COLUMN: Creating a routine has allowed flexibility amid the pandemic

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Bailey Donovan

Writer Bailey Donovan starts her day off with a cup of coffee, part of her daily routine amid the pandemic.

I think that it’s safe to say that the past year has been rough. In a way, it feels as if I’ve been living the same day, over and over and over again. I never could have imagined that I would be stuck in this twisted Groundhog Day-like lifestyle that has made me have to reconstruct how I look at my day-to-day life. 

Pre-pandemic, it was completely normal to go to and from multiple places and interact with multiple people. However, now I am at a point where I feel lucky to be able to talk to someone outside of my home, whether it be in a Zoom class or while working. 

The repetitiveness of the pandemic, which has led to this Groundhog Day-like feeling, has left me with a lot of emotions, to say the least. Most of the time these emotions range from extreme boredom to a major lack of motivation, or just feeling like I’m not doing enough with all the free time that I now have. The lack of motivation led to procrastinating on schoolwork, making it so every assignment was rushed. The boredom, on the other hand, was the worst as most of the time it led me to spend hours upon hours on social media just scrolling rather than doing something productive.

There have, however, been certain practices that I have learned to use in my daily life that break up the monotony and allow me to remove myself from this feeling to a certain extent.

My first major strategy to mix up my days is to have a routine. This seems counterintuitive but hear me out — a routine allows me to know what I have to do each day and allows me to schedule time for myself beyond the realm of academics or work. At the beginning of the pandemic, I found myself focusing solely on academics, sunup to sundown, in an effort to combat boredom. This, as you can imagine, brought about a feeling of burnout quite quickly. 

A routine has allowed me to combat this feeling of burnout because I’m not packing my days full of things simply to fill time. A to-do list lets me know what has to be done that day, while the routine provides a type of structure. However, both the to-do list and routine are flexible enough that I can change things up if I want to.

Right now, the routine is simple. I know every day I’m going to have a cup of coffee. I know that my routine allows me time to attempt to get some kind of workout in each day after that cup of coffee. The fun thing about a workout in quarantine is that although you may be working out every day, you can mix up the exercises that you are doing. Besides, getting away from my laptop screen for a little bit each day to move around has made for quite a productive break between classes, papers and assignments.

By scheduling time to myself, I’ve made myself look forward to each day. Although my all-day academics routine can make me think I have no free time, I actually have ample free time. That cycle was absolutely exhausting, but now I take time for myself and do something I enjoy. I look forward to each day because of the little things that I make time for, whether it be watching a movie I’ve had my eye on for a while, or maybe just taking some time to clean up my workspace a little bit. It’s just something that’s productive; it doesn’t seem like a chore.

I have learned to take the word “productive’ lightly. At the beginning of the pandemic, I thought that with all this free time I had, I was going to be working on multiple passion projects, excelling in school and just living this efficient, productive, idealized lifestyle. A year later, I realized that being at home constantly is exhausting, and simply completing your to-do list for the day is a huge success in itself.

The pandemic has made me realize that successes can be small. Right now, getting through the academic quarter, getting assignments turned in on time, feeling like I’m truly focused for the entirety of a Zoom class — those are successes worth celebrating.

Essentially what I’m trying to say is that when I put more intention into my day, I feel like I get more out of it, and in a sense, I feel like I break the Groundhog Day cycle that I have found myself trapped in periodically throughout the past year. Creating a routine that allows for flexibility, gives me the ability to walk away from a computer screen and work out, as well as lending me the ability to take time for myself, has honestly been life-changing.