How I rebuilt my routines (and relationship to my smartwatch) after burnout
Megan Rhiannon shares her thoughts on how as a neurodivergent individual you might not need to follow fad routine "hacks" to combat burnout, but new routines altogether. She details her favourite apps and support systems to do this.
This article is sponsored by Tiimo - an app that helps you manage your life and wellbeing.
(Photo by Tiimo)
[Image: a cartoon illustration of a woman trying to hold up her life, which includes a smart watch, and a tablet.]
by Megan Rhiannon
In December last year, I took my smartwatch off for a “short” break because I was feeling overwhelmed.
I didn’t want the reminders to stand up and move around, to take deep breaths, and I didn't want to see the notifications of my family members closing exercise rings or earning new awards. I was tired, feeling a little burnt out autistically, and no longer wanted my to-do list and routines attached to me. I no longer wanted to participate.
I just wanted to exist for a little while.
My “short” break very quickly slipped into four months, and it wasn’t until April of this year that I finally picked it back up again, finding myself in need of some executive function support as I eased back into taking on more work. When doing so I did it with intent - what would be different?
Over my break I’d built a wall between myself and my watch, it had become an item of stress, expectation, goals that I couldn’t meet, and tasks that followed me from day-to-day for weeks, like a very low-key (but still upsetting) haunting.
This hurt was compounded by the complexity of the burnout I found myself in - I badly needed a break, but I'd spent the better part of three years building my support system around organization apps and my watch. They supported my work tasks, my routines, my special interests, my memory, and my autistic wellbeing, much of which I detailed in a 2021 article for Wirecutter.
When I finally did start using it again, it was with the help of one of my longest-used apps: Tiimo. Not only has Tiimo never been difficult to pick back up after a break, but it’s always felt like the easiest door to open. The iPad and iPhone apps allowed me to reset my routines and start easing back into some organization without having to commit immediately to wearing my watch again. For a couple of days, I worked on deleting old routines and replacing them with new ones, fresh ones, ones that didn’t remind me of the suffocation that I’d been feeling previously. The customization and flexibility options allowed me to choose new colours, upload new icons, and set adjustable timeframes for different activities, routines, and days of the week.
I didn’t want to fall back into the trap that had led me to burnout in December - I want my task management to support me, not smother me.
I test-ran these new routines for a few days across my phone and iPad, checking in throughout the day and making adjustments where needed. Again, this is where Tiimo’s flexibility is such an asset. When making a small change or alteration, I’m able to choose whether to set that change for only the day, the week, or as a permanent change for every instance of that routine when it occurs. It’s small features like this that keep me returning, small features like this that are so badly overlooked in other apps.
A new feature that I (very happily) discovered upon my return is the option to create customisable widgets. These widgets now allow you to view your current activity or routine from your lock screen, further allowing me the freedom to move between devices if my watch becomes too difficult. I had already been using the widget section of my lock screen as an ‘autistic reference point’ with photos of my special interests, my calendar, and links to coping mechanisms, so being able to add my Tiimo blocks to this was a very welcome surprise, and not something I had considered until it appeared. I’m now not sure how I functioned without it!
A final feature that I’d like to highlight is the notes section - a tab that I had overlooked up until recently. It sits neatly in the top right corner of the ‘my day’ section in the Tiimo app. It’s exactly as it sounds, just a small section where you can add and keep notes. I use Tiimo in tandem with Notion, which is my primary note-keeping app, so it’s nice to have the option to move some of the more critical notes over to Tiimo if I need to.
In the coming weeks, I’m thinking about building some self-care reference sheets to keep there, with different routines and instructions for less regularly occurring autistic things - meltdowns, big changes, periods of burnout, etc. These reference sheets could function as a first aid kit of sorts, with notes, instructions, links to helpful webpages, and all resources that could help in times of stress when it may not be so easy to remember or think straight about your needs.
In Notion, I keep notes about my special interests, pages, and images that I refer to when things begin to feel difficult. In the future, I hope Tiimo might build upon their notes section with the addition of tags and folders, so I can move these to the app too, and keep my entire autistic toolkit in one place.
When I was first diagnosed, I spent weeks researching and experimenting with very basic organisational apps to see how I could bend them to fit my neurodivergent needs, but they didn’t work. They were too structured, too rigid, too ‘typical’.
I never imagined how far it would all come, how quickly it would all evolve, and how critical future apps, like Tiimo, would become in my everyday life and disability management.
This article is part of our sponsored series with Tiimo - an app that helps manage your life and wellbeing.
Tiimo is a visual daily planner that will help you stress less and plan your time better. It works by creating a visual schedule on the app, with Tiimo reminding you of your schedule throughout the day. And it's easy to get started, simply download the app or check out the Tiimo website - click here