You have probably seen different opinions on social media whether one should be productive during the coronavirus quarantine. Some people cite an example that Isaac Newton invented differential and integral calculus, explored optics as well as discovered a theory of universal gravitation in the year when he stayed away from college during the Great plague of 1665–1666.
Other people point out that Isaac Newton did not have kids to take care of. Being stuck at home does not automatically give you free time, energy, focus, and motivation. Dealing with all the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic can be draining, and it is ok to give yourself a break and cut yourself some slack.
When NYC got locked down in March, I expected I would have more free time to complete some of the projects on my to-do list. Within a couple of weeks, I got the feeling that time was flying by, and many of the things I planned to do never got done. I felt guilty and disappointed about not living up to my expectations.
Gradually, I adjusted my approach to productivity during the coronavirus. Instead of setting ambitious goals in April, I decided to do at least one thing every day that positively affected each of three major areas of my life: fitness/wellness, family/friends, and my job/coaching business. I tried to stay consistent, but some days were better than others.
As some US states begin to ease lockdowns, I am changing my approach to productivity again. While I do not know how long the lockdown could last in NYC, which was hit hardest by the coronavirus, I have started thinking about how I want to feel and what I want to have accomplished by the time the NYC quarantine is over.
Keeping those points in mind as I was setting my goals for May, I put together the list of daily self-care habits I would like to practice every day and three main goals I would like to accomplish this month.
Daily self-care habits
My list of daily habits includes getting up before 8 am, doing meditation for 10 minutes, journaling, reading for at least 30 minutes, working out, getting outside, connecting with at least one friend or family member, and going to sleep before midnight.
I do not expect to get everything on that list done every day — although it would be nice — but I commit to practicing three-four habits per day.
Self-care requires an understanding of your needs and your priorities. It takes some discipline to do things that are good for us instead of what feels good at the moment. By taking care of your physical, emotional, and social needs regularly, you will have more energy to live your best life.
Pick one or two small self-care activities that you would like to add to your everyday life. With some amount of initial discipline, you can create new daily habits and make self-care part of your daily routine.
Daily habits do not depend on your motivation, will-power, or mood. They are just repeated actions that later become automatic and do not require any thinking or decision-making (for example, the habit of brushing your teeth every morning).
“An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.”Unknown
As I decided on the three main goals in May, I wanted to ensure that these goals were challenging but realistic. At the beginning of each week, I am going to write specific action steps I need to take during the week to accomplish my monthly goals.
For example, one of my goals for this month is to do at least 15 hours of indoor cycling and 10 hours of running. That would translate into a weekly goal of about six-seven hours of cycling and running workouts.
As you set your goals, keep in mind a S.M.A.R.T.E.R. approach, which includes the below seven characteristics.
Specific: your goal should be detailed and precise for you to be able to focus your efforts and energy. In addition to deciding what you want to achieve, you need to quantify your goal if possible and figure out what resources are necessary to accomplish it.
In addition to specifying my training goal in terms of a number of hours per week, I also pick days and specific time slots when I am going to exercise. Selecting alternative time slots as a back-up gives me some flexibility if something unexpected comes up and interferes with my original plan.
Meaningful: you need to decide why this goal is relevant and significant to you and why you want to accomplish it.
Fitness has been an inseparable part of my life since 2012. Consistent exercise routine keeps me happy, more balanced, and satisfied with my life.
Achievable: your goal also needs to be realistic and achievable. It needs to be challenging but remain within your reach. If you set a goal with unrealistic expectations, it is easy to lose motivation and give up.
My training load in prior years used to be somewhere between 10 hours and 15 hours per week, depending on a race or an adventure I trained for. This year I have reduced my exercise to between five and eight hours per week, and the goal of six to seven hours of cycling and running workouts seems to be realistic.
Relevant: your goal should align with your life goals and core values.
An active and healthy lifestyle is one of my top values. Even if I do not have any specific races scheduled for this year, I believe that maintaining a consistent workout routine during the coronavirus is essential for my mental and physical health.
Time-bound: your goals must be limited by time. Make it urgent. Select a realistic but challenging deadline. If it is a long-term goal, such as two or three years, break it down into smaller parts, with minor goals or benchmarks every 30 to 60 days.
My fitness goal has a month-end deadline, after which it will be replaced with a different fitness target.
Evaluated: make sure to set up a system for assessing your goal on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. The consistent evaluation will serve you as an accountability reminder and will keep you on track.
I use Strava and TrainingPeaks apps to keep track of all my workouts. At the end of each week, I check the total time and mileage for a week along with a training stress score that helps me keep track of my progress.
Readjusted: if you are unable to make progress, you need to adjust your approach and figure out different ways to get closer to your goal.
When I feel too tired, I make a minimum commitment to exercise 10–15 minutes instead of aiming for a full workout. In most cases, I finish my whole workout. However, there are some days when my body feels off, and I do take an unplanned rest and recovery day.
“A goal properly set is halfway reached.”Zig Ziglar
Setting achievable goals and pursuing them can give you a sense of accomplishment and progress. Research also shows that personal goals improve emotional well-being and make people happier.
While it is expected that your productivity might be lower during a global pandemic and there are some days when you need to take it easy, adding several self-care habits to your daily routine and setting a realistic goal or two can help you get through these challenging times and have no regrets when the quarantine is over.
Ready to start your journey to a happier life?
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Olga is an avid runner, triathlete, mountaineer, coach and founder of Your Best Self Fitness & Wellness Coaching. As a coach, she helps busy professionals reach fitness goals and live happier lives. She also writes about self-care, fitness, personal growth, productivity and motivation on her blog.