A World Less Certain | The Power of Routines

You can do more than stay alive. Now is the time to thrive!

PHOTO: Farah Sosa Photography | Rick Thomas at the Rialto Theater

Two factors will help us manage our lives during the COVID-19 “lockdown” period: state of mind and personal routines. Maintaining daily/weekly rituals and routines improve efficiency and expand our available time for creative endeavor. They also provide comfort and help us reduce stress.

Most people associate their daily routines with a sense of normalcy. Even positive change can be stressful. Marriage, job promotion, purchasing a new home, children leaving home to strike out on their own or going off to college, and the like, causes us to modify or abandon our well-established routines.

During this pandemic, establishing new routines becomes a source of strength. We all need to adjust by adding and subtracting a few regular activities in our daily lives. If we do it successfully, we not only survive during this layoff period from normalcy, we thrive!

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Here is what I discovered. It may help you, as well.

What do you love doing and can still do (even during social distancing)?

When I left corporate America, I did so in the maelstrom of a major midlife crisis. I chose, as many have, the ultimate antidote for “toxic office disease” – I bought a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and modified the hell out of it!

Since I raced motocross professionally well into my twenties, it made perfect sense for me to grease the skids of my early retirement with my not-so-street-legal Harley café tracker. In doing so, I became the fourth generation of Harley-Davison riders in my family.

And now, I realize that motorcycles are also the original social distancing machine. How cool is that?

What are your hobbies and interests? You may be surprised how many of them already fit under the social distancing umbrella?

What are your passions?

Treat yourself to a double-scoop of your favorite passions. Think of Shelter In Place as an opportunity instead of a curse.

Due to the unique nature of the coronavirus and its rapid spread, our isolation will likely go on for some time. The one glaring advantage of being required to stay home is the corresponding expansion of your personal time. You may be working from home, for instance, which means you no longer have that nasty commute. When I worked, my daily drivetime was 2-3 hours (10-15 hours a week) – the equivalent of an extra workweek every month for 30 years!

Try this:

  • Write down the many positives your new COVID-lifestyle provides you. You may be surprised by how many you come up with.
  • Make a list of the things you always wanted to do but felt to didn’t have time for.
  • Create a “Thrive Schedule” that includes a few of your new action items. All it takes is a week before the new activities become habits.
  • Set goals and targets dates, if you wish, to help you make the most progress.

Welcome to your new lifestyle!

More about your daily Thrive Schedule

Of course, your “Thrive Schedule” is just another way to say To-Do List; however, when you have this much free time to focus on yourself, you can’t help but THRIVE.

I break up my day by reaching out to family and friends. I also exercise by running up the hillside street in my neighborhood. I stop drinking coffee earlier than before and make sure I get plenty of sleep, and finally, I’m attacking the project I can only accomplish at home. I have a massive historical photo collection in many boxes. Unfortunately, the images are sandwiched between all kinds of other stuff. My boxes are my nemesis. They mock me, whispering insults late at night. My goal is to go through my boxes and silence the monster in my closet, insisting the only way to resolve “my storage problem” is to burn the house down.

Do you have something to go through as well?

If you want to get into the muck of what most people avoid like the plague (no pun intended), now is the perfect time to prepare your will, reset your retirement goals, or make plans to pursue your dream career. You can even plan a vacation. You can’t travel overseas right now, but you can research places you would like to visit, make a budget, and create an itinerary of exciting things to see and do. Okay, I’ll say it, now is the perfect time to make your Bucket List.

The New Normal

The so-called new normal is temporary. Things will get back to the old normal relatively soon. The stock market will settle down and eventually rebound. Loved ones will “suck face” again, instead of blowing kisses. Family and close friends will embrace. People will meet with a friendly handshake. Sports teams will play in front of their fans. Concerts will sell out. Churches will fill up with people of faith.

Here is one last thought – until we meet again here next week – frequently take a look outside at nature. Spring has arrived. Nature is awesome. Birds. Trees. Sun. Breeze. Take a short walk. Get a little bit of it on you. Take a deep breath and let your shoulders fall.


Rick Thomas
Author Rick Thomas is the former museum curator and vice-chair of education for the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation. He served on the South Pasadena Natural Resources Commission, helping to maintain a strict policy protecting the city’s great old-growth trees. Using touchstone photographs from his own collection—one of the San Gabriel Valley’s largest accumulations of historical images and artifacts—as well as national, state, and local historical archives, Thomas provides a window to his city’s past and an understanding of why its preservation is so important.


  1. Bravo, Rick!
    While I miss “ Wanna have lunch?,” I’m tossing old photos that no one wants and which I haven’t looked at it in at least ten years. It’s difficult getting rid of those pics of me in a string bikini on various Greek islands with Enzo in the wild and crazy 70s, but that was then and this is now.
    Thanks for all the great ideas for getting through these surreal times.