On Daily Routines, we profile successful leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, executives and athletes to explore their routines, schedules, habits and day in the life.
When COVID-19 hit in early 2020, retired astronaut and former Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot, Chris Hadfield, had some well-timed advice for the rest of us in lockdown. After all, he was an authority on isolation; he had previously flown two Space Shuttle missions and served as commander of the International Space Station.
“I’ve spent a little time self-isolating on board a spaceship,” he shared on his personal YouTube channel. “It’s an extremely dangerous environment up on board the space station and yet we find a way to thrive and be productive that far away from our normal lives.”
“Once you understand the risk and your mission, your sense of purpose and your obligations, then take action, start doing things,” he said. “They don’t have the be things that you always did before. Take care of family, start a new project, learn to play guitar, study another language, read a book, write, create. It’s a chance to do something different that you’ve maybe not done before and then, repeat.”
In March 2013, Hadfield led a crew of five astronauts on Expedition 35, a International Space Station mission focused on running scientific experiments on the impact of low gravity on human biology.
“The space station is there for a purpose and that is to do science that can’t be done on the surface of the Earth,” he explained in a NASA preflight interview. “That is the core purpose of the space station, and so our job, as the people on board, is to make sure that that science gets done.”
“Everything else is sort of downstream of that. Yes, we need to fix things as they break; sometimes we have to go outside on spacewalks; sometimes we have to use the robot arm and grab a new delivery truck that’s full of equipment, but the core of it is to run those hundred and ten experiments that are running on board, and that’s our main job, to be the lab technicians as well as the plumbers and the delivery men and all the rest of it, but really the lab technicians that keep the International Space Station as the big international laboratory that it is.”
A day in the life of an astronaut
In the same NASA interview, Hadfield gave readers an idea of what a typical daily routine onboard a space station looked like:
You spend part of your day just being a person. You wake up in the morning, take care of all of your typical morning activities: breakfast, read the news, use the toilet, get cleaned up, maybe exercise. We don’t get exercise for free on the space station just by walking around, raising our arm or picking up water, you don’t fight gravity ever, therefore you can be so lazy and you have to deliberately exercise, sort of like if you were living on a boat, you have to deliberately exercise. Then part of your day is fixing things. It’s a big, complicated structure and things break, so part of the life of an astronaut is fixing everything from a cord in the back of a laptop that has stopped working to the air purification system, or maybe something as huge as going outside to replace or repair a big piece of the station that has broken. Another part of the day is running the experiments on board, which is the real core purpose of being there. Your days are divided up just like that. Every day you’re a human being staying alive, a technician keeping the space station alive, and a scientist doing research.Preflight Interview: Chris Hadfield | NASA
Since his retirement from the Canadian Space Agency in 2013, after 35-years as a military pilot and astronaut, Hadfield has stuck to a set daily routine.
He’s up at 6am and goes for a walk first thing in the morning, usually with his wife and dog. After the walk, he jumps in the shower, but not before doing a quick workout. “I try to get some exercise in the morning, too. I’m not a fanatic about it: I don’t think you need to join a gym or have the latest running shoes to stay healthy. I always do 15 push-ups before I jump into the shower,” he told Toronto Life.
Though officially retired, Hadfield has been staying busy. “I tend to have a lot going on during the day,” he said. “I’m writing a fourth book, I do interviews with media around the world, I chair a technology incubator called the Creative Destruction Lab, I do talks, I teach at the University of Waterloo and I’m the chair of the board of Open Lunar Foundation, a non-profit focused on lunar exploration.”
After dinner with his family, and reading time with his granddaughter (“We’ve got a couple of books on rotation. Currently, it’s a Thomas the Tank Engine book, Thomas and the Shark.”), Hadfield goes to bed at 10pm.
The way you think and organize yourself as an astronaut is very applicable to the disrupted life a lot of people are living right now. The first thing is to understand the risks. You can’t fly a spaceship while you’re worrying about things. You need accurate information. After that, you need to recognize that you’re part of a crew trying to accomplish an objective: what are the things you need to get done today? Then, most critically, you start doing them.Quarantine Routine: Chris Hadfield says self-isolation is a lot like flying a spaceship | Toronto Life
Before you go…
Check out more daily routines from Barack Obama, Joe Rogan, Jeff Bezos, Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet and plenty others.