Developing Routines

A few weeks ago, an Instagram tag for “Daily Non-Negotiables” was going around. At that time, I couldn’t think of a response. Prior to ECQ, I did not quite have a set routine—in fact, I was still considering developing one but then ECQ came, and my plans fell through.

One thing that I noticed from the start of ECQ was that on weekdays I would consistently be up by 8am. Well, great. At least I was waking up at a reasonable time (considering there was no longer commute time to factor in to my day). With ECQ, my job had become fully remote, and I needed to make sure I was in the zone during work hours. A fix: I set up a work spot which I associated with productivity. Working at my work spot was a habit I consciously built. It’s been working out. But more interesting to me were the habits I unintentionally formed around my work schedule.


Bring Plants Outside

First thing in the morning, I bring my small indoor plants to the balcony to get their daily dose of sunlight. I like to look for new leaves and show them off on my stories. I also take this time to water my plants if needed.

Drink a Morning Beverage

Some people can’t start their day without coffee. Since I originally associated routine with a specific drink, e.g. daily coffee or daily tea, I did not think I had a habit around this. It turns out I’d unintentionally formed one.

Each morning I make myself a drink to start off the day. Some days I drink coffee, others warm lemonade. Recently I’d been making myself iced matcha and hojicha drinks. My routine isn’t based on a specific drink, rather, the act of drinking something that I brewed.

Write in my Journal

Since I started my bullet journal, I started tracking my daily activities. Initially I tried journaling midday, but it wasn’t working out for me since I could only write about part of my day. Eventually I grew into the habit of journaling the next day about the activities done the prior day. I journal in the morning because I tend to forget things as the day goes by.


Wash Dishes

We cook brunch and dinner every day, so every night we accumulate a fair amount of dishes to wash. My unofficial shift is to wash after lunch or during the day, but to help out, I wash the dishes that were not involved with dinner, such as mugs and water bottles, before heading back to my room.

Turn off the Lights

Since I am usually the last one to return to my room at night, I make sure all the lights in the common areas are turned off. No point keeping the on if no one else is in the room anyway.

Read a Chapter

I made a rule for myself to read at least one chapter of a book a day, even if I wasn’t in love with the book. (It will take a lot for me to purposely not finish a book.) I found that the best time for me to read books was right before sleeping, and this little rule actually helped me get through books that had been sitting in my to-be-read pile for so long.

There are some days when I have an addition to my routine: working out. It started off with my resolution to not become unhealthy during ECQ. I told myself to work out for at least 15 minutes thrice a week just to build the habit. Now I work out for 30-40 minutes four times a week. Not bad!

Completing my routines gives me a sense of accomplishment each day. It makes me think that ok, things are going smoothly, this is just another day, and it’s going to be a good day, and helps me manage the uncertainty during ECQ.

Now that I’m conscious of my habits, I’m considering doing some micro-optimizations, so that by the time ECQ lifts, I can seamlessly continue my positive habits. (If you’re interested in this idea, I suggest reading Atomic Habits.)

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I’d known early on that I did not enjoy reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. Apart from reading depressing scenarios each time I open the book, I did not enjoy following too many characters—generations of the Buendia—most of whom repeated the same mistakes through the years. None of the characters were very likable, and most of them did not get enough airtime—with the exception of Ursula and Colonel Aureliano Buendia, both of whom lived very long lives—for readers to learn to love them.

It seems that I should have stopped reading the book early on, cut my losses, and moved on with my life. However, I chose to finish reading this book because (1) I didn’t have too many options during this ECQ, and (2) I refused to let my effort of including the book in my move from SF to MNL to go to waste. So I read a chapter a night until the last night when I realized I could finally get my closure.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s a beautifully written book. I liked how the socio-economic landscape changed through the years even if it was as if nothing ever changed in that town. I found myself referring back to the family tree (very helpful if you decide to read this) provided in the beginning of the book. (The family tree spoils nothing, in my opinion.) When I reached the ending, I appreciated how Gabriel Garcia Marquez tied up all the loose ends. Everything made sense, and I appreciated the book as a whole after reading that last sentence.

Verdict: It is not my cup of tea, but I do feel a sense of accomplishment having read this book. I’m glad I didn’t have to read this for Literature class in school (some people had to). Otherwise, I would never have had the drive to finish this book since, on top of my not enjoying the book, I hate assigned reading.

Quarantime Check-In

It’s been five weeks since the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) began and a few days since the ECQ was extended in Metro Manila. I’m very lucky to be working remotely during ECQ, but I have to admit that it did take a while to acclimate myself to a different work environment. While I love the flexibility of being able to work from home, I perform best when I’m at the office surrounded by coworkers. (I strongly believe in the idea of a having a designated place to work and leaving work and related stress there. For me, home should always be a safe space.)

With working from home and social distancing slated to become the new normal for the foreseeable future, I’ve taken up some non-work interests to lessen my anxiety of bringing work into my home.

Home Workouts

I used to think that there was no way I could motivate myself to work out without a trainer or instructor. I’ve proven myself wrong. Over the past weeks, I have been designing my own workouts, researching exercises a night or two in advance and tweaking past workouts to add variety or difficulty. (I had been training with a gym trainer for a few months prior to the ECQ. This helped raise my comfort level in trying out new exercises.)

I’m happy to say that I’ve become more comfortable with my body over these past weeks. I’ve been documenting my workouts, and I’m quite happy with my progress. I hope the momentum doesn’t go away!

Indoor Plants

Caring for my plants has become such a therapeutic activity for me that I’ve incorporated this into my daily routine. Every morning, I bring my plants out to the balcony for sunlight. I leave them out for an hour or so each day—usually while I exercise, cook, or work—since some of them aren’t in the best-lit spots. I realize this has become part of my daily non-negotiables. (A meme was going around Instagram for a bit but I didn’t have an answer to share at the time).

The best part of this is that my plants have shown improvement. The pothos that I recently moved from the bathroom to the living room has turned a richer shade of green and grown new leaves. The trees in the balcony have also been growing leaves. I used to inspect every new leaf that was growing, but the my fiddle leaf fig has grown too tall for me to reach its new leaves. I’d never thought that plants could bring me so much joy, but here I am happy to sit and look at my plants all day.

At the end of the day, everyone’s situation is different, and each person has their own way of coping with the pandemic. Some of my friends have been painting while others have been baking. It’s not so much fighting boredom as it is coping with anxiety or stress, whether or not we are conscious of it. In light of this, I hope everyone is coping with the situation as well as they can. For me, the goal is to come out of quarantime a stronger woman—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.