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How Changing My Routine For A Week Made Me Rethink My Life

Making a few changes in one week had an impact that will last for much longer. My staycation in NYC at Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites in Times Square was restful and transformed how I saw this city.

7:30 a.m. My alarm goes off. I crack one eye open. I press snooze. 7:45 a.m. My alarm goes off. My cat meows. I check social media, then go to shower. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. Towel off. Get dressed. Play on my phone. 9 a.m. I put in my earbuds. Walk to the L train. Get off at Union Square. Get to work. Do the work. Go home. Make dinner. Binge TV. Sleep. Repeat.

If any of this sounds familiar to you, it's probably because, like me, you're stuck in a routine.

A couple of weeks ago, I was getting my hair cut by the same girl who's been cutting my hair for three years. This time, randomly, she asked if I wanted to go blonde — like, full-on blonde. I'd never colored my hair before, so I paused, but spontaneously said yes.

My jaw dropped as I stared at the blonde stranger in the mirror. The simple change made a huge difference in my mood and I thought, What other changeable little things in my life am I overlooking?

I'm not opposed to change — in fact, I typically embrace it with open arms. I love being spontaneous, but I also love my number-five 12-count with a large half-unsweetened-tea, half-lemonade. There are some things in my life I've grown so accustomed to that I don't realize they've become a part of my "routine." Sure, I notice my day-to-day: sleep, travel, school or work, come home, lounge, repeat. So in a test of breaking the mold, I decided to hold up a microscope and scalpel to my typical week to see what bits of my routine could use some tweaks.

I decided to take two big jabs at my work and weekend routines. For work, I would focus on ways to better utilize my time, balance professional and personal life, and swap my morning routine. For the weekend, I wanted to revisit this dazzling city through the eyes of 16-year-old tourist Clark, so I booked a hotel in the tourist center of the world, the Comfort Inn Hotel in Times Square.

On my first day, I wanted to dive in headfirst, so during lunch, I sat with our Director of Learning and Enrichment, Regis, to get his input. Here's some of the golden advice he offered:

  1. Spend 20 minutes away from your desk daily
  2. Close your email when you work
  3. Block out time for projects
  4. Meditate daily
  5. Connect with people offline

So with these things in mind, I began my journey...

Breaking the routine:

  • Changed up my regular morning commute
  • Traveled to work without headphones to take in the "sweet" city sounds
  • Got straight to work instead of getting lost in emails accrued over the weekend
  • Focused on one project at a time instead of jumping between 20 tasks at once

Key takeaways: If there's one thing I learned on my first day, it's that multitasking can be s t r e s s f u l. I thought I was a champ at it — I mean, my generation is the generation of multitaskers (tweeting, eating, watching shows, and talking with friends all at once, amirite?). I have two monitors just so I can get stuff done, but in reality, it just distracts me and takes away from focusing on one thing at a time, ultimately inhibiting my workflow.

Today, I turned off one screen, got straight to work, and focused on only one task at a time, and it made such a huge difference. Seeing the benefit of that one tweak got me pumped to take bigger swings at my routine — like, lord help me, waking up early to go to a cycling class.

Breaking the routine:

  • Went to a cycling class at 7 a.m.
  • Got breakfast and read the newspaper
  • Skipped leftovers and went (*gasp*) outside with a co-worker for lunch
  • Meditated for 10 minutes
  • Went to a movie, on a Tuesday, like a weird social human does

Key takeaways: It's amazing how much you can do before and after work if you just do it. Before 10 a.m., I had cycled, eaten a delicious chicken biscuit, and channeled my inner dad to read a physical newspaper.

Typically by the end of the day, I'm exhausted and just want to go home. Ten minutes of meditation helped keep me sane and not feel totally drained, so I did something out of the blue: I asked see a movie...on a work night. I was home before my typical bed time and fell asleep feeling more fulfilled than I would had I gone home and browsed social media aimlessly while something played in the background.

Breaking the routine:

  • Ate lunch with a group of people
  • Visualized my tasks and blocked out my time for the day
  • Ran after work instead of my typical morning run
  • Made dinner without a recipe instead of following what I get in my food delivery service
  • Made this groovy jazz playlist so I could work with fewer distractions
  • Video-chatted with my Granmammasita Nita
  • Showered and ironed my clothes at night

Key takeaways: For some reason, I led myself to believe a good worker is one who is always busy, but I learned that's far from the truth. So much of my day is spent frantically jumping from task to task, getting distracted, and finding myself more interested in my music than my work; blocking out my work and giving myself time away from my desk made me more productive and helped me feel sharper throughout the day. Oh, and this jazz playlist I made is the perfect get-stuff-done music.

Also, call your mom or dad. Call your grandparents. Call your BFF from high school, even if you forgot to give back their DVD senior year. Just revel in the simple joy of speaking with an actual live human being about their life. Taking time to talk with people outside of social media and catch up with family made me feel more connected than skimming through people’s half-baked status updates.

