how to make plans for yourself and establish a semi-consistent routine: pandemic edition

To say the pandemic has been a bummer for most of us is an understatement. Whether you’re working or studying from home, on the frontlines, dealing with a bunch of crap, or just staying put (at least for those of us who give a fuck about other people’s lives), it’s been rough. This, along with our tenuous political climate, can destroy anybody’s motivation to do things. But listen, it’s crucial to make plans for yourself still and to have some routine outside of being on your phone or working.

Now, I don’t want to preach about self-care to you because, frankly, it’s a load of bs, and it’s okay to feel like an absolute piece of a turd about our shitty circumstances. Take a nap if you need to. Scream into a pillow. People have lost a lot. Grief is normal.

That being said, if we have it within ourselves to make sure our immediate future, mood, and health aren’t an absolute ass, maybe we should cultivate a space for that?

One way I keep myself afloat is by completing a task every day, no matter how small or insignificant it seems. It could literally be anything. Whether that’s looking for jobs, applying to grad programs, cooking, doing a YouTube workout, or changing your bedsheets, it should be at least one thing. This isn’t about productivity or self-care in the broad sense. It’s really about staying committed to your dreams and wellbeing regardless of the world crumbling around you.

Set aside what the world is demanding of you for a moment.

1. First Things First, What Are Your Priorities? What Is it You Need or Want to Do? And Why is it Important?

A lot of your pre-pandemic plans may have been completely interrupted, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still plan to make plans. Pull out a notebook. No, seriously, do it. Start asking yourself the following: Where do you see yourself in the near or distant future? Where do you want to be? How are you planning to achieve that? Is there something you want to be able to do consistently every day or week (working out, meditating, drawing, writing, cleaning, learning another language, etc.)? Jot down a list of goals, wishes, and wants.

2. Set Small, Medium, and Big Goals for Yourself.

Some of your goals will be harder than others or obtainable in a shorter amount of time. Maybe you have a vague big goal that takes more than one step to achieve. In that case, you should create a list of tasks it’ll take to get there. For example, if you’re applying for a job, you should account for small steps like polishing your resume, writing cover letters, etc.

You can also set medium goals for the near future, like picking up a hobby, a skincare routine, or reading a book. The main idea behind this exercise is really about manifesting your wants. You’re more likely to work towards a goal if it’s written down. Plus, it can help you stay on track with what matters to you and make your plans more fleshed out.

3. Identify Your Emotions & Personal Hang-ups.

Your emotions are a good indicator of the thoughts keeping you from starting or finishing a task. Often, there’s an emotion of some kind tied to the thing you’re trying to accomplish, which makes you avoid it altogether.

It’s not always anxiety that holds us back. Sometimes it can just be the dread in knowing that you have to do something hard, unpleasant, draining, or tedious – frequently with no guarantee of a satisfying reward. Maybe applying for jobs or internships is super annoying and frustrating. Perhaps you want to do Pilates to get in shape and tone up, but you struggle to do it regularly because you know it’s hard and tiring.

Considering the pandemic is a thing, you might come to realize that you won’t be able to do much about some of your more ambitious goals anytime soon, and that’s okay. You don’t have to work on emotionally distressing or ambiguous things if you don’t want to. However, knowing your hang-ups/emotions might help you work out what’s best for you and sort out if you actually want something, to begin with.

4. Make (Literal Physical) Space for Personal Growth.

Your surroundings significantly impact your mood and personal motivation, especially depending on what you’re trying to do. Make sure that no obstacles are getting in the way of you following through on your plans. Maybe you’re planning to do yoga or paint every day. Is there a mat nearby where it takes less set-up and where you’re less likely to make excuses not to do yoga? Make the process as easy and accessible as possible.

Is there somewhere you can go every day that you can count on not being interrupted if you’re filling out applications or writing? A clean desk or table where you can work as opposed to your bed? Trying to do things in a messy or disruptive environment is going to be much more challenging. Make sure your space works for you.

5. Be Prepared for Obstacles, Stay Flexible, and Make Sure It’s Sustainable. 

So maybe you start setting goals, and things don’t go as planned. It’s alright, don’t beat yourself up about it. Having a realistic perspective on how likely you’ll be able to do something in the immediate future is to be expected. Maybe you won’t be able to go through with those graduation plans to travel out of state because of COVID, or perhaps you don’t have the money or time, or you’re exhausted. It’s all okay. Adjust your expectations and make backup plans in case things go south. Your goals are YOUR goals. You tailor them to serve you and your needs.

If you started a routine and stopped, maybe consider if it was sustainable, to begin with. Are you more likely to do something every day of the week or three times a week? Is your goal do-able given all our current restrictions? Do what feels right.

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