Maintaining Consistency In Disrupting Times

I love my routines. There you go, I said it. I love to engage in long, consistent projects until they either become long term habits, or just parts of my day to day activity. That’s how I got into long distance running and morning yoga, both activities being started years ago, and maintained constantly ever since.

But I’m also incurably curious. I like to learn new things, to acquire new skills, to explore new places.

As you can imagine, every time I start something new there is a clash between fixed patterns and disruption. On one side, my routines are keeping me in a predictable, comfortable space, but on the other side, this comfortable space is torn apart every once in a while by a new disruptive project.

I’m not going to lie, I find it difficult to maintain consistency during disruptive times. Very often I’m just so caught in this new thing that I simply don’t have time to maintain my schedule, while other times I simply get too tired. Either way, I need to make an extra effort.

Here are a few tips that help me maintain at least a decent level of consistency during abrupt changes.

Journaling

I’m into journaling for decades and I never lose an opportunity to promote this incredibly simple, yet very useful process. Journaling can be done pretty much everywhere and it doesn’t take too much time. I usually start a new “page” it in the morning, and then I simply jot a few things during the day. Even during busy days, it probably takes less than 10 minutes.

But these 10 minutes help me in maintaining a certain mental stability. Even if I’m in a completely new environment, or I started completely new projects, jotting down bits and pieces works like an anchor. It’s like I am putting the “witness” hat, instead of the “doer” hat, allowing myself just to watch what’s happening.

Long Term Targets

There is a very simple exercise, called “1-5-10”. It goes like this: you start remembering yourself one year go, then five years ago, then ten years ago. At each of these intervals you focus on what changed personally, socially, emotionally. After you finish, you do the same thing, but by projecting yourself one, five and ten years into the future. And try to see yourself at any of these intervals personally, socially, emotionally.

It takes only a couple of minutes, but, just like journaling, it’s an anchoring exercise, one that helps me understand what context am I currently in. First, I can see how much I changed from the past, and then I can make room for whatever may happen in the near and long term future. Maintaining clear long term targets is fundamental in disruptive times. It answers to a very common and annoying question, which goes more or less like this: “Why did I ever sign up for this?”

Micro Climates

And the last tip that works for me is creating “micro climates”. It’s a bit weirder to explain, but it goes like this: I like to have a consistent one meter sphere around me. For instance, I dress pretty much the same, every day. Or I have a collection of very similar shirts that I cycle for months. Also, I use a certain way to arrange my work area. I don’t always use a desk, because I may work in a coffee shop, in a park, or, if I remember well, even from airports (those were the good times, right?). But I always arrange my laptop, phone, glasses and cables in similar places, one a one meter radius.

This “micro climate” that I try to enforce in this one meter wide sphere acts as an unconscious grounding pole. I may work in a completely different country, but if one meter around me things are more less predictable, the disruption is not felt that much. It’s like I’m creating a little bit of micro-predictability.

Do you have any specific tips in this area? I’m curious how other people are managing their comfort when disruption hits.




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