10 Habits I Plan to Keep When Things Get Back to Normal
We’ve all heard the Chinese word for crisis having dual meaning “Danger” and “Opportunity” — while this is overused and largely debunked, it is still relevant as it relates to this post. The Chines characters more accurately translate to “Danger” and “Changing Point”, which is where the “Opportunity” lies.
To illustrate this opportunity to change, I’ve compiled a list of habits I’ve created during the COVID quarantine which I plan to keep after things to back to how they were. But before I share that list, I want to refer to a Medium post that’s been making its way around social for the past week — Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting
In this post, Julio Vincent Gambuto beautifully articulates the opportunity we have been given inside this great crisis known as the Corona Virus pandemic. In a nutshell, Julio relates the idea that the system we living (the normal routine life we were all used to) is going to do everything in its power to get you back to exactly how it was before COVID. For me, that “System” is not unlike the Matrix, I mean for all we know, and mathematically speaking, it’s more likely we’re living in a simulation like the Matrix anyway, although it doesn’t matter if we are. The Matrix is control, but like any system, the rules can be bent and sometimes broken. I’d like to be part of the movement to change the way the Matrix works and the way we live inside the rules of that program.
At one point Gambuto says:
“I beg of you: take a deep breath, ignore the deafening noise, and think deeply about what you want to put back into your life. This is our chance to define a new version of normal, a rare and truly sacred (yes, sacred) opportunity to get rid of the bullshit and to only bring back what works for us, what makes our lives richer, what makes our kids happier, what makes us truly proud.”
For me, I want to put these 10 things back into my life and begin to take a bit of control back.
1 — Only Driving 4 Days Per Week
This one will be a challenge but also the most impactful I think. From a selfish perspective, driving less means doing less, spending less, dealing less. And, environmentally speaking, at scale, this clearly has big implications. The question I’ve been asking myself is: what do I actually get out of driving every day? The answer is nothing. It’s been relatively easy to schedule my use of a car to limited days, mostly not at all. So I think I can cut back to 3–4 days per week. Yes, that means I won’t be going into work every day, unless I walk or bike, which is entirely possible given how close my office is.
2 — Staying Up Late, Waking Up Late
This one might be counter-intuitive. I’m guessing many people have the desire to get rid of this habit, but for me I’ve come to realize that it just works better. I get more work done at night, whether work-work or work-play, I’m just more productive and more importantly, I’m more satisfied. And I think the Matrix doesn’t like this. It wants me to operate on a socially acceptable schedule, along with everyone else, when everything is open and the machine is in full effect. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but I’ve found that mostly I’ve been able to schedule things for 11AM or later, after I’ve woken up, taken a swim, gotten my coffee, showered and ready to roll. Then I can stay up to 1AM or 2AM and still have a good 8+ hours of sleep.
3 — Working From Home
This on the other hand I think will be a big one for many people and businesses alike. It turns out that you can do most things from home or remotely. Obviously we’ve known this and millions of people already did it every day. But a lot more of us still went into offices every day and we’ve come to realize we like working remotely. I also don’t think it’s a binary change, it’s not an all or nothing thing. For me, I want to work from home, when I want to work from home, do my work on my time and not feel guilty or shameful for it. I want to be totally transparent with my co-workers, my clients, my partners and vendors and tell them I’m not in the office and it doesn’t matter one bit.
4 — Swimming Every Morning
For decades I’ve been going to the gym 3 days per week. I’ve also been paying a personal trainer for that same time because I really don’t like to work out. And I’ve found that unless I’m paying for the session, I just won’t show up consistently. Well that routine got crushed day one and I found something that I actually like to do — literally in my own backyard. Two aspects about swimming in the morning that work for me. First, it’s typically colder out and the pool, especially in the winter, is cold AF. Diving into the pool is shocking, but it’s exactly that shock that I love. It’ wakes me up. It gets my blood flowing. It makes me feel alive and refreshed and after 5 or so minutes I’m used to the temperature and off to doing laps. Second, I’m actually winded after doing 10 laps or so. My least favorite thing at the gym is cardio, but even when I do the bike, treadmill, elliptical, the effing Jacobs Ladder (ugh) or anything else, I’m tired, but I’m rarely that winded. Generally because I only warm up for about 6 minutes and I’m over it. I can easily spend 20 minutes in the pool doing laps. I exit winded, heart pumping, arms and legs tired and refreshed. It’s a win-win.
