In November, when we had our last full lockdown, I had one of the worst months I’ve ever had - I felt I was failing and burnt out. This time I’m determined not to let that happen.
There were a few things that I think contributed to my November woes:
First of all, I was stuck in my flat almost 24 hours a day. I wasn’t going out to exercise, I could no longer play tennis and shopping only happened once a week. I had no real reason to leave the flat and not much discipline to make myself do it.
This time round I’m committing to doing a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise a day, preferably outside. I used to cycle into the office every day so I was easily burning through plenty of calories and getting my daily dose of exercise without thinking. It was bloody easy because I saw cycling as a means to an end - it saved me money and I enjoyed it. The trouble is now I don’t enjoy cycling or walking if there is not a destination. A-A cycling or running is just frustrating and a waste of time - except it’s not, is it?
I need to exercise discipline and routine to make this happen, it’s not about what I enjoy. Far too often I just won’t do something because I don’t have the restraints to have to do that thing.
For example; if I’m watching a TV series and it’s 11pm, I’ll happily watch another 3 episodes because there is nothing stopping me from doing that. I don’t have to go to bed on time, but I don’t ever consider the long term impacts of not exercising that restraint.
If I watch those 3 episodes, it’s going to be 2am by the time I’ve finished, I’ll then spend another hour winding down or on social media, not going to sleep until around 3am. In the morning I don’t feel refreshed and will have had a maximum of 5 hours sleep - which after reading ‘Why We Sleep’ is quite a scary prospect.
This leads me onto the second thing I struggled with.
Not going to sleep on time
This has been troublesome for me ever since I was young. I didn’t go to school because I’d stay up too late playing FIFA. Short term it was fine, enjoyed my game and didn’t miss too much at school (I have strong opinions on schools anyway). But long term it compounded into a lot of stress for me and my parents, and I certainly didn’t achieve as much as I could have.
This problem has spiralled into my adulthood. I have countless journal entries at 3am of me being angry at myself for not getting to sleep on time and not having the discipline to put the devices down and get some kip.
I’ve had a few points over the past few years where I’ve managed to get into a routine. I would go to sleep no later than 10/11pm and wake up at 5:30am to go to the gym before cycling to work. I probably did this semi-regularly for about 6 months - it felt great. I think laziness is how I snapped out of it.
Then in September, I committed to writing down an evening and morning routine. To try and go to sleep at the exact same time every night with a series of triggers, then repeat this with a different set of tasks in the morning. I executed on the routine for about 2 weeks before working late a couple of evenings in a row and throwing it off-kilter. When I was doing it I bloody loved it - it felt great.
Routine is going to be so important for me if I’m going to make it through this lockdown unscathed. It’s just being disciplined to follow that routine for the first couple of days / weeks so I can then turn it into a series of habits.
I lost all momentum
I really should explore momentum more because it’s fascinating to me. I can genuinely feel when I have momentum with work, exercise or anything else. There is this invisible force pushing me along, making me feel excited to wake up and work on things. It’s caused by showing up every day and executing on the things I say I’m going to do - which sounds simple, right?
In November I had the most work I’d ever had, but zero motivation to do it (I’ve since learnt that it was because of many other factors, including burnout). I also had no momentum going into the lockdown and no motivation to build it.
I’m hoping that early on into this month I can complete a few easy, fun tasks every single day (small wins) then build bigger tasks on top of that to try and regain some of that momentum. I genuinely feel at my best when I’m being productive and not falling behind on things.
Does anyone know more about the science behind ‘momentum’ when it comes to work? Tweet me if you know!
Routine, Routine, Routine
Doing exercise, getting to sleep on time, and getting my work done can all be dictated by routine - I think. Oh, and discipline.
If I can get into a daily evening routine, then a morning routine, followed by a work routine and including an exercise routine, then I should be able to avoid how shitty I felt in November.