Act IV: Organize Your Weekly Routine
NOTE: I’m publishing this during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, so for the moment let’s suspend reality and pretend that this is *normal* life...because right now, it is anything but. No matter where you live or your socioeconomic status (and unless you were already a hermit to begin with), your routine has been completely upended. Work is being conducted from a makeshift home office if you’re fortunate enough to have this option, schools are closed, and your slate of extracurricular activities is wiped clean for the foreseeable future. You’re hunkered down and social distancing (if you’re not, you should be), save the occasional excursion from the house to satisfy your instincts to hunt and gather what scarce rations have been replenished on grocery store shelves. Here’s to hoping that by doing so, we are able to contain the spread of this virus! In the meantime, please capitalize on extra time you may have on your hands by taking the actions I suggest below. This way, you'll be ready when our normal lives resume hopefully in the next few weeks, if not months.
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If you’ve made it this far, CONGRATULATIONS! You should now be well on your way to establishing healthy habits and seeing the positive impact they have on your life.
The final step is to organize your weekly routine. Same as before, once your routine is established, it requires consistency and lack of thought to maintain. Like the Nike slogan advises, Just Do It. But before you can switch into autopilot, you need to pause and spend time thinking and most importantly acting to determine the weekly routine that works best for you and your family.
This requires setting aside a predetermined amount of time on your calendar for all of these ambitious healthy eating and working out activities. Do this the same as you would for going to work, a wedding or a baby shower to increase the likelihood that they will get done. The goal is to make it as easy as possible on yourself to stick with the routine until it turns into a habit and eventually a lifestyle change.
Or, to put it more bluntly:
Per week, I recommend spending 20 minutes on meal planning, one hour grocery shopping, and two hours on snack and meal prep. I set aside two hours per week on laundering workout clothes and 20 minutes packing my gym bag for the week. You also need to set aside time to actually do the workouts, even if this is just a 30 minute walk three times a week.
In order to ensure consistency in all of this, make sure these activities are scheduled the same time and day every week. I’ve found it’s best to spread these activities over multiple days, rather than lumping a bunch of them into a Sunday afternoon, for example. Now I will insert another quote I came across recently that seems appropriate here:
“A schedule defends from chaos and whim.” - Annie Dillard, winner of Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction, 1975
A little chaos and whim injected into your life can be fun, which is precisely why my weekends often lean towards the unstructured side. As such, I’ve chosen to do my meal planning, shopping and laundry on weekdays. But this is about you, so make sure to schedule these activities at times that are convenient. Having them on your calendar means they will be prioritized, making it easier to schedule around them as other things arise and compete for your precious time. This includes hauling the kids to and from soccer practice, piano lessons, taekwondo, ice skating lessons, math tutoring, and so on and so forth...
I do all my meal planning on Monday evenings, Thursdays after work I go grocery shopping, and Friday nights I do my meal prep because I already have events scheduled on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Laundry is done on an as-needed basis in the mornings by my lovely husband, so I’m lucky to have help in that department.
I’ve found it extremely helpful to pre-pack workout clothes for each day in separate Zip-lock baggies within my gym bag once per week, so I’m not having to put thought into this every day. This is a technique known as “batching” - grouping similar tasks together to eliminate the time spent mentally switching gears. This also depends on how many times you workout in a given week and how many clothes you own, and could potentially result in an excuse to buy another outfit or two. I pack my gym bag on Mondays, and double check everything I need is re-supplied, like shampoo for showering at the gym.
Below is the list of things to put on your calendar right now. Make sure to take advantage of the feature allowing you to schedule "recurring" events at the same time and on a weekly basis. If you don’t use a calendar, I’m not sure what else to say other than that is a whole ‘nother issue to address in a future blog post. It’s 2020 and time to get with the program people!
Where was I? Ah yes, making that list. Choose a time and actually add these as events on your calendar. Obvs you will need to adjust the amount of time spent based on factors like family size - it takes longer to do laundry for a family of six vs. two:
20 minutes on meal planning
1 hour for snack and meal prepping
1 hour for grocery shopping
2 hours for laundry
20 minutes for packing gym bag
Three 30-minute workouts
I know that seems like a lot of boring ol’ adulting here, but there is really no way around this unless you have some extra cash laying around and are able to outsource. There are a few shortcuts here such as subscribing to one of those services that prepares healthy, individually packaged meals such as Clean Eatz, and the plethora of services that deliver recipes and ingredients to your door such as Blue Apron. Grocery stores like Kroger offer delivery service which would certainly shave some time off the routine. Heck, you could even take advantage of a laundry service to pickup, wash, folder and deliver your laundry! A local laundromat that provides this service here in Knoxville is called WaveMAX Laundry.
As always, I love a good life hack, so please comment with other suggestions to shave time off the routine, allowing us to spend more time with people and doing things we enjoy.
Well, that’s all, folks! Good luck and holler at me if you need help getting started on this by organizing your kitchen, your laundry room or your spouse!