5 — Cleaning, Cooking & Laundry
Of course many people do these already, but this is my list, not yours and I won’t be judged for having a housekeeper. I did cook prior to COVID, but not a ton. But I rarely did laundry or house cleaning. I really don’t mind it and to a large extent I’m enjoying it. I’ve been cooking more frequently. Trying new recipes. Using groceries before they go bad. Cleaning, vacuuming, sweeping, wiping, tidying up, organizing and yes, laundry. I’m totally capable and it gets done exactly how I like it.
6 — Chores for Kids
Similar to #5 I’ve given my kids way more chores. They’ve had some jobs up till now, but generally have had it easy. They do the dishes (in and out of the dishwasher) feed the dog, put their laundry away, bring their laundry in, clean their own bathroom, put sheets on their bed, make their beds and generally tidy up every day. It’s not hard. Doesn’t take much time. And they feel good about it after.
7 — Saying No
There are a million blog posts on this topic. Human beings are seemingly born to say yes. Not everyone, but for lots of us, it’s hard to say no. COVID has made that significantly easier, we just can’t do everything and we have more on our plate in many ways so people just accept a no easier than they used to, or at least that’s my perception. But saying no is a complete sentence and I find myself saying no even when I’m totally capable of saying yes; I just don’t want to say yes and it’s been totally fine.
8 — Buying on Amazon Once Per Week Max
I’ve commented before how I wish Amazon shared my purchase ranking with me. Before the quarantine I spent a lot more money on Amazon than now. I’ve heard this is the exact opposite of what some people have been doing. For many people, buying things fills that spiritual hole in our chests that we so intensely want to ignore. That actually hasn’t been my experience in this past 45 days. I’m spending way less on Amazon than I was. Before Corona, something would pop into my head that I thought I needed and I’d be on the Amazon app ordering it seconds later. I had Amazon boxes at my door daily. I just don’t seem to have that same impulse need these days and it’s a habit that is saving me money and making me feel better. I still need things that Amazon has. And I still buy things that I don’t need, but want. But I don’t need to do it every day. If I limit my purchase window to once per week, maybe even less, I have time to re-think a purchase, get past the impulse and move on.
9 — Jigsaw Puzzles
I’ve always loved games, board games in particular. And I’ve always enjoyed puzzles. But I haven’t done a puzzle in a decade, and certainly not a 2000 piece puzzle. It’s a great thing to just have sitting around. I can pause for 20 minutes, an hour, whatever, and just put my brain to work in a different way. It’s incredibly satisfying to find that one piece or connect that block of pieces to the edge. Yeh, it takes up space on my dining room table, but I rarely eat there anyway.
10 — Taking Breaks
I really took this one for granted before now. Taking breaks, and doing things that have nothing to do with the activity I was doing before the break, has really worked for me. Days now feel longer in the sense that I’m basically in one place all day. So if I’m working for a few hours, it’s been great to just stop, in the middle of the day, and take a break. Maybe for an hour, maybe two — and watch a show, make some lunch, build something in my shop, do some laundry, work on my puzzle, take a nap, really whatever feels good. I never did that. If I was at work, other than lunch and some time wasting in the kitchen or hallway, I never took breaks, and certainly not long enough to watch a show. This is definitely easier when we’re at home for so many hours, but with all the above implemented, I’ll be at home more and taking breaks will go hand-in-hand.
The point of all this is not to say everyone should do these 10 things. I’m actually saying the exact opposite. I’m suggesting you find 10 things you’ve been doing during this off season, 10 things that work for you that maybe you weren’t doing before, and keep them when you head back out into the Matrix.