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“I was in five different states this week.”
“I forgot I was driving my own car and kept looking for the beige Toyota in the parking garage.”
“I haven’t had anything but condiments in my refrigerator in the past two months.”
“I can’t remember what its like to not have jet lag.”
All of these are lines I’ve overheard from colleagues and frequent flyer friends in the last few days – all of them disrupted from their normal routines. In the case of those who’ve been doing this for years, those routines may be long ago abandoned.
Seventeen years into my life of frequent travel, the routines I once had were long ago abandoned. I woke up this morning and wondered exactly where the month of October went.
I hadn’t written here at Jetsetter’s Homestead for almost four weeks – that routine got disrupted in the early spring when I made a major career move.
I hadn’t kept up with the groceries in my fridge, as evidenced by the “expires on 10/3” carton of cashew milk I pulled out and almost poured on my cereal this morning.
I hadn’t done laundry since returning from vacation in early September, which necessitated a couple of emergency trips to the store to buy another half dozen pairs of delicates.
I’ve been unintentionally skipping meals eating lunch mid-afternoon and then not being hungry for dinner at a reasonable hour. Or looking up at 9 pm on a weeknight and realizing I’d been at my desk for 13 hours.
I looked at my calendar and my time log for work and realized that I’ve been working a lot. And working and working and working. That’s not a bad thing – but it’s also not an excuse.
I needed to come up for air and reevaluate where I was.
I have certain routines that work very well for me – and I’ve been self-disciplined in following them:
- I make my bed every morning as soon as I get out of it. Or in hotels, I pull the covers up and straighten the pillows. My grandmother once said that if I did that, I’d start the day having already completed one thing – and it’s true. On the rare morning I need to get up and do something else before making my bed, I always feel a bit sluggish and behind. Even if I plan on going back to bed later or taking a nap, I’ll still make my bed.
- On work mornings when I’m using my home office, I try to still get up and shower and get fully dressed as if I were going to work. That includes putting on shoes (although more days than not, this translates to rubber flip flops).
- I head out to get breakfast (or at least tea) before starting my day. It’s an odd ritual, but it sets up the expectation that I’ve left home and gone to work – even if I walk right back into my house with my Starbucks cup and sit down at my desk. I try to do that by a set time each morning which helps me stay on track. I’ve also started doing this when I work in hotels on the road and it has been helpful to my productivity.
- When I pack my suitcase for a work trip, I lay out everything I think I want to take on the bed. And then I count to be sure I have enough underwear for the trip (count each day plus two pairs), my pajamas, and then business/casual wear for each day. I count them off to be sure I don’t over pack. And then I add shoes and, if necessary, grab outerwear from my hall closet on the way out the door (all coats, hats, gloves, scarves live there). My toiletries always stay in my suitcase – I have a full set of them plus separate makeup bags for travel. Those get refreshed as soon as I get home from a trip and put right back in the suitcase. I also keep an empty travel laundry bag, an umbrella, chargers, and my spare flat iron there.
- I use TripIt to organize my travel plans and once a week I go through upcoming itineraries and make a list of things to book (flights, cars, hotels, etc.) This helps me avoid last minute bookings and watch for falling rates.
- I’m religious about using Microsoft Outlook to organize my calendar – everything (work, travel, personal) goes on one calendar. I use that calendar to make my daily and weekly to-do lists and decide whether I can squeeze in extra trips or commitments.
I’ve realized I need to adjust my routines though to fit where I am:
- This website is a personal priority and I need to treat it like one. I’m adding back my writing time to my mornings by getting up 30 minutes earlier so that I can write before work. I’m also going to work to get back on a structured writing schedule.
- Laundry and grocery shopping are being added to my calendar as regular check-in tasks. I stocked up this morning on a few healthy options for the pantry and freezer so that I don’t have to worry about expiring groceries. And I added a few fresh items after comparing my schedule for the week and realizing how much time I had to eat at home.
- Eating at normal times is important so I’m going to begin setting an alarm on my phone for lunch and dinner so that I actually eat.
- With the holidays sneaking up, I’m scheduling time for the gym and getting it on my calendar.
- Also with that busy season coming, I’m revisiting my list of tasks I can do on the road that will save me time at home.
- To help on the laundry and packing front, I’m weeding out my closet and coming up with new pre-planned packing lists for travel weeks (and yes, my Pinterest packing list board is central to that)!
November is not too late in the year to make a resolution – so these six routines are mine. I’ll have a jump start on my new year and I’ll be able to recover a bit of time with what is left of this one!