If you’ve talked to me over the last six months and asked me how I am, you may have heard me mention my biggest struggle since leaving my day job in August to become self-employed. I mentioned it in my post on Hey Eleanor about quitting, and I am pretty sure I’ve bored my family and friends to tears with it, because it feels like I have been banging my head against a wall trying to solve this.
I knew when I left my day job that my schedule would be blown wide open; that I’d have a new level of control over what I did with every moment of the day. And that sounded thrilling, liberating and it made my mouth water with anticipation.
What I did not anticipate was the massively uncomfortable, uprooted feeling of standing in a vacuum when all of my previous systems, structures and routines were just gone. Once I was on my own, I realized I hadn’t fully acknowledged how much I had relied on the structure of my day before—this is the time I go to work. This is the time I get home. These are the errands I do on my lunch break. I work on my own businesses in the evenings. I don’t have free time.
Without these steady “compartments” in my life I was used to planning around and fitting into, it felt like gravity just got taken away. All of a sudden all my stuff started floating off the shelves and mingling together in a big, slow-moving chaotic mass in the middle of the room. And there was me, bumping into everything as I was trying my hardest to grasp at anything to anchor on to that felt familiar.
I tried instituting A New Routine, but it always felt sporadic, never like roots. Always like something I was forcing, never like something I could return to. Nothing that felt like home. I grew more and more frustrated when my attempts to return to something normal just wouldn’t seem to stick.
About three weeks ago, I was having a particularly rough night (frustrated with the randomness, and it was making me crabby) and I made three lists for myself: things that are working. things that are not working. new things I want to try.
And I was shocked to find, the one that surprised me (and made me feel better than before) was the “things that are working” list. I hadn’t noticed until I put them on paper, but there were a lot of things working about my new schedule.
Here is a sample of the list:
- Morning writing—intentions for the day, brain dump, analyze things, plan new ideas.
- Basecamp task management—weekly check-in on everything. Put time estimates by easy tasks *5 minutes* when scheduling the upcoming week.
- Scheduling blocks of time on the calendar for certain tasks.
- 10 minute Barre3 workout mid-morning or mid-afternoon; daily movement in general.
- Meditation (almost) every day
- Weekly meal planning (usually on the weekend)
- Weekly financial check-in (Fridays) with budgeting
- Weekly email cleanup (get all 3 of my inboxes to zero)
- Using chains.cc to track habits
It felt like progress, but it still didn’t feel like roots.
Last week was a rough one. A bunch of stuff hit at once, including an unexpected tight deadline with a client, some really bad nights of sleep and one of those random emotional upheavals that seem to smack you to the ground just when you think you’ve got a handle on something. (Tell me I’m not the only one that happens to.)
I’d been doing so well tracking all the habits I want to maintain, but last week I fell off the wagon on nearly all of them. I managed to keep writing every day, but I didn’t work out. I didn’t stretch. I was too tired to keep trying, so I abandoned everything. Queue image of the gravity-free room with me floating in the middle, bumping into shit.
After a few days, I started to feel better (which inevitably happens, even when you don’t think it will). I got a good night’s sleep, I finished the big project on time (and the customer was happy), I returned to a more centered emotional state. And I returned to my habits.
Here’s where the new thing happened. For the first time in a really long time, returning to these habits felt familiar, like returning to normalcy. And that’s the thing I’ve been missing, all this time.
I am now recognizing that through all of the uncomfortableness that was the last 6+ months, I have developed the framework of a new rhythm to my days. It’s not so much a routine, something that’s exactly the same every day, like going to work from 9 to 4:30. But it’s a bunch of little things that I do most days, often in the same window of time. And it feels like a breath of fresh
It’s so much easier to describe that transition now that I’ve found a first step out of it.
Is this interesting to you? If so, I’d love to hear about your own rhythm in the comments—what’s working? What feels uncomfortable? Leave a note in the comments, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I could talk about this all day, if I didn’t have a RHYTHM TO GET BACK TO! *grin*