I’ve been in quarantine for two months now, and it is not going the way I expected. When it first started, many people (myself included) saw it as an opportunity to be productive and do things we hadn’t had time for during our everyday lives. Friends told me about their big plans and I read about famous novels and plays that had been written while the authors were quarantined, and it put a lot of pressure on me to finally write a novel. This was my chance, after all. I’d never get another stretch of time this long off work, so if I didn’t do it now, I might never do it. The immense pressure I felt had the opposite effect it was meant to, and I still haven’t done any creative writing, but that’s okay.
I’ve talked about this before, but I really don’t think pressure is a good motivator (at least not for me). I also feel that my goal of writing an entire novel that would (hopefully) one day become a bestseller wasn’t very realistic, and that made it even more difficult to do. I’ve never written a complete novel before, so it is already a daunting task without the added pressure of having to do it before quarantine ends.
Quarantine itself has also been a strange experience; initially I was too stressed to accomplish anything, then I overcame my anxiety and focused on finishing my final projects, and since then, I’ve spent most of my time relaxing. I do feel like I deserve a break; I did just finish my degree after five grueling years, after all. Plus, as I stated before, I’ll never have another stretch of time off like this – it’s possibly the only time I can spend months relaxing until I retire, so I might as well take advantage of it and recharge before I start working full-time (whenever that happens – there aren’t a lot of jobs available right now, for obvious reasons). For these reasons, I have come to terms with the fact that I am not going to write a novel during this time, and I’m okay with that. I still have the rest of my life to write, after all.
So, since I won’t be accomplishing the one big, unrealistic goal I wanted to accomplish, I set my sights on a few smaller goals, and focusing on those has made me feel much better. I had a few realistic goals for this time: I wanted to work out consistently, I wanted to start writing on my blog again, I wanted to grow my nails out (I compulsively pick them – it’s a bad habit I’ve had for years), I wanted to talk with friends more, I wanted to rewatch some of my favourite film series such as The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, and I wanted to read (as an English major, I’ve barely done any pleasure reading since I started my degree, and I wanted to get back into it).
None of these goals were crazy, unachievable things, and that made them easier to accomplish. Plus, I kept them vague – I didn’t plan to post three times a week on my blog or read 25 books, and this vagueness also helped. I could accomplish these goals at my own pace, and any effort I put towards them counted as an accomplishment, which made me feel better about it and encouraged me to continue.
I can proudly say that I have accomplished each of my goals, even if only to a small extent. I’ve been working out every other day, I’ve been writing blog posts about once a week, my nails have grown, I’ve talked to all of my friends (some almost every day), I’ve rewatched most of my favourite film series, and I’ve read two books and am halfway through a third. These may seem to be small accomplishments, but I’m proud of them nonetheless.
I think making a few smaller, more realistic goals is better and easier than having one or two big, unrealistic goals, and the feeling you get when you accomplish the smaller goals may push you to keep going and work at one of your bigger ones. Even if you feel like you haven’t accomplished anything during the last few months, I encourage you to look back and try to name two or three accomplishments, no matter how small they are. This will help you realize that you have not just been wasting your time, and will make you feel better when you look back on this time. Though, of course, there is nothing wrong with not accomplishing anything – in fact, relaxing could be seen as a sort of accomplishment, or at least something that’s good for you.
Basically, don’t beat yourself up over not achieving that Big Goal you had – it’s totally fine to use this time as a break, and small accomplishments are still valid and important. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else or put unrealistic expectations on yourself. This is a tough time for everyone without the added stress of being productive, so don’t let that weigh you down – just do whatever is best for you.
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