I have to be honest, I’m actually almost enjoying quarantine. Sure, I am definitely missing seeing many of my friends, going out to hang out in a coffeeshop or bar, and rather bummed about canceling travel plans; however when I hear my friends talk about their quarantine experiences: feeling that they are not accomplishing anything, that they cannot find the motivation they need to get through work or school online, or my least favorite, that there isn’t anything to do; I can’t quite relate. The past few weeks have been some of the most productive of my recent memory — I am exercising, eating right, reading, writing, working and keeping relationships with those I care about more regularly than I ever have before. I’ve spent some time pondering what the secret is: why is my quarantine so productive, while others’ can’t seem to find anything to do, and how can others find the motivation to make the most out of their time at home?A big part of the answer comes down to goal setting. As a student of organizational psychology, I’m well versed on the power of goal setting as a tactic for employee motivation — I once had a professor who believed goal setting was the only thing you needed to motivate individuals. I am beginning to think he may be right. My weeklygoal setting has been the key to my success during this pandemic and the best part is, it works for just about anyone given the right approach. But finding the right approach and creating the right goals is crucial and will determine success or failure. The following are key strategies to making the most of short-term goal setting:When it comes to short-term goal setting, such as creating goals for the week, I’ve found that it’s important to create goals in several different areas. Each week, I create exercise/fitness goals, reading and writing goals, schoolwork goals, personal relationship goals, and TV/Movie goals. If you’re a person of devout faith (or would like to be), consider adding spiritual goals; or if you enjoy cooking, try meal goals; musicians — music goals, and so on. The idea behind goal diversification is that if all my goals centered around exercise, I would be physically exhausted by the end of the week. If all my goals were reading and writing, my brain would be fried. Creating a balance of goals is crucial to avoid goal burnout. Furthermore, if your goals only center around one area, like exercise, you may find yourself making progress in that area, but remaining unmotivated and unproductive in anything else. Finding the areas that are important to you and allowing yourself to make goals in as many of these areas as you have time for and have a genuine interest in will allow for higher productivity and less chance of burnout.
1. Make a plan
Start out each week, and even each day with 10minutes of planning time. Make yourself a drink and sit down with a pen and paper or laptop and decide on time frames of concentration, relaxation and activity for each day. This can be dot points of things to achieve, ideally with time-frames in thirty minute to one hour blocks.
If you are lucky enough to still be able to work from home, this may be an easier task. But particularly for those that are not working, days on end with nothing planned can become unbearably boring, causing distraction and lethargy to take over.
Be careful not to be overly ambitious with your goals and plans either. Keep some variety and avoid placing overly high expectations on yourself as this can leave us feeling worse when we don’t achieve everything we set out to do.
Aim for 10-20minutes per day of mindfulness and mediation. This can be either self guided, or if you haven’t tried this before you can start with a guided meditation through an app. There are a number of different Apps available, I would recommend either “”Calm” or “Headspace”, and there are also plenty of others out there.
Find a time that works best for you. Maybe morning to start your day and set your intentions, midday to regain focus, or evening perhaps if you feel yourself becoming more self critical.
There is no set rule on how many sessions you should have per day so find what works best for you.
3. Go for a walk
leave the house This has two benefits. Firstly the change of scenery is bound to lift your mood and refresh your through patterns. There is nothing worse than being stuck in the one place for hours or days on end. You do not have to touch anything or be close to anyone when you leave the house, so there should be no increased risk of infection contraction or spreading. This is still allowed and recommended!
Secondly it is so important for your health and body that you keep up your activity. Walking wakes up our muscles, gives us numerous health benefits, along with release of endorphins that are proven to improve our mood. If you are having trouble focusing at home then a break for a walk will help to refresh both your body and mind.
If the walk isn’t enough, make it a jog or a run!
4. Do something for others
Reach out and check in on family and friends. This can be a facetime of phone call chat, perhaps you have a housemate or someone else at home that you can talk to in person, or you know of a neighbour or colleauge that might be struggling. Even those who you assume are fine might be struggling through this unusual and testing period.
Put the kettle on and make a cup of coffee or tea. Set a time and day and aim for regular online or phone catchups like this through your week. Humans are social animals and we need some interaction to keep us going. This will help boost both your own mood, and the people that you reach out to.
5. Clean up
This is a great one because we all have something at home or in the garden that could use some cleaning attention. I know my oven has been a task I’ve avoided for far too long. This can be one of those mindless and stress relieving tasks that we can get stuck into for a good hour and see time fly past without realising. Put on your favourite music, pick one area to work on and feel like you’ve really achieved something afterwards.
At the end of the day remember you don’t have to have achieved anything during this quarantine time. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel stuck, lethargic or as if you are underperforming. This is not a competition and certainly not a time to judge ourselves. Everyone is struggling now, reach out, support and stay kind to yourself.