How To Reach Your Goals During Quarantine: A 9-Step Guide!
Updated: May 8, 2020
Feeling set back by social distancing? Here are 9 ways to stay on top of your goals without leaving home!
Were you one of the optimists who swore that 2020 was going to be your year? Perhaps you were finally ready to make that career change, or get out there and start dating again, or make good on your promise to yourself to travel more. All that, just in time for non-essential businesses to close up shop, social venues to shut down, and trips and events to be cancelled before spring even rolls around.
How on earth do we stay on track and create any sort of momentum towards our goals when it feels like the world has been placed on pause? Here are a few tips for doing just that.
1. Set a Daily Schedule
If it feels like your routine has just been massively overhauled, you’re not alone. Losing an established routine can leave us with a lot of unstructured time, and under those conditions it can feel overwhelming just getting started!
Creating a schedule can go a long way towards helping you rebuild that structure into your day so that you can stay on top of your goals. By designating specific times to work on selected projects or objectives, you’re actually increasing the likelihood of following through!
Your schedule can be as broad or as detailed as you like. Slot in your work hours, designate times to respond to emails or make important calls, and block off time for activities such as exercise, meal prep, or childcare/eldercare activities, depending on your living arrangements.
With so many things seemingly competing for our attention at once, developing an organizational system to keep them in check can be really handy. Having time in your day specifically dedicated to self-care, reflection, and goal pursuits can help you stay focused and push unwanted distractions to the background.
2. Narrow Your Scope
If your list of things to get done on a given day feels endless, perhaps we can simplify matters. Many of the items on your daily list can probably be grouped together under certain domains. Examples of possible domains include “Career,” “Academics,” “Fitness,” and “Social Life.” We don’t actually need to propel each of these areas forward in substantial ways every single day in order to further our goals!
Consider focusing your energy on one or two domains per day that you’re fairly confident you can tackle. The other domains can be scattered across the rest of the week, ensuring that each domain will have its turn! From there, you can narrow it down even further into individual goals associated with each domain (get promoted, earn a degree, run a marathon, etc.), and then begin to build your to-do list.
Individual goals can be broken down into any number of small steps. However, when we give each step equal weight and try to tackle them all at once, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and run out of steam relatively quickly. Once you’ve narrowed your focus down to an individual goal under a certain domain (e.g. Academics – get a degree), you can now list the tasks that fall under that goal and begin ranking them in order of importance and urgency.
For example, a dissertation that’s due in four months may require a lot of overall time dedicated to it, but working on it today can probably take a back seat to finishing a smaller paper that’s due tomorrow. By bumping some of the smaller or less urgent items on the list to be dealt with later in the week, you’re freeing up mental energy and resources to devote to the most pressing matters and ensuring that they actually get done!
4. Pace Yourself
Got your daily priorities all set? Awesome! Now we can space them out in a way that doesn’t completely drive you insane. If one of your quarantine goals is to read one new book per week, you don’t need to devour each one in a single day. The same can be said for completing a business proposal, writing a term paper, or getting in shape.
When you’re designating time slots for specific tasks, consider that we need to regularly recharge in order to stay focused, and the ideal time interval for working on a specific project will vary from person to person.
I personally like to work on written projects for 15-20 minute stretches at a time, and allow myself to take short breaks in between to reset. My experience has been that this actually helps me wrap up much faster than trying to get everything done in one go.
The slow and steady approach allows you to incrementally chip away at larger undertakings, and gets the job done while sparing you the headache of a caffeine-fueled all-nighter!
5. Ditch Productivity
There’s that word that has tormented so many ambitious social distancers over the past few weeks: Productivity. “Think of everything you have time to accomplish now!” Because what’s a successful quarantine if you don’t come out of it speaking three new languages and discovering a new natural element, right?
We can easily get so hung up on the concept of being productive that we start setting monumental daily goals, basically stacking the deck against us from the get-go. While covering huge amounts of ground per day may seem tempting in the short term, it’s not a requirement, and can ultimately lead to burnout. Major life shifts are usually driven by a series of gradual, relatively small decisions that we make several times per day, every day.
Every time you decide whether or not to make that phone call, reply to that email, inquire about that opportunity, or introduce yourself to that someone, you are opening yourself up to more options and new possibilities. These little things add up!