Breaking the routine:

  • Woke up early and made myself breakfast
  • Left the office to grab a coffee with a friend
  • Followed through on plans even though I was v tired and wanted sleeps

Key takeaways: Yesterday, I had skipped my meditation because I was "too busy," even though it only takes 10 minutes. That 10 minutes is really vital, I learned, and shows how something so small can have an impact on your day. Without it, I felt tense and cross-eyed, but with it, I was at peace.

Instead of flaking on plans like I usually do (because I'm tired and want a nap, dammit), I met up with my friend Amanda for a cool show in Manhattan. Once I got back, all I wanted to do was go to sleep, but I fought the urge and forced myself into the shower. Y’all, there is nothing quite as good as a hot shower after a long, hard day. You can enjoy every minute because you don’t have to worry about rushing to make it to work. Late-night showers, I think I might hang out with you again.

Breaking the routine:

Key takeaways: I have always loved New York. I've never known exactly what I want to do with my life, I just knew I wanted to do it here. Well, here I am now, and yet I still found myself in the same old routine. So, in a dramatic effort to shake things up, I challenged myself to live like a tourist for a weekend. I booked a Comfort Inn in the heart of Times Square and began thinking of all the things that made me fall in love with this city to begin with. As I walked to check in to my hotel in the heart of Times Square, I was flooded with nostalgia and remembered the awe I felt upon my first encounter with the bustling city. At the front desk, I saw the plethora of pamphlets for things to do. I had forgotten just how much this city had to offer.

I first came here in 2006 with my high school choir, and the memory of our dinner cruise on the Hudson is still so vivid and beautiful. In an attempt to revisit that memory, I bought tickets for a concert aboard that exact same ship. Immediately as I set foot on the ship, I was filled with the same overwhelming sense of wonder and awe, except this time, it felt a bit different. Wow. I live here.

Breaking the routine:

  • Woke up early and had a nice breakfast
  • Saw as many "iconic" tourist spots as possible
  • Avoided riding the subway all day

Key takeaways:

Most of my Saturdays are spent lying in bed with a groggy head, binge-watching TV. Today, I forced myself up and out of bed early. Breakfast was served in the lobby of the Comfort Inn from 6:30–10:30 a.m., so I shimmied downstairs and loaded up on some sausage, eggs, waffles, muffins, and fruit. Having free breakfast in the hotel was clutch.

There are a lot of spots I miss in this city because I go my typical route. I mapped out some spots I wanted to see, took the train to Harlem, and allowed myself to just explore and get lost. Without using the subway, I was going to go from Columbia University at 116th Street in Harlem down to the Statue of Liberty in Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan — four-ish miles. I was truly blown away from all the little gems I discovered along the way. "New Yorkers" tend to avoid the crowd of people that is Time Square (and for good reason), but there are some "touristy" spots that will never get old. Walking the streets aimlessly made me realize just how cool and inspiring this city is, but it also made me want to be home lying in my bed again.

Breaking the routine:

  • Got up early for breakfast
  • Went out and explored more of the city
  • Had dinner with friends

Key takeaways: After a full day of walking and a week of waking up early, I was exhausted, but I didn’t let that stop me. Although I was pushing my tourist level to the max, it was so clutch to have a nice soft bed at the Comfort Inn to come back to at night. Each morning I woke up, took a hot shower, and felt rested and ready to conquer the next day's adventure.

On Sunday, I woke up around 7 a.m, packed, and headed downstairs for breakfast. I made myself a waffle at the hotel and topped it with peanut butter and banana — gotta have that protein for the day ahead! I grabbed a coffee for the road and checked out.

It felt so nice to see the city through new eyes for the weekend, and the room was clutch — the bed was comfy, the shower pressure was good, there was cable TV (a rare treat in NYC), and the room was a great size. I savored my last bite of waffle before I poured a coffee for the road, checked out, and hit the streets.

After another full day of adventuring, I hit up some friends to grab dinner in the city. After dinner, I came home feeling fulfilled, excited, and incredibly exhausted. It’s hard to replicate that unadulterated joy I felt first visiting New York at 16, but I would say my four-mile trek and my three-day staycation gave me a new appreciation of this beautiful, crazy city.

The Routine of Breaking My Routine

What I will continue to change:

  • Blocking out my time and eliminating distractions
  • Meditating at work because it's such an easy way to reset and revive
  • Taking showers at night, aka the perfect way to unwind
  • Connecting with people IRL, which is better than wasting so much time on social media
  • Seeing where I live through different eyes, giving myself a whole new appreciation

Some of the routines we establish are there for a reason; they create order and flow in our life. But I had been using my routine as a safety blanket when really it was keeping me from experiencing so many incredible moments in life. I love my local bars and my alone time, but I also love laughing over lunch at work with friends, losing myself in the beauty of discovering a city, and taking time to meditate and recharge when things get stressful. So now, I challenge you: What things about your routine can you change? You might be surprised the impact those seemingly small changes can have on your life.

Making changes to your daily routine can have a big impact on transforming your weekend, or even your life. Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites have made changes to transform guests’ experiences so they can be refreshed and ready to take on the day. Amenities vary by location.

All images courtesy of Clark McCaskill via BuzzFeed