The Right Way to Set Goals & Be Productive During Covid-19

Ever since we started working from home and my weekends and evenings suddenly freed up, I felt this gnawing, relentless and heavy pressure. It manifested itself in the form of guilt any time I spent an evening watching tv or a weekend doing absolutely nothing other than anxiously watching the news hoping for some good news. I felt the strong need, more than ever, to be productive whether that’d be in the form of doing chores, writing a blog post or coming up with new ways to connect with my students during this time. For some reason, this little thought had materialized in the back of my mind that I should be using this most precious time at home, in isolation from others, to do great things. Heck, I should be writing a book right now! Well, unfortunately, all that little thought did is grow into a giant cloud of unproductive anxiety that hung over my head from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed. I thought that surely I must be alone in this feeling until I saw several articles pop up on my FaceBook feed all about not having to be productive during this time, such as this one and this one. Phew, what a load off my shoulders! Not only that, but I’ve seen this quote a few times:

You’re not working from home; you are at home, during a crisis, trying to work

Because let’s call this whole shit show what it is: traumatizing. We’re all working through something traumatic. So, those feelings you’re experiencing such as lack of motivation, depression, anxiety, grief, dissociation – they are all part of your mind and soul trying to process what’s happening. And when you’re working through something traumatic, the last thing you need to worry about is how to be more productive.

Now, something that has helped quench my thirst for productivity and put my mind at ease is setting some personal, or “spiritual” goals, if you will. To be more specific, rather than spending my day wading through a long laundry list of things to do, I work primarily on my spiritual goal. If I get to my to-do list – great! If not, I don’t stress about it because chances are that I am achieving my overarching goal. The last few days, my goals have been:

  • Be present in the moment
  • Treat yourself with compassion
  • Accept what you can’t control and change what you can
  • Work before play (i.e. – no video games until evening)
  • Be creative
  • Find one positive thing today
  • Appreciate the small moments

The common threads amongst all of my goals so far really have to do with mindfulness and compassion. Those are the two big components that have helped me personally cope with life at the moment. And you’ll notice that most of these goals don’t really require me to do anything tangible, such as doing the laundry or sending an email. The more important part here is setting myself a reminder to focus on what is good right now. Each day, I write down a new goal that usually comes from a need deep within my heart. Take my goal to be creative, for example: I enjoy creating art such as painting or drawing and just felt this itch to create something and thus it became the goal for that day.

Today, as I walked my dog Rosie for our long 2-miler, she kept stopping to look at the river. I tried to keep us going but at one point she wouldn’t budge. She finally just sat down, nose wiggling back and forth, ears perched with all of the playful curiosity in the world. I finally gave in, crouched down beside her and suddenly realized what a beautiful day it was. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping and the air was good. And thus, today’s goal of appreciating the small moments was born.

During this time, I challenge you to do nothing except be kind and compassionate with yourself. So the next time you go to write down your endless to-do list, start off by writing down a spiritual goal or reminder for the day. I guarantee you’ll notice a difference! And please, feel free to share your goals in the comments.

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