At home, you have probably got it down to a science: the last possible second you can roll out of bed, run through your morning rituals and be out the door. Everything is where you need and expect it to be, even when you’re bleary-eyed and half asleep: favorite conditioner in the shower stall, toothbrush next to the sink, vitamins on the kitchen counter, keys by the door. But what happens when your intimate hygiene routines take place outside of your home?
It’s going to be a busy day, but Natalie pushes to get to the gym at 6 am for her Zumba class. Afterwards, she’s a sweaty mess but elated that she got in her workout. She rushes toward the locker room, her mind racing, “Shower…conference call…lunch meeting…” Opening the locker for her flip-flops, she smiles because she didn’t forget any clothing; last week she forgot clean underwear and was forced to wear her undies inside out. In the shower stall, Natalie hangs her watch on the hook next to her towel. She pauses, thinking, “Put the watch in your sneaker so you don’t forget it,” but she gets distracted and ignores her inner voice as the scalding water hits her skin and needs to be adjusted. After she has cleansed, she feels refreshed, but pressured to throw on her clothes and get going. Later that morning, she glances at her wrist—but it’s empty. “Oh, no!” She can see herself holding the watch, telling herself what to do to avoid forgetting it—but not following through because of her distraction. She skipped a step in her routine and overrode the caution of her inner voice. She left the costly watch in the stall—and it was stolen.
How many times has a variation in your routine or a sudden distraction caused you to forget or lose something? Maybe you agree to house-sit for a friend for a couple of days, or your boss arranges an off-site training session and suddenly you’re trying to carry your life or office around with you. “Wait, where did I put my…?” Sometimes you catch yourself, refocus, and avert loss; but often, you’re not so lucky. Other times, the problem is failing to expect the unexpected. Perhaps the weather turns ugly during a visit to your family so you have to spend the night there, or you show up for a routine medical appointment and get sent on to another facility for a night’s worth of monitoring. How do you plan ahead for your needs and keep track of your possessions in a public or unfamiliar environment?
With today’s constant pressure to do more and be everywhere, you’re vulnerable to the kind of distractions and memory slippages that occur when your routine is broken. What can you do to reduce or avoid them? Here are some tips:
1. Become aware: test yourself by trying to visualize each step in your morning and bedtime routines. On a day when you are not rushed, go through the sequence and see if you missed anything. Perhaps you want to make a laminated checklist card to hang on your workout bag, or a note stored on your cell phone.
2. Note the little things that you take for granted at home: health and beauty supplies; hygiene items; accessories like belts and jewelry; charging cords for shavers, etc. What will you need in other situations? Some things may be optional, like using a hair dryer, but others, like medications, are not.
3. Think ahead: when you know you will be getting dressed or staying over somewhere else, try to picture going through your routines there. Visualize an outfit from top-to-bottom and inner layer-to-outwear to prevent those missing unmentionables or socks. Get in the habit of asking yourself, “If I got delayed or stuck, what would be good to have with me?”
4. Redundancy is your friend! If the situation allows, have an extra emergency hygiene kit packed for your car or office. Many drugstores sell small travel kits with deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, etc. Keep an extra bag of older workout gear in your car just to use in a pinch, or a neutral outfit for work in case of some kind of wardrobe malfunction. See if your health insurance and pharmacy will give you a vacation override to have an extra few days worth of your medications.
5. When a system works, stick to it! Do the same thing every time. Natalie started her shower before securing her stuff as usual, and it cost her dearly.
a.For instance, frequent business travelers are very picky about their luggage and accessory kits: a place for everything and everything in its place. They restock for the next trip as soon as they get home.
b. Fold-out, hanging accessory bags with clear pockets can help you see if you have forgotten something; you can use a label maker to designate each space.
c. If you wear eyeglasses, request an extra eyeglass case from the optometrist for when you shower at the gym or sleep on somebody’s couch.
d. Friends and internet resources can lead you to tricks and merchandise to solve travel-related problems.
Listen to your inner voice. Those warnings in your head telling you to be careful, to slow down, and to focus your attention on the task at hand are important. Don’t let your incessant cell phone, demanding boss, or needy family drown out the one person who should be looking out for you: you.