Organizing My Days: How to Stick to a Routine in Self-Isolation

I’ve officially been social distancing for just over a month now and it’s taken me just as long to develop a routine in self-isolation that works. No, I wasn’t completely new to this life of spending my workdays at home, but this has been different.


Prior to social distancing, when I still worked from home in my previous job, my routine consisted of waking up early to go for a long walk, coming home to clean a bit around the house and shower, starting my workday at 9, taking a break to make lunch or run errands or to the grocery store, wrapping up around 6:30, going to a barre class, then coming home to cook dinner and knock out any blog or freelance work. I had a routine that very much worked for me and I felt I was at maximum productivity, without too much stress, each and every day.

Then, once I started my new job, things looked a bit more like this: wake up at 5:15 AM, take a quick shower so my hair can dry while I go to a 6 AM barre class, come home to get ready for work, be on the metro a bit before 8 AM, knock out freelance work on the metro, be in the office 9:30-6ish, get back on the metro and tackle blog work, then get home by 8 PM, make dinner, get in bed by 9:30 PM. Not great in terms of free time, but I was getting a lot done (and I’m super productive while on public transit!).

All that being said, when stay-at-home started, I assumed I’d be very much back in my work from home routine. But, yeah, that’s not what happened. At all.

Turns out things are not at all the same when you can’y leave the house effortlessly.


routine in self isolation


Well, let’s kick this off by saying I was finally feeling GREAT about my routine. I had mapped out my pre- and post- work hours in increments in my planner on Sunday evening for the week ahead. Things were going well.

Then, we woke up Monday to a torrential downpour and a flooded front dining area in our home (the one you see here). Turns out an 1880 home is no match for a birds’ nest in a gutter. Currently, I’m living in a house with ripped up drywall, lighting that’s dim even for me (oh, maybe my disdain for overhead lighting is a post for another day?!), our bar cart supplies on our kitchen counter, and a furniture arrangement that’s seriously stressing me out. On the bright side, I’ve never felt so thankful that we apparently don’t have tons of stuff in the main area of our house.

So, my routine has been thrown for a loop, but I’m doing the best I can. In ideal quarantine times, which will hopefully resume next week, this is where I’d like to be with my routine in self-isolation:

6:45 AM: Wake up and feed Hampden.

7:00 AM: Online barre class through Pure Barre (here’s more about working out at home!).

8:00 AM: Shower and get ready for the day (I do get dressed and put on some makeup each morning!).

8:30 AM: Wrap up any blog or freelance work that I didn’t finish the evening before.

9:00 AM: Make coffee and breakfast while I log online for my day job.

12:30 PM: Go out for a midday walk — I’ve found it’s easier to practice social distancing in the middle of the day rather than going in the morning or evening. Lunch is usually something easy: a hardboiled egg, deli meats, cheese, and a piece of fruit or quick sandwich.

6:30 PM: Log off from my day job and start on any blog or freelance work that’s due or any “errands” like grocery shopping online, doing laundry, etc.

8:00 PM: Finish out my day with any Zoom calls and making dinner.

10:30 PM: Bedtime!


So, how do you build a routine that you can stick to in self-isolation? A big part of it is knowing yourself and what works for you, even in normal times. But, also, knowing that this is not normal times and an intentionally-designewd routine could help provide structure to help break one day from the next.

  • First things first, think about how and why you want a routine. Is it to create a sense of normalcy and accomplishment at the end of each does? Is it because other people appear to be functioning with routines? If you weren’t a routine person before, you may not be one now. But, if you’re feeling lost without the routine that you didn’t even realize you craved a month ago, then it’s time to start building one.
  • Then, consider: is it in your best interest to create a set schedule or do you do better feeling out each day as it comes? As an upholder, I like to plan. But, for someone who wants more spontaneity, it may be best to have rituals that you know work for you, but not to plug those into a timeline.
  • Try to begin and end your days at the same time. This is where your routine starts. Make it consistent and don’t veer too much from what you would do during normal times.
  • Start your days off with a ritual. Maybe it’s a morning workout or making a fresh cup of coffee. You could journal or meditate. It should probably involve getting ready for the day. You don’t need to put on jeans or makeup, but staying in pajamas never helps anyone.
  • Add breaks into your day, particularly breaks that involve fresh air and movement. Many of us find ourselves working harder and longer now that there’s no built-in end to the day. Make sure you get up from your desk on occasion. Get outside and walk. Do a quick 10-minute ab workout. Just stroll to the kitchen and stand for a minute drinking a glass of water.
  • Use the extra time you’ve gained without a commute to build in healthier or more fulfilling habits. Those extra minutes could mean you have time to cook or prepare 3 well-rounded meals a day. You could squeeze in an extra workout. More time reading. More time on hobbies. Utilize this extra time, don’t waste it.
  • Finish your day every evening. Check back over your to-do list. See what needs to be bumped until tomorrow. Take the last few hours of the day to relax and reconnect.
  • Remember, the only one holding yourself accountable to a routine in self-isolation is yourself — but, if you need outer accountability, consider setting up standing Zoom dates with friends to check in on how you’re all doing. And, be flexible, one day off doesn’t mean your routine is done for. Get back on it tomorrow.

1 Comment

  1. April 15, 2020 / 7:57 pm

    Ok, for someone who’s seriously struggling with coming up with a consistent routine, it’s a) helpful to know I’m not alone, and b) incredibly encouraging to read your tips!

    Thanks so much for sharing!!


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