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Creating New Routines in the Midst of a Crisis

Apr 08, 2020

I am sitting here on my couch and thinking how different my life is today than a month ago. During the age of coronavirus, there are big issues with significant consequences that pervade our thoughts and actions. The anxiety surrounding these times is constantly reinforced because it pops up in both my newsfeed and text messages. It is personal loss coupled with global worry.  However, I have no way to control most of these things. What I can do is stay home. This helps others, myself, and my family stay safe.

Instead of thinking of the loss and sadness during this time, I am trying to redirect to the bits of life I can control. I am trying to determine how to be the most productive for my family and my clients, while remaining sane at the same time. This is not easy because my routine has changed. Life no longer moves as it did – it has become upended. You see, my life, like most people, is governed by habits and patterns. Those habits can no longer stay the same.

Around Christmas time, I heard a podcast that discussed how habits shape who we are and who we become. It was timely, as the New Year was right around the corner and many people set resolutions. I don’t set New Year’s resolutions, so I listened but just thought it was interesting, but of no particular relevance.  But now, as I enter into my third week of working from home, I find myself wondering where my life is headed and how much I will change as a result. I am drawn to how I can take this time to create new patterns and habits that could better my work and personal life.

But how does one create these ‘good’ habits and avoid the ‘bad’ ones? Many of our daily actions are automated. It is estimated that approximately half our actions are done without deliberate thought. Think about driving a car or walking to work. Sometimes these actions are deliberate but many times you can do it on autopilot. After working in Lansing, I know many of my lobbying activities are automatic. The way I talk and interact with people is a routine I have created.  For me, seeing people was key. And at home, it was similar. The way I parent is governed by routines. It is these routines that allow me to have a balance as a working parent.  Before this crisis, I had a multitude of small actions I did each day that made life easier. So, this is the balance I am looking for now.

The podcast said something that stuck with me; in order to have productive patterns, you have to set up your surrounding environment to have a good outcome. The outcomes are not based as much on willpower, but on creating a life that will lead to good choices because of automatic actions. The easiest example of this is one’s diet. It takes strong will at first to say no to the coconut cake in the refrigerator. And day after day one can use strong will to say no to the cake. Or, you can just not have the cake in the refrigerator. So, one removes the need to use effort to stick to a diet. After so long, habits will change and what is in the refrigerator will no longer matter.

The idea is that willpower matters in the beginning to force change, but to create lasting habits and in order for a habit to continue for the long term, one has to set up an environment that makes it easy to do something automatically. I am continually looking for life hacks to make things easier and now is the time because chaos is a profound opportunity for reinvention – it is a catalyst for change. We are all living through chaos at this moment. This is stressful, but now is a good opportunity to act more authentically on our decisions. Our choices right now are super important.  It is an opportunity to rethink what we do and make lasting changes big and small.

So, I am deliberately trying to create good habits like the podcast said.  I have been trying to change my house to accompany my new life. There is now a separate space for clients. There is space for study. And a new space for being together.

These changes are helping me create new routines, new ways of doing things and looking at things.  In spite of the frightening nature of this crisis, I am trying to see it as an opportunity to make positive changes.

Michigan Legislative Consultants is a bipartisan lobbying firm based in Lansing, Michigan. Our team of lobbyists and procurement specialists provide a wide range of services for some of the most respected companies in America. For more on MLC, visit www.mlcmi.com or connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.