6. Be Proactive with the Things You Can Control
It’s easy to feel powerless when we fixate on things that are outside of our control, so consider making a list of the things that you can directly influence right now. List the people you can reach out to, opportunities you can create by shifting social networking online, and ways you can organize yourself so that you’re ready to hit the ground running once things turn around.
For instance, it may be some time before you’re able to attend an in-person business networking event, but there are many virtual networking events, groups, conferences, and courses being offered right now that you can take advantage of! Prefer to wait until in-person networking becomes an option again? You can still spend this time updating your resume, putting the finishing touches on your business card design, or emailing some of your existing connections.
Got your list? Awesome. Now do them! It’s normal to feel in limbo right now, but that doesn’t mean we need to wait for things to change before taking action. If you’re in a slump, rather than staring at a stagnant inbox or waiting for the phone to ring, find your path of least resistance to get the ball rolling. Follow up with people who haven’t gotten back to you for a few days, reach out to friends and family when you’re feeling lonely, and explore ways to pursue new leads in areas that interest you.
We don’t get to decide whether or not it’s going to rain, but when it does come pouring down, we can still decide what we’re going to do about it.
7. Change Your Mindset
Since I’m not one to walk away from a metaphor without thoroughly exhausting it first, when is a torrential downpour a picnic-destroyer versus a free car wash? I guess that depends on the perspective we apply to the situation.
Our mindset when it comes to our goals can be a major deciding factor in whether or not we stay the course in our pursuits. When we perceive ourselves as making no progress or being faced with an insurmountable obstacle, we run the risk of putting in less effort, or giving up entirely.
However, feeling “stuck” often comes down to perception, and when we say that it feels like we have “no options,” what we usually mean is that we don’t have any appealing options. The choices open to us when we experience adversity may be categorized by varying degrees of awfulness, but they’re still there. While there might not seem to be a particularly “good” one, there will still be a better one.
As a tip, when the problems seem to be piling up, consider redirecting your focus to solutions. We can quickly get so bogged down by obstacles and setbacks that we start feeling trapped in a situation. By shifting our thoughts to questions such as, “Ok, this problem exists, so what’s the next logical step for me?”, a path forward begins to take shape!
8. Take Care of Your Health
This might sound like a no-brainer during a pandemic, but caring for your health extends beyond going to town on the Purell after each supermarket trip. Our mind and body work together as a unit, so it’s difficult to function optimally in one area if the other is neglected. This is why striving to be at your healthiest physically is important to ensure that you also stay on top of your game mentally. And if your goals for 2020 included optimizing your health to begin with, bonus!
You can support your physical health in a variety of ways. Some of these include prioritizing sleep, taking rest breaks as needed, preparing nutritious meals at home even though UberEats beckons, exercising regularly (YouTube at-home workout videos just became your best friend), staying hydrated, and limiting exposure to stress-inducing media coverage of certain world health issues.
9. Cut Yourself Some Slack
These are not ordinary circumstances we find ourselves in, and the energy we expend just towards managing the stress and anxiety of this situation can take a large mental toll. If it feels like your energy levels are crashing earlier and more often than usual, that’s completely normal!
The truth is, you’re not always going to be in the best head space to progress towards your goals, and that’s okay. As much as you can, try not to beat yourself up for having bad days, feeling frustrated and discouraged, or lacking the motivation to push forward at that precise moment.
It’s important to check in with ourselves once in a while to see how we’re doing, and extend some self-compassion when the answer to that is, “Not great.” During those moments, ask yourself how much energy and effort you’re able to spare towards your goals, and let that be enough for now. If there are days where it feels like you can’t do anything, that’s okay. On the days when you have it in you to do more, you will.
Staying in doesn’t have to keep you from your goals, but it might mean changing things up a bit. Things don’t always go according to plan, but the cool thing is that workarounds are possible when we allow ourselves to roll with the circumstances. For those moments when you’re feeling stuck, overwhelmed, or not even sure where to begin, you can refer back to some of these tips to help you take a step back and simplify!
Are you looking for ways to stay on top of your goals and keep that momentum going? Book a free consultation to discuss how we can work together to help you get there!