Weeknote 21 — Routines and rituals

Aspiring service designers always ask me “what’s a typical day as a service designer?”. This question always makes me laugh a little as there really is no such thing.

One of the things I love most about my work is the variety. I love that I can be working on a project about cancer one month and the next month it could be retail services in Ireland. Even working in-house the role of a service designer is very varied, despite the subject matter staying constant in that situation. I could be running a workshop one day, helping to plan user research the next, or building relationships with key people the day after.

I love this variety but recently I’ve been feeling the need for more routine and rituals.

I think this has a lot to do with my move into self employment and, more recently, my partner going back to the office three days a week.

I always knew one of the hardest things about setting up on my own would be missing being part of a team. Teams have stand ups and weekly regular calls, socials and checkins.

While I get these with the clients I’m working with, it doesn’t feel the same somehow. I don’t feel very anchored.

I’m wondering, as I move out of Q1 for Joy, what I can change in the next quarter to create that sense of structure I need.

One factor I’m thinking about is how much flexibility to build in and when to set boundaries for myself and with my clients.

The problem I find with hard and fast routines is they often end up clashing with the flexibility of my work and then falling down all together. For example, instead of saying I’ll go swimming on Monday and Wednesday mornings I say I’ll swim two mornings a week. That allows me to accomodate early morning meetings when they are needed but still get what I need.

But even with things like this I’m feeling drawn towards the need to put in firmer structures.

The routines I’m playing with are:

  • How to get exercise into my week. Swimming and walking are the only things that work for me. Swimming works in the morning, but I can’t drag myself out the house much earlier than 8am. I’ve experimented with ‘walk n talks’ which I like but again they feel better in the mornings. How do I create routines around exercise that don’t cram up all my mornings?
  • I’ve always been very good at making sure I have lunch breaks. Even in the dark days of back-to-back NHS Digital Teams calls I would eat lunch, usually away from my desk. For two years my partner and I had the morning ritual of finding a time slot that worked for us both – then having lunch together. I’ve lost this three days a week now. What can I replace it with?
  • When I launched Joy I planned to work a four day week – this has rarely happened. How do I protect Fridays?
  • From May onwards I want to be writing more and making time for this. I need to be in the right headspace to write and I need to find the times that work best for me and build a routine, and my work, around this.
  • Since the start of the pandemic 5:30–7 has been my least favourite time of the day. I still, two years on, have no idea how to use this time. I would like a routine that helps me decompress and process the day.

Routines and rituals are obviously personal to individuals but I would love to hear what’s worked for other people. If you have something you’ve managed to make stick let me know.

Have a good week friends. 💛




Freelance specialist in user research, service design and brand development. designforjoy.co.uk Previously @wearesnook, @nhsdigital, @wearewithyou.

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Emma Parnell

Emma Parnell

Freelance specialist in user research, service design and brand development. designforjoy.co.uk Previously @wearesnook, @nhsdigital, @wearewithyou.

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