“What day of the week is it today?”

“It’s Tuesday? I thought it was Thursday.”

“Is that meeting today or tomorrow?”

Sound familiar? Chances are you’ve asked a similar question already this week. Seasoned office workers have been doing the whole 9 to 5 gig for years now, so it’s normal for things to get a little monotonous. The days of the week can blend together as we all trudge through our workload, coffee eternally in hand, waiting for Friday to appear on the horizon.

This is not a new concept, but it’s fair to say that the past year has ramped up this ‘dazed about days’ phenomenon. 

Why are we losing track of time?

One of the lingering after-effects of COVID-19 rippling throughout the world is our altered perception of time. Because employees were forced to pivot almost instantly from a physical office to a remote working model, they did not have sufficient time to mentally prepare for such a radical transition. At the peak of the pandemic, when billions of people worldwide were placed under lockdown, there was nothing to do and nowhere to go — but you could still work. The lines between work and home life quickly became blurred, with some employees finding it difficult to switch off at the end of the day. In fact, some started working longer hours than they would in an office, unable to resist checking their emails before bed.

Lack of routine

Losing track of days is easy when you spend all your time at home. After all, how can you tell the difference between Monday and Sunday if you’re stuck inside regardless? Our sense of routine — including our daily commute, lunch breaks, exercise slots, and social meetups — has fallen apart. Though we might have once lamented the mundanity of the weekly routine, there is no doubt that it adds a much-needed sense of structure. As psychology professor Steve Joordens told CTV News, these daily rituals are “a sort of anchor that gives people a sense of where they are in time.”

Even little things like how we dress help us differentiate between the days of a workweek. In pre-pandemic times, you might have opted for a different outfit to coincide with particular days, e.g., formal attire for a meeting with a prospective client versus casual Fridays. However, the lockdown period required only one wardrobe staple: sweatpants. With no social events on the calendar to dress up for, what is there to wear? Sweatpants. Need something to wear on your daily walk? Sweatpants. You get the idea.

Increased screen time

Another reason why we’re losing track of days? An overreliance on screen time. As our work and social lives merged into one big blur of Netflix binges and Zoom hangouts, we exposed our eyes to numerous devices emitting blue light, which has been proven to negatively affect our sleeping patterns. As clinical psychologist Zainab Delawalla explained to HuffPost, we have been “limiting our exposure to natural light, which is an important external factor in resetting our circadian rhythms.” With our body clock out of whack, it’s no wonder we are losing track of time.

The scientific term for distorted time perception is dyschronometria, though this is an established medical condition and not the transitory disorientation we might be experiencing in the wake of lockdown. That’s the key thing to remember here — this is a temporary state that we can overcome. As we embark upon the slow journey out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can now start to think about how to piece our working week back together.

How to stop losing track of days

Whether you’re continuing to work remotely, returning to the office full-time, or opting for a hybrid model, it’s vital to create a sense of structure at work. Here are some tips that can help you stop losing track of days:

1. Build a whole new routine

Establish a routine tailored to your new work situation. If you are still working from home, you need to create boundaries to ensure you are not “always on.” Add a one-hour calendar block to ensure you take a full lunch break every day. Even if you are no longer commuting, you should still factor that wind-down time into your workday. Act as if you have a bus to catch at 5.15 pm to ensure you finish your work at 5 pm. Take a walk outside to disconnect from your laptop, just as you would if you were leaving a physical office.

2. Make your days unique

Attach certain activities to days of the week to help you tell them apart. For example, you could arrange to have all your meetings on a Monday to help you create an established start to your week. Weekly planners are an obvious but effective way to separate your tasks into corresponding days — Tuesday could be set aside for creative tasks, while Friday could be your day for catching up on paperwork and other admin duties. If you exercise on workdays, try to vary the activity each day, e.g., Walking Wednesdays or Tennis Thursdays. 

3. Reduce your screen time

A good sleep schedule will help you de-fog your mind and focus at work — and for that to happen, you need to reduce the amount of time you spend on devices that emit blue light. Try switching out your nightly smartphone scroll with a 30-minute reading session. Limit your TV time to one or two episodes of your favorite show a day. If it’s possible to turn some Zoom meetings into an in-person chat, do so. Tiny steps can go a long way towards reducing unnecessary screen time.

Hopefully, the above tips will help you stop losing track of time and start making the most of your working week. Even if it’s a Tuesday that really feels like a Thursday. Best of luck!