Odds are, wherever you are in the world reading this, you are in some type of quarantine. You may have lost your job or key clients. Maybe you are becoming stir crazy, or frustrated trying to get anything done from home.
It’s also possible your business has gone under, your dreams have been shattered, or your big travel plans scuttled. You may have no idea how to navigate this situation we are in.
Despite all of that, I want you to know that this time of quarantine is valuable, perhaps more than you realize. It is not a time to be sad, depressed, and downtrodden, it is a time to regroup, and replan. Let’s get started.
There are some solid approaches you can use to get through a challenge or find a new opportunity. The first is to get it in writing.
1. Get It Out Of Your Head
You have to write it down. Write what down? Everything.
When you are trying to plan for the future or solve a problem, the best way is not to just take a walk around the block thinking it over. That’s certainly a good first step, but ultimately, you want to dump it all out on paper.
Write down the problem and potential solutions.
Write the pros and cons of doing A, and then the pros and cons of not doing A.
Write your goals for the next 6 months, along with your daily and weekly to-do lists.
With the world becoming more digital, we have begun outsourcing things we once used our brain for, like remembering phone numbers or doing math. That comes with consequences. As Medical Daily notes (citing a study from Psychological Science), if you write something on paper rather than type it on a digital screen, you will activate more of the memory, and more problem-solving capacities of the brain.
So while you may want to keep that to-do list just on your phone or laptop—don’t. Write it out. The study above tended to show that those who type things out tend to do so mindlessly. Those who write things out tend to remember more and were better able to process concepts and facts.
So get it on paper. Everything about your day, week, month, year, and life. Ideally, use paper and pen, but at the bare minimum, make sure you’re not just typing things on a computer screen. Print out your musings, problems, solutions, and to-do lists, then post them on your wall and in your bathroom. Then watch: you’ll start getting a lot more done and finding solutions to problems a whole lot more quickly.
2. All That Matters Is Why
But let’s take a step back. The truth is, if you don’t know why you are doing something, it doesn’t matter one iota if you have a daily to-do list because you won’t work efficiently to get the tasks done. As many an actor has asked “What’s my motivation?” By the same token, if you don’t have a super-strong why for solving a problem, you won’t have a true impetus to find a solution.
Viktor Frankl, in the excellent book “Man’s Search For Meaning,” recognized that holocaust survivors who visualized a strong future, beyond the war, and beyond the horror, had a higher likelihood of surviving the concentration camps. Those who tended to wither away, and give up hope, and ultimately die (not through the gas chambers, but simply from physical and mental deterioration) were those who gave up hope, saw no positive future, and had no ‘why’ to continue reaching for beyond their current circumstance.
No matter how you are feeling this moment, consider how much better your life still is than the life of those poor souls in the Nazi camps. If the power of ‘why’ worked in those terrible camps, it can work for you amid this global pandemic.
To get through it, and to get through it in an even better position than you are in now, ask yourself ‘why’? Why is it important that you get through this? Why is it important that you replan? Why is it important that you create a monthly to-do list? Why is it important to get the tasks done on your daily to-do list?
Most people do not have good answers to these questions. They say, “To make money,” Or, “Because I want to succeed,” Or, “Because it’s important to me.” But none of those answers are strong enough. The why needs to be powerful. And the strongest why I’ve found is about others.
Frankl shares in his book that those who survived the camps didn’t do so by thinking about money, success, or by saying, “survival is important to me.” They had reasons that came back to other people: “Because I want to see my wife again.” “Because I want to inspire people to overcome this horror.” “Because I want my daughter to see what it means to survive.”
Strong whys are always about helping others. So before you start creating to-do lists and solving problems, make sure you first know why it is important. Otherwise, you won’t have the stamina to do what needs to be done.
3. Give Up Goals and Focus on Strives
Next, when you are creating your plans, try not to focus too much on goals. A goal is time-bounded. For example: “I will restart my business by September 1st, 2020.” That’s a potential psychological disaster. Why? Right now, we have no idea when life will return to normal, so how can you create a specific date for re-opening? Even before the pandemic there were no guarantees on things. So if you focus on a time-bounded goal, and don’t achieve it on time, you’re likely going to feel like a failure.
Instead, use strives that are like goals but with a flexible moving deadline. When we change the above goal into a strive, it becomes, “I will restart my business within the next six months.” That’s the strive for today. And when you wake up tomorrow, it’s the same: “I will restart my business within the next six months. And in mid-June, it is still exactly the same: “I will restart my business within six months.”
The idea behind this is that with a moving deadline, and no specific ‘success date’, it provides focus and impetus and a target, but without any of the emotional distress if the deadline suddenly approaches and you’re far from the finish line.
Are there times when true timed goals are helpful? Yes, for sure. However, many times if you use a strive instead of a goal, you’ll get more done in less time, and without the psychological damage of a missed goal.
4. Accountability is Dependability
Once you’ve got your plans on paper, your why is strong, and your strives are in place, you’re ready to get to work. And you’ll be more motivated to work if your reputation is on the line. So, it’s time to put your reputation on the line.
You need to tell people about your plans.
And the more the better.
Something I often do is share my plans and what I am doing in my alma mater alumni magazines. By seeing my goals in print (remember from above, we need to see things on paper for them to have a maximum psychological positive effect), I am spurred on to make it happen. Knowing that tens of thousands of others saw my targets is a wondrous firestarter under my pants You can do this through sharing on social media, telling your friends via text message, or posting a printed plan on the family refrigerator for your loved ones to see. You might post your plans on your blog, or even call someone you know and respect. Whatever you decide to do, just make sure you tell at least one other person. Knowing that someone else knows your plan will encourage you to get it done. If you tell no one, the only accountability you have is yourself, and let’s be honest, we often let ourselves off way too easy.
5. Tomorrow Never Comes (Winners Do It Now)
This could be the title toa self-help Bond film: “Tomorrow Never Comes.” And it’s true: tomorrow never does come. We think we have something known as ‘tomorrow’ to make our dreams come true but we don’t. We think we have tomorrow to get out of the holes we dig ourselves into, but we don’t. We think we have ‘tomorrow’ to solve the problems that come our way. But tomorrow is not real. It is a figment of our imagination.
To prove this, let’s discuss tomorrow. On whatever day you are reading this article, think about tomorrow. Now, when tomorrow comes, I want you to ask yourself, “What day is tomorrow?” Was it that day, or are you now talking about the next day in the week? You see: tomorrow never arrives. No matter how much you try, it will never be there for you. It is eternally elusive, and if you push things off until tomorrow they may never happen. Because tomorrow will always turn into today.
This means that all you have to work with is today. Stop pushing things off to tomorrow. You cannot finish the task ‘tomorrow.’ You can only do it today. This is why one of my favorite slogans is the subtitle to my book Time Zen which says: Winners Do It Now.
In other words, do not wait until tomorrow. Look at your to-do lists and decide, “Can I do this today?” If the answer is yes, do it. If it is important, do it right that second.
I encourage you to put this on your wall and let it be your battle cry for the rest of this pandemic, and maybe even the rest of your life:
Do it immediately. Do it imperfectly. Winners do it now.
I hope this time in quarantine can be the most productive time of your life. Do not waste time or energy bemoaning what has happened, or what is happening. Focus on what you can do to influence the situation to your benefit. Ready? Set? GO!
Dr. Monroe Mann, Ph.D., is a time management coach, entertainment attorney, tech entrepreneur, Iraq war veteran, and the author of “Time Zen,” and “Successful New Year 2020.” Please read more at monroemann.com or find him on YouTube and Twitter. You can also join him in an inspiring worldwide community at breakdiving.io