create-routineShare on Pinterest
Design by Alexis Lira

One day it was posting about that #OutdoorsLife. Next day it’s the never-ending story of isolation. Staying in is a privilege, for sure, but this knowledge isn’t enough to separate one day from the next. Especially if your former coping skills meant bar hangs, urban hikes, or being at the movies.

And when simple questions become existential, like “why does my housemate enjoy playing that song on repeat for 6 hours a day?” or “at what point do I attempt to cut my own hair?” it’s really time to get it together.

Unfortunately, even the best self-help books don’t have a quarantine section (or for some of us, how to continue work in increasingly dangerous and harrowing conditions). They also don’t cover the very real and difficult decisions about how we take care of ourselves.

Because we know the drill: drink water, get 7 to 8 hours of sleep, eat nourishing food, exercise enough to get your heart rate up for 20 to 30 minutes 2 to 3 times per week… But it’s a pandemic! Doing all that is hard on its own, but it’s also not enough to help us stay healthy and balanced right now.

Likewise, if your old routines have gone out the window, we’re here for you — and we made it simple. Pick a strategy and then pick a task to create a repetition-smashing routine that actually gives you space to grow while in isolation.

Variety will beat the blues. Mix the techniques below to keep yourself entertained or get work done. Our big tip is to keep one technique for workdays or weekends only, that way all your days don’t blend into one.

1. The Pomodoro Technique

In the late 1980’s, a smart guy named Francesco Cirillio developed a time management method called the Pomodoro Technique. The idea, inspired by the tomato shaped timer (pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato), is to work in 25-minute intervals, take short breaks in between, and track your progress with checks on paper.

After four check marks representing 25-minute work blocks, take a longer break. If you get distracted or interrupted during one of the 25-minute blocks, write down the distraction on a piece of paper and return to the original task.

By spacing out your learning with breaks, you should be able to focus for longer periods of time, while also allowing your brain to actually process all of that new information.

Good for:

  • long research projects that have no actionable end task
  • being mindful when using distraction techniques to help with anxiety
  • checking in with yourself on a bad mental health day
Was this helpful?

2. Prioritize goals

One step above a to-do list, goal setting is a great technique for figuring out what matters most to you and what you want to get done each day. To avoid the impulse of doing whatever grabs your attention first, order your goals or tasks both by their importance to you and by deadline urgency.

There are many ways to do this, but we like to make two columns and rank each goal from most important to least important, and most urgent to least urgent.

This idea relates to The Eisenhower Matrix, which essentially offers you a way to figure out which goals or tasks to start on, which to schedule, which to delegate, and which to eliminate altogether.

Of course a list is up to your discretion — what’s urgent (an approaching deadline from your boss) vs. important (video chatting with your family) holds different meanings — but at least by ranking them, they won’t just be floating around in your head.

Good for:

  • workdays with lots of meetings and mini tasks
  • projects that have a concrete deadline in the same day or week
  • people who feel accomplished when crossing off an item from their list
Was this helpful?

3. Time blocking

To-do lists seem overwhelming? Try time blocking, also known as time boxing. Setting aside specific time to work on a task or project can keep your focus simple and also flexible. It’s also great for daily or weekly schedules.

And avoid the worry of not getting things done by considering any task done as progress. Set aside time to clean and only vacuumed the floor? Cleaning! Also consider blocking off time for check-ins. If you know that your mental health is best with daily afternoon naps, schedule those Zzz’s.

If a fully blocked out schedule isn’t your jam (for some it absolutely is, for others it sounds terrifying!), you can also stick to having one block a day, for one task only — even if that task is just having a killer dance party in your pajamas.

Good for:

  • working through emotional distress via self-reflection, meditation, or distraction
  • working on long-term projects with no concrete deadline
  • creative projects or skill building techniques
Was this helpful?

Happy? Content? Positive? Embrace that and do whatever keeps you content, whenever. Escape is hard to come by so fly, you fools. Because allowing for this spontaneity is how one day will feel different from the next.

But if you’re feeling the clouds of doom, don’t do whatever you want. That’s letting negative emotions write your story.

So what should you do if you’re feeling in the gutter?

We built out guides based on very specific emotions that can derail your day. Sort through these tasks and block some time/dedicate tomato minutes/to-do list it. Seriously.

Mini-therapy in action:

This fantastic skill you’re building is called naming emotions — something that is incredibly difficult to do, let alone during a global pandemic.

It’s a good reminder that growth doesn’t come because we get shit done. Growth comes when we can learn enjoyable ways to satisfy our needs.

Was this helpful?


Mute the sirens in your head — or at least learn to turn them down. Whether it’s getting energy out or keeping it in, meditation and naps have your back.

Click here for a full day breakdown of what you can do.


Loneliness is often about abandonment or isolation around your needs, so let’s fulfill them with online parties and self-soothing. Connect the dots between your power and others.

Click here for a full day breakdown of what to do.


Medication, meal prep, schedule in a time to schedule things out. Get down to the nitty gritty by giving yourself guidelines so you don’t lose all executive function.

Click here for a full day breakdown of what to do.


Feeling like nothing matters and #WhatsThePoint? Let’s dig into this because boredom might be dissociation in action. Try scheduling some bigger picture projects into your day-to-day or make an effort to create a playlist for your weekend.

Clickhere for a full day breakdown of what to do.


Maybe you feel really, really small today. Spend time making future to-do lists that matter and schedule 20 minute blocks of TV, nap, and escapism activities to help distract you from the day. Then look back and realize: You made it.

Click here for a full day breakdown of what to do.


If you’re being a little dismissive of yourself (or others), let’s see if we can put a plug in that. You can feel the big bad blues, but you don’t have to become them. Spend time journaling your feelings, even when you feel there are none. They’re probably hiding.

Click here for a full day breakdown of what to do.

Here’s an example of what a weekend of using a to-do list vs. a weekday using time-blocking can look like:

To-do:8:00 a.m. wake up and rate anxiety
meditate8:30 a.m. eat breakfast and take medication
shower9:00 a.m. start work
bake banana breadWork goals:
read for 1 houremail Rihanna
masturbate and napdraft presentation for Thursday
video chat with Sarah (talk about loneliness)meeting with the Peanut Guy
watch one episode of DEVswork on Isolation Project
meal prep for Monday – Wednesday11:00 a.m. make and eat lunch
11:30 a.m. go for a walk
12:30 p.m. work
3:30 p.m. snack

While no strategy can remedy all of the concerns (financial woes, family matters, and the general virus), always schedule time in your day or week to practice radical self-compassion. Because, right now, feeling your best is exactly the right thing to do.

By grounding ourselves in routines of self-care and compassion, we’re better able to help the communities around us without being affected by other people’s fear and anxiety. It’s a silver lining to this tragedy: The more we can take care of each other, the more we are able to thrive, together.

Caroline Catlin is an artist, activist, and mental health worker. She enjoys cats, sour candy, and empathy. You can find her on her website.