How to make routine out of non-routine

by Sep 8, 2014Health, Productivity, Travel

Does this describe you?

You are slave to air traffic delays. You drive around to meet with clients at different locations. You never know when/where lunch will be and what time you'll be home. How do you develop habits when you don't have a routine?

This is a question I get asked a lot from mobile professionals.

It's not easy.

Controlling what you can control is important and always have a Plan B in mind. As a business traveler or MoPro, you have to plan. Sorry 'bout that. Plan what you can and prepare for the rest.

Some of the things you can have as routine when you don't have a routine:

Breakfast: I used to eat a muesli mix almost every morning for breakfast. On Sundays I would spend about five minutes and make up 10 baggies of muesli mix for my husband and I. It included muesli, protein powder, chia seeds, nuts and hemp seeds. I could travel with it or have it at home. It could be thrown in yogurt, milk, or just poured over fruit. It was easily portable and saved me from eating the high-sugar, carb-heavy hotel breakfasts. So what if that toast, sugared yogurt and Froot Loops are free? Consider it your six-pack tax and take your breakfast with you. One of my clients takes her oatmeal and protein powder on all her trips and now has a routine of having breakfast before she leaves the hotel.

Exercise: Sometimes you have to do what you like and not necessarily what you love. Make do. Deciding that the hotel gym is too stuffy or it's too cold/hot/wet/sunny outside to exercise is just an excuse. It's not a reason. If you pick activities that don't require teams, equipment or special clothing you can always get a workout in. Like what? Yoga, bodyweight exercises in your room, walking or running. You may love to swim but just because your hotel has a kiddie-sized pool doesn't mean you can skip getting your heart rate up. If you exercise in the morning at home, stick to morning when traveling. I have a friend who is a serious MoPro and she finds Crossfit wherever she travels to keep her routine and consistency. 

Email Processing: I know for me, when I'm traveling, my email processing schedule can fall to pieces. Now that I use Inbox Pause, I still stick to my three times a day schedule. I don't have to always be looking at a screen when I'm standing in line or waiting for a client. Keep to your processing schedule. Don't have one? Call me…it will change your life.

Sleep and Wake times: This is big. Go to bed and get up at the same time, even when you are traveling for business. If you don't have a TV in your bedroom at home (please say you don't) then why do you have it on to lull you to sleep in the hotel? Unless I am going to be somewhere for more than a week, I don't adjust my sleep/wake schedule at all or just barely.  Maybe it means going to be at 8 instead of 10 but if I'm already in my room I don't care and I feel better the next day. I'll also get up at 5am instead of 6 or 7. It just means I get an extra-long workout or meditation session in.

As a MoPro or business traveler, sometimes ‘being boring' when you are traveling is more important to your health. If you feel pressured to see the sites or close down the bar with your clients or companions, get rid of the guilt. You're not on vacation. You're working. It's okay to keep the routine of putting yourself, your health and your productivity first because your non-routine is your routine and you need to stick to what you can as much as you can.

When I hear people say they think routines are boring I think they are boring. My most artistic and creative friend, Lisa Wood of Moss Robot, became more successful after she started creating a schedule and routine for herself. Just because you are a Creative, doesn't mean that routine will stifle your brilliance. Routines give you more freedom. You can have fun playing because you feel good instead of draggin' ass. You can get your weekend back because you have your work done instead of catching up from being gone. Wouldn't you rather be hanging out with your partner/dog/kid/bike? Yeah…I thought so.

What do you make routine out of your non-routine?

Your Weekender Snapshot and Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday are my favorite emails I receive.
jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects