Thinking about the new normal
One of the most overused phrases during this pandemic, along with the cringeworthy ‘unprecedented’, is talking about the ‘new normal’.
With news today from Chancellor Rishi Sunak about an extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, allowing employers to ‘furlough’ staff until the end of October, I spent some time thinking about the future.
My daily routine now includes a long walk of 4-5 miles, following various woodland trails at the foot of the Surrey Hills.
We’re incredibly fortunate living here. Right on our doorstep is a network of public footpaths and bridleways leading directly up to the Greensand Way, a long-distance path stretching between Haslemere in Surrey and Hamstreet in Kent.
During my walk this evening, I reminded myself that, pre-crisis, I would rarely explore these trails.
This is despite their close proximity to my house (I can just about see the Greensand Way from my bathroom window if I stand on tip-toes), my love of the Great Outdoors, and the fact we have two dogs who love to walk too!
So, what went wrong? How did I fall into a routine which failed to include a healthy and meditative long walk each day?
When I speak to Financial Planners about the good and the bad to come out of this crisis, a recurring theme emerges. There’s widespread recognition of living an unintentional life.
We get so swept up in rushing between appointments and commitments, that we forget to step back and truly consider what matters.
Curating your life
Earlier today, I interviewed psychotherapist Gail Golden for the Informed Choice Radio podcast.
Gail is author of a new book called Curating Your Life, where she makes the case for treating our lives as a museum curator might approach staging an exhibition.
She explained that we need to pick the two or three activities that are most important, meaningful, and joyful, before fiercely focusing our energy on those endeavours.
For everything else, we must say no, or at least recognise they are not our top priority, so get them done in a way that doesn’t deplete energy from the main attractions.
In curating my life, and taking lessons from this great lockdown experiment, I’m striving to hold onto a few things.
The daily walks need to stay.
With the benefit of hindsight, it’s utter lunacy that we pay a dog walker to take our two lovely Labradors out for an hour a day. So busy have our lives become that we work harder to earn the money to pay someone else to walk our dogs.
This isn’t about a failure to leverage our time correctly; I’ve no doubt I can earn more in an hour than we pay our dog walker. It is about a failure to recognise that the hour spent walking the dogs is worth far more than the earning potential of that time.
Another aspect of the lockdown I deeply value is working from home.
I miss my office. I miss the ultra-fast fibre Internet connection, the dedicated workspace, and the buzz of sharing a building with my team. I miss my team.
But I get a huge amount out of working from home.
To that end, I’m in the process of building a log cabin in the garden, which will become my new ‘shedquarters’.
I’ve not yet decided how I will structure my day once lockdown measures are lifted, but at least some of it will involve isolation in the shedquarters, writing and recording.
Not missing the car
Something I haven’t missed during the lockdown is my car.
I’ve not visited the petrol station since the middle of February, making only a handful of essential car journeys during that time.
In my pre-lockdown life, I would happily jump in the car each morning to drive a mile down the road to my office. I’m sorry to admit that, on some occasions, it took longer to drive than it does to walk there.
The past couple of months have been a nice wakeup call around car use, prompting us to think about selling both and replacing them with one family car, probably a Tesla.
But I’ll be walking or cycling into the office in the future.
Another ‘what was I thinking?’ pre-lockdown habit was my three times a day visits to M&S Simply Food. When you work opposite a small supermarket packed full of delicious treats, it’s too easy to fall into bad habits.
There are other things I’ll hold onto when we get back to the new normal.
Evening meetings are off the table. I’m involved in several local committees, and these tend to meet in the evenings. But the cost of an evening meeting outweighs the benefit of going for a long walk at the end of the day and spending time with my family.
Holding meetings via Zoom and other video calling platforms was pretty standard fare for me before this all kicked off, and they work incredibly well, so that’s a habit that will continue even when we can meet people face-to-face again.
With members of my team on furlough during the crisis, primarily due to newfound childcare commitments, I’ve had to revert to my pre-team workload, doing a bit of everything.
It’s been a great reminder that there are some things I thrive at and thoroughly enjoy (creating content, strategy) and some things where I desperately need help (project management, keeping on top of my email inbox!).
Getting the team back to full strength is priority number one for June, although much will depend on the reopening of nurseries and schools to create the opportunity for this to happen.
The big question, then – what habits and routines are you thinking about as a result of the lockdown? I would love to hear about them.