Now that I’m fully vaccinated, I’ve started doing a few “normal” activities again. I have eaten inside at a restaurant, perused the shelves at the store without worrying about who is within six feet of me, and meandered around a shopping mall. Our offices are still working remotely, but I’ve gone in a few times without fear of contracting COVID.
It has been surprising how “normal” embracing some of these pre-COVID habits has been. I hadn’t eaten inside a restaurant for well over a year, and yet it felt like I could have been there last week. It has shown me how easy it will be to fall back into old habits.
Before we rush back into our old habits, it’s worth asking the questions
- What habits have we fallen into since COVID, and what patterns have we fallen out of?
- How do they impact your health, wealth, and happiness?
- More importantly, which should we keep and how do we do this?
How to Avoid Falling Into Pre-COVID Habits
Here is my six-step process to analyzing your habits to avoid falling back into pre-COVID bad habits. I recommend grabbing a pen and paper and doing some note-taking.
1. Just Think.
Before diving too deep, start by brainstorming. What is different about the “now” you compared to the you from February 2020?
Are you in the same job, same house, same group of friends? Have your finances changed for the better or worse? Are you exercising more or less? Have you gained weight or lost weight? Do you have more friends or fewer friends? Are you more or less rushed for time? Do you watch more TV or less? What does your average day look like?
Spend a few minutes comparing yourself from a qualitative level. How do you think you are different?
2. Identify the differences in your schedule.
Try to remember an average day and an average weekend day from February 2020. What were your pre-COVID habits? Write down what time you got up, where you went, when you ate meals, what activities you did, when you got home and when you went to sleep.
In February 2020, I was traveling a lot for work. However, even when I was home, I left the house at about 7:15-7:30 a.m. each morning and got home around 5-5:30 p.m. each evening. A few nights a week, either my spouse or me (or both of us) were off to a meeting activity.
We had a standing babysitter on Monday nights when both of us went to separate events (tennis, book club, community meetings, etc.). Weekends were a little less busy, but we would normally go to the gym or a kids activity first thing on Saturday. We’d have a nap and try to see friends or family in the afternoon.
Now write down your current schedule for an average day and an average weekend. For me, the differences are stark. I don’t go to the office and weave a lot more personal stuff into my workday. That said, my workday is longer and consists of booting up the computer earlier and shutting it down later.
3. Identify habits you’ve picked up and those you have lost.
Next, you should use your schedule and your brainstorming to identify new and old habits. One of my newest habits has been increased exercise. I used to try to get 30-45 mins, and now I get about an hour and a half. I’ve even picked up an end-of-day exercise habit (usually a walk but sometimes a bike ride.)
On the flip side, I’ve also developed a snacking habit. I visit the kitchen frequently throughout the day. We have started doing more online grocery orders, which saves time and usually money (I tend to impulse buy at the grocery store).
Contrast that with my newly developed Amazon habit. Anytime we “need” something, I just go to my Amazon app and buy it. Sometimes you get good deals on Amazon, but sometimes you don’t. For example, I recently discovered a basketball I was buying for my daughter was 50% more expensive on Amazon than doing curbside pickup at Target!
Make your complete list of habits.
4. Decide what stays and goes.
For this step, be intentional. Think hard about what habits do you want to keep? Which ones are you ready to part with?
5. Make your plans.
This is one of the most important steps. How will you intentionally structure your time and money so that you don’t fall back into the habits you don’t want to?
How can you keep good habits going? Is there some time/money tradeoff you need to consider?
6. Write a letter as “future you.”
If you’ve never written a “future you” letter, this is the best time to learn. Read this post about writing a letter as your future self.
For this particular exercise, you want to think ahead to a year from now, when presumably life will have returned to normal. This means vaccinated kids, no masks, and no second thoughts about walking into a crowded room.
Now that you are imagining that you, a year from now, imagine writing a letter. When you look back on the past year, what is different? What habits have you picked up? What have you left behind? How have you behaved?
Incorporate the habits you want to keep in your letter. Make sure you specifically consider any habits related to your money. Then, once you’ve finished your letter, keep it somewhere you can refer to frequently and re-read the letter every few weeks.
Using this type of visualization technique will help you enormously in keeping your habits.
The Bottom Line
We are all beyond excited to move away from the past year and begin thinking about what the post-COVID future will bring. But, we’ve learned a lot over the last year.
By applying these tips you’ll be positioned for an incredible future filled with much personal and professional growth.