How I'm Combatting Apathy (by Creating a Routine)

I've been meeting with my therapist online once a week for over five months now. (I live with depression with mixed features.)

For the past two weeks, we've been working on creating a routine for every day of the week so I'm able to consistently work toward my goals and live the life I want to live, even when my mental illness symptoms attempt to steer me off course or stop any progress.

Even if someone has superb mental health, I think the flexibility of self-employment comes with the difficult task of enforcing ones schedule. I think everyone can benefit from creating a routine.

First, I wrote down my every day (M-F) requirements:

  • Eating

  • Sleeping

  • Working my part-time job

Then, I added the other things I'd like to accomplish each day:

  • Household chores (tidying)

  • Meditation (via the Calm app)

  • Getting ready for the day (dressing, make up, etc.)

  • Author work

  • Exercise

  • Personal tasks

Using Google Calendar, I divided these priorities into time slots.

Habits take a while to stick, and I'm only approaching week 3, not yet adhering to the routine 100%. (I keep telling myself that it isn't all or nothing--it's just 1% better every day.)

I've listed what I've struggled with below. If you've successfully addressed any of the tasks below, please share your possible solution in the comments!

Getting out of bed

I live with a sleep disorder called Idiopathic Hypersomnia (IH). Translated, it pretty much reads, "we don't know why you're so tired all the time." Typically, upon waking, I take a stimulant and wait to feel the effects. In the past, I would snooze my alarm, take a med, and go back to bed or putz around on my phone until the grogginess lifted. More recently, I got in the habit of staying on my phone well past when the meds started working.

Lately, I've been setting an alarm in the other room. It is the loudest alarm clock I've ever heard in my life. I can easily hear it through the closed door, and the one time I set it in the bedroom, my boyfriend awoke, yelling in surprise.

I get up when I hear the aggressive trilling, trudge to the other room, shut the alarm off, and avoid laying back down, sitting, or leaning of any kind. This is harder than you might imagine and more than once I found myself sitting on the floor.

My therapist suggested I tidy for my first task of the day during this groggy time. This was working well for the first few days (about the amount of time that was needed to clean up my office/studio), but lately I've started aimlessly ambling about the house, shuffling things around and not really accomplishing anything.

Possible solution: The night before, I will write down what I'm tidying the next day since apparently this is too monumental of a decision for the morning.

Transitioning between tasks

Even with my Google Calendar notifications coming through, I struggled with pulling away from one task and starting another. If I was behind schedule, I wasn't sure if I should shorten all my tasks so I could still work on them all, or if I should just start with whatever I'm supposed to be doing at that time.

Possible solution: I suppose if I wake up late, I'll still need that zero-energy tidying task to start. I'm going to try the "adjust the whole day's schedule" route.

Getting ready in 30 minutes

Last month, when I was using the app Toggl to keep track of my time, I was appalled by how much time I spent getting ready: showering, dressing, brushing my teeth, and doing my makeup (not even doing my hair).

I would be ok with spending 30 minutes each day getting ready (the current time I have allotted), but it's not realistic. I spend around 20 minutes putting on makeup, alone. If I skip this step, I'm fairly certain it will influence whether or not I leave the house.

Since it takes me more than the allotted 30 minutes to get ready, I'm always running late for the following task.

Possible solution??

How much time do you spend getting ready each morning? How have you streamlined your process?

Getting a good exercise in

Since I don't have a designated time slot for socialization in my schedule, I've been trying to pair up social-distancing with friends with physical activities.

Unfortunately, while the social aspect is good, the cardio isn't: I've rarely had an elevated heart rate.

If I stop trying to pair up exercise and time with friends, where would socializing fit into my schedule? I've been feeling extremely lonely, and I think socializing (preferably in person) is an important activity for my health, but I don't see another activity it can replace. I also crave social interaction every single day, so I don't think weekend-only activities would be a solution.

Possible solution??

How do you fit socializing into your schedule (without it replacing other priorities)?

Staying off my phone (my ultimate form of procrastination)

Two weeks ago, I removed all social media and email from my phone (except for Snapchat). Even though I didn't have social media on my phone, I ended up browsing my phone regardless, looking for distractions most often in my photo album and Google search.

Last week, my therapist suggested that I put my phone away during the day, but I didn't listen because I kept telling myself that I needed Google Calendar notifications to tell me when to move on to the next task.

Possible solution: With just two day before my next session, I pull out a notepad for a handwritten schedule to replace Google Calendar, and I dig out my watch.

Going to bed by a certain time

My skin care regimen and brushing and flossing and blah, blah, blah, takes so long.

Some nights I procrastinate starting this nightly process. I think I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, so I don't know how to change this.

Possible solution: I suppose not having my phone on me will cut procrastination dramatically--along with getting in better workouts during the day to make the call of my bed louder than the dwindling effects of my stimulants.

Using "good" phone apps without distraction

I have an audiobook or a podcast playing during the majority of my menial tasks: chores, getting ready, eating food. Will I have to give this up in order to stay away from the allure of my phone?

Possible solution: I will dig out my long abandoned Alexa and see if I can get her to play these programs without accessing my phone.

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© 2020 by Katy Jo Turner

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Minnesota author, illustrator, outdoor educator