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Survival “Tent” Routine: COVID-19 (Part 1)

By March 19, 2020No Comments

(Photography Credit: Combat Camera)

“There is comfort in routine.

~John Steinbeck

In a crisis, there is tremendous value in maintaining normal processes under stress. Keep doing the easy things easily so you save capacity (physical, mental, emotional, resources, financial, etc) to deal with the novel, exceptional, severe aspects of a crisis. This one of many approaches that resilient people, teams, organizations take during chaos.

Tent routine is a term used in camping. In the military we used it during winter warfare training, exercises, and operations where we live in cramped 10-person tents. It means all the repetitive activities that are done individually and collectively to survive out in the elements and ensure the accomplishment of the mission—while living very close-quarters in a tent. It provides purposeful work to every member of the team and lays out the ground rules for living together. This ensures that no-one slips into a state of boredom, that the work gets done in a way that allows everyone to contribute to the group’s success, and that everyone can live together. All these things help to sustain morale, which is the greatest asset during dark times.

Our mission is to “flatten the curve” by working from home and enacting social distancing measures. This will upend many people’s lives, impinge upon taken-for-granted personal freedoms, and require a level of individual and societal discipline typically required when on a national war footing. As a viral quote on social media reminds us “our grandparents were called to war, we are being called to sit on a couch.”

Below is my family’s tent routine. In some cases the activities are subroutines.  It is formatted in 2 columns: Description of our activities and the Rationale, so you understand why each activity is important.


Morning Routine
-Wake up (no later than 08:30). A set time keeps the routine. We are not on vacation. Surviving this pandemic as a family and flattening the curve is our job.
-Make bed. Start the day off by completing a task and reinforces tidiness. 
-Ablutions. Normal part of any day and reinforces personal cleanliness.
-Take and log temperature. I did this when deployed to Haiti for 1-year. Recording a baseline allows for quicker reaction should you develop a low grade fever—a potential symptom.
-Eat breakfast + take mandatory immune boosting vitamins (C, D, Zinc, Echinacea). Proper nutrition reinforces our body’s defences against illness. This seems especially true with COVID-19. 
Daily Brief. 09:00 (Topic of a second blog) Provides a daily venue to share information / dispel rumours about: the situation globally and locally, what we as a family are doing, coordination issues, and any chores that need doing and errands we need to run. The rest of the day is communally planned and approved based on this conversation.
Chores / Errands Group work and activities that benefit the collective are prioritized and done immediately after the brief. Could be disinfecting areas of the house or shopping for necessities. 
Homework We do not know how long this pandemic will last. Homeschooling will be required after March Break for several weeks and seems likely beyond that as well.
Physical Fitness Reduces stress and maintains physical health. Many workouts can be done at home without any equipment. 
Catch up with family and friends The term social distancing is misleading. Flattening the curve is about physical distancing. The greater the impact and length of this pandemic, the greater we will need to rely on our family and friends. We have scheduled calls for everyone to make either daily or weekly to check-in and catch up with loved ones. 
Free time Not only for the introverts… We all need some time to ourselves to relax and recharge. Take the time to journal about this unprecedented (at least for this generation of Canadians) experience.
Supper 17:30 

(Yes I still use a 24-hour clock. In North America that is called military time. In the rest of the world it is simply how they do business.)

Breakfast is an individual activity. Lunch as well by eating left-overs. Supper allows the family to come together at the end of the day to reconnect, tell stories, and plan the evening activity. It also allows for a centralized approach to rationing food supplies.
Family activity (aka Forced Fun!) There is a balance to be had between individual “on my phone” time and at a human level to reinforce the bonds of connection. Could be a board game or a movie. 
Take and log temperature Doing this at multiple points during the day adds to the accuracy of the baseline and allows for quicker response should someone’s temperature change.
Bedtime Individual decision to provide enough sleep based on a 08:30 wake-up. 


(Photography Credit: Combat Camera)

Having served for over 20 years in the Canadian Army and deployed to war zones and natural disasters, I fully expect this pandemic to bring out the best in many of us and the worst in some of us. This is not the time to think about this situation through the lens of our individual rights but rather as citizens of the world and, therefore, based on our responsibilities to the greater good.

Our mission is to flatten the curve. Please do your part.

About the Author

In 2016, then Colonel Mark Gasparotto deployed to Haiti with two roles as the Chief of Staff for the United Nations Military Component and as the Canadian Military Contingent Commander. By the end of his one-year tour of duty he was also the Deputy Force Commander. Mark received his second Meritorious Service Medal and the Brazilian Army Medal for his senior leadership roles.

Retiring from the Canadian Armed Forces in 2017 at the rank of Colonel, Mark is now the President of the Gasparotto Group, a leadership development firm that helps organizations create cultures that develop highly effective leaders and build strong, resilient teams.


The Gasparotto Group helps organizations create cultures that develop highly effective leaders and build strong, resilient teams. 

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