedule because they were in such states of overwhelm.
First, they’d never been at home for so long with no pressure to external markers. Sure, some of them had to work, so many of their hours were bookmarked through the day, but generally they had more time available to them in the past and didn’t know what to do with it (all these clients and myself are childless, I want to note).
Second, they felt deep overwhelm at all the offerings being put out into the world right now and felt a serious obligation to try to take advantage of as many of those as possible but didn’t know how or where to fit them into their days.
Thirdly, time just started to feel weirdly… endless. What day is it? What hour is it? Is it the weekend, or a weekday? Does it matter? Should it matter? And if so, how can I mark it?
And finally, I think what all of these clients, and myself too, were facing, was the reality of how little intentional thought we had previously put into our routines and daily lives. Stuff was dictated by external needs like job arrival times, school schedules, social obligations, the normal day-to-day stuff of living.
With those taken away, it was becoming quite clear how little intent many of us put into the way we while our lives away, and with this upsetting realization, my clients wanted to get on it and start spending their time intentionally as soon as possible.
You may be feeling the same. So where to start?
I think it’s important to split it into the following ways of looking at it:
- Creating daily schedules that include what HAS to get done and what you WANT to get done
- Take the guesswork out of the days and mark them with repeating activities
- Create 1–2 meaningful rituals to mark the weeks
Let me explain each.
Daily schedules: First things first: I talked a couple of weeks ago about creating a daily “Virus Schedule”. Every day at 5pm I review my obligations and calls for the next day, jot down a few things I WANT to get done, and create an hour by hour schedule for each day, from wake up to bedtime. I detail my process for how I create a daily schedule over in my Wednesday Wisdom Patreon subscriber newsletter, which you can sign up for here if you like. But the gist is, plan every evening for the next day, and no more. I use Google Calendar or a daily planner to block off tasks hour by hour. Treat yourself like a kindergartener. In fact, I call these schedules Virus Schedules but I also call them Kindergarten Schedules. Take it simple. Are you nourishing yourself in your mind, body, heart, and physical surroundings each day, even if just for 10 minutes? Check out my 4 pillars for a daily schedule Instagram post for what those can look like.
Taking the guesswork out of the days of the week: Overall with schedules, especially during traumatic and chaotic times, we’re trying to soothe our brain, reduce decision fatigue, and kinda just operate like robots around the basics. That’s why in my house I decided Monday was clean bathroom day; Tuesday, clean kitchen; Wednesday clean bedroom; Thursday, clean living area; Friday for laundry. Cleaning my home for 15–60 minutes each day has proved surprisingly therapeutic (OMG PS you guys DEFINITELY have to take your rugs and your curtains outside and beat them — best cleaning choice I’ve made), but I didn’t want to wake up and decide which area needed to be cleaned, I just wanted to know, ok, Monday, bathroom day. To the same end, I’ve reduced choices in breakfast and lunch — I’m basically having the same thing every day (this helps a lot with grocery shopping or delivery, too). My boyfriend and I also alternate dinner duties, so if it’s Tuesday, I know it’s my day to figure out what we’re eating; Wednesday, his. We also talk at the start of the day about what we might want to do after dinner, whether it’s read, watch a movie, or something else, so we don’t immediately go into phone zone-out mode after dinner.
Katie Hawkins-Gaar wrote about the benefits of not having many choices right now this week, and I think that insight is sound. So for schedules: Simplify. Shed. Don’t overschedule. If you’re dying to take advantage of all the online classes & gatherings right now, limit yourself to 4 a week. Limitations in a situation of chaos are good. Keep it simple.
Finally, ritualize some elements of your life: I’ve long been a big fan of rituals. I wrote a whole piece on it. Rituals are merely acts performed at a certain time to mark something with intention. As time blends colorlessly, one hour into the next, during this time, you may want to pick 1–2 times during your week where you set up a ritual to mark the time that has passed with intention. These can be pretty simple! Some ideas:
-Friday night cocktail hour. Try a new cocktail every week (er, if you can get the ingredients)
-Appointment TV viewing. Just like the good old days. You can’t watch Schitt’s Creek whenever and binge it all at once; save it for one evening a week and make it special and anticipate it
-Sunday evening journaling session. Write down all that’s happened in the past week and what you’ve learned; make a plan for the next week in your journal. (I have a ridiculous amount of journal prompts here if you need them.)
-A ritual I used to have was my Thursday morning park walk. Every Thursday for two hours in the morning I would walk my favorite park. That park has since closed down, but I’m trying to find a new, regular spot I can go back to get that time again.
-Saturday night reflection date. I created this prompt for couples to check in with each other weekly, during a date night, but it’d work for anybody — roomies, friends, family, even yourself. Sit down with yourself and a nice cuppa something and ask these questions out loud.
I recently wrote this over in the Wednesday Wisdom and I think it holds as to why schedules are important in any given parts of our lives, not just during this pandemic — because scheduling for ourselves is a radical act of self-care and healing:
Why is focusing on a set schedule important right now? For some of us who grew up with helicopter parents and then had our brains turned to distracted mush by social media, this may be the first time we’ve had to establish our own routines, structure and focus.
And it can be surprisingly difficult.
But having an intentional, set schedule is the key to making sure we are not spending these weeks in a haze of cable news and Instagram; that we are holding ourselves together; that we continue to establish new normals where we’re able; that we continue to imbue doing, creating and meaning into a situation that is largely out of our control.
Scheduling and having a routine is also a very intentional act of self-care and parenting ourselves, which is really important right now. At our core, we may be feeling like pretty scared children, but as adults, it is our responsibility to take care of ourselves. So we have to be setting structure, routine, and planning elements of our lives for our future selves.
If you’re interested in creating a more intentional way of living, not just of spending the days during social distancing, I’m super excited to announce I’m launching my first-ever online course: Introduction to Intentional Living. This is an 8-module, 8-week, self-paced email course that walks you through the critical steps to creating values-based goals, setting an intentional vision, and understanding and executing the ways you truly want to live.
The waitlist for the course is now open and you can get lots of details here; enrollment for purchasing the course will be from April 8th — 17th; the course and emails will begin April 19th, with emails going out every Sunday evening for 8 weeks.
So here’s to a week ahead full of kindergarten schedules, simplified days, and a ritual or two to give you some much-needed meaning to mark this strange and formless time we are all experiencing together and separately.
If you have schedules, routines, rituals, or just stuff that’s working for you right now, I’d love to hear it. Hit reply to this email and I’ll share your insights and thoughts with the Soother community in the week ahead.