The most striking finding from my unscientific research study was the theme of rituals and routines. Every single person described something they do on a regular basis in order to maintain a sense of calm and focus. For some, their routines were things you might expect — daily exercise, a strict bedtime, a meditation practice, a healthy breakfast, or a nonnegotiable dinnertime with a partner or family members.All academics know that, next to a cult of "smart" ("that was such a smart paper" or "she's doing such smart work") we've made a cult of being busy, most of which goes with the job but some of which is self-inflicted. No one wants to be the person who isn't busy, because if you're not busy, how can you be smart?
Vaillancourt has a roundup of ways that people she knows accomplish this kind of self-care, including scheduled quiet time and an app called Habits Wizard. Although the last thing I need is to have one more app running my life, the point is that if it works for you, you should try it.
I'd only add that if your routine involves other people, like a quiet dinnertime without dogs milling around and stealing food off the table (family drama on a recent vacation, now resolved*), it's important to have buy-in from the people it involves.
In looking at Vaillancourt's suggestions and those of her respondents, a few things seem to be essential: (1) ritual or routine; (2) quiet time; and (3) restricting access to yourself during those times.
- "Quiet Sundays" with no email until after 5, something I've tried to do on weekends for a few years that has worked pretty well.
- Exercise that you actually enjoy, if possible--walking, running, biking, dance, etc.
*Resolved by me finally keeping my mouth shut about wanting to keep the dogs out when we eat, because it's only for a week and I'm already seen as the family lunatic for being bothered by this.