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This is podcast 145 and it’s about creating stabilizing structure. I’ve talked about this before but today I’ll give it a different slant because many people during this pandemic quarantine time have lost their daily regular routines and schedules. This isn’t about being more productive but about not feeling adrift and unstable.
Life is full of uncertainties right now. Having a structure to your days gives you control over what you can control and that feels more grounded. You can control when you go to bed and when you get up, when you eat meals, when you exercise or walk the dog.
Your structure can be as simple as that. Planning to exercise at 11 am right away gives your morning structure because you eat breakfast and shower before that, for example. Now you already have three activities. Setting up a Zoom chat with a friend in the afternoon gives that part of the day structure. You’ll walk the dog before or after. You’ll eat lunch before or after. These events are now a sequence of activities that take you through a day.
I am purposely keeping this very simple. We are all expending more mental and emotional energy these days coping not only with daily news developments, but with keeping our lives together when so many things are upside down. If you’re at home and not able to work,
you’re still likely to feel worn out, and that’s fine.
Try to committing to one thing per day. It could be a phone call, making a shopping list for your next grocery store outing or reading three chapters of a book you’ve started. That’s all you need.
Note the structure you already have, things like meals and personal care. You’re already doing things everyday. Notice how this aligns your day. Structured activities simply need to occur, they don’t have to be on a strict timeline. I find that doing things at a similar time each day is comforting but I like the freedom of changing that when I want to.
As with other time managing methods, you can certainly do more than that one daily thing you commit to. But give yourself this opportunity not to do that, not to feel that you’re cheating if you do only one thing. Remember, you’re using more energy than usual, in ways that you’re not used to.
Here’s another idea I got from a friend; make a procrastination list. This list contains tasks that have been on your to do list for a long time and you keep not getting to them. So the first step is to ask yourself which tasks qualify. First, it’s something you’ve put off for a long time. second, when you see it on your list you have a negative feeling about it; dread, overwhelm, burden, frustration. A task you simply haven’t gotten to yet that you feel neutral about doesn’t count.
I did one of these yesterday. I bought a new laptop back in November and had not gotten around to switching my cloud backup to it from the old laptop. That’s almost six months of procrastination! I had not migrated every single file from the old machine, so that complicated things. I wanted to make sure everything from there was backed up onto a hard drive just in case I need them in the future, but they don’t need to be cluttering up the new laptop. That was another hurdle.
I didn’t know how long it would take or what decisions I’d have to make.
It felt easier to approach when I told myself it would be the one thing I did that day. In the event, it was two days because the backup took ten hours! In cases like this, I recommend not trying to plan out steps in advance. In my experience that tends to cause resistance.
It’s better to let the task unfold and get through it piece by piece. Just do the next thing. Find the hard drive. Plug it in. See what’s on there since I hadn’t used it for a year or so. This is similar to David Allen’s concept of merely defining the next action you need to take. There’s no need to plot everything out in advance.
One step after another feels like more of a flow to me, and that’s calming. If I am thinking ahead too far, it sets off a bunch of thought tangents in my head and that’s un-calming. I’m not in the moment anymore. This moment is always the calmest place to be.
Here’s what you can do right now: decide that you will just do one thing today. Make it something simple. Notice how it adds structure to your day; there’s the time before you do it and the time after you do it. This is good self care.
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