Improving Yourself During COVID-19 Quarantine
The steps I take to ensure productivity and fulfillment
School’s out. Summer’s here. And yet, it seems like we can’t have fun. Beaches are closed, concerts are cancelled, and gatherings are banned.
Memorial Day used to be the signal to start relaxing and barbecuing. This year, most of us spent our Memorial Day weekends inside the house, binge-watching a season of The Office on Netflix.
Frankly, my life has become duller since we started social distancing. Because of this, I find myself lazily going about my day, procrastinating like never before.
It’s hard mustering the motivation to work, let alone improving my old habits. At this time, regression seems a lot easier than progression — which is exactly why it’s the perfect time to improve and distinguish yourself from other people.
Once we eventually return to normalcy, there will be a disparity between the diligent workers who capitalized on quarantine and the lazy slackers who regressed because of quarantine. Realizing this was my first step towards improving myself, and since then, I haven’t looked back.
Building New Habits
Habits are one of the most important aspects of your life. To improve yourself, you must improve on your habits by getting rid of bad ones and introducing good ones.
At the start of quarantine, I struggled with video games and social media, as I grew less motivated and since it was so easy to “take a break” every ten minutes.
However, I decided to take this time to build new habits that I want to keep long-term, like meditation, journaling, and reading. To do this, I used techniques popularized by James Clear in his bestselling book, Atomic Habits.
The first technique was called “habit stacking,” which is when you attach a new habit onto an old one. In Atomic Habits, Clear explains that it’s easier to build a new habit if you associate it with an existing one.
That way, you’re always reminded to do the new habit when you automatically do the old one, so you don’t forget. In my case, I wanted to journal every night, so I decided that I would journal immediately after brushing my teeth. Of course, I would not forget to brush my teeth at night, so journaling was almost seamlessly integrated into my daily routine.
Now, I don’t even have to journal directly after brushing my teeth, since I’ve grown to unconsciously journal before bed, every day.
Another technique I used was preparing necessary materials ahead of time. In the book, it talks about giving every habit less than 30 seconds to set up, so that you don’t have an excuse to neglect it.
For example, you could prepare your workout clothes the night before, so that you don’t have to spend time the next day. In my case, I wanted to read more books, so I would take the book that I’m currently reading and set it on my desk so that I don’t forget. Often times, it’s as easy as that.
A little push so that a new habit isn’t forgotten. Once you’ve read enough times, it becomes second nature and your brain will tell you to read without you needing to think about it.
It’s okay to be discouraged. At the time I’m writing this, we’re seeing the most eventful year in recent history, with COVID-19 building tensions around the country.
With health officials and news sites telling us that the only way to stay safe is to stay at home, many of us have to adapt.
I hit a rut of burnout soon after I started quarantine. I thought that this would be the perfect time for me to improve myself, so I jumped into the metaphoric “deep end” and tried to force myself to start all these habits that I thought were beneficial. That didn’t work.
For a week, I felt the most productive and energized in my life, but that soon waned. I slipped up on one of my habits, reading, and it all came crashing down from there.
I thought that I had failed my one-month challenge of making all these things my new habits, and I gave up. From there, I eliminated all other habits — no longer was I working out, meditating, or journaling.
I was like this for about a week. Every day, I would wake up and productively finish my work, only to spend hours watching Netflix and playing video games afterward.
I was doing the bare minimum to maintain my grades in school and using my free time to plunge myself into an even deeper rut.
It’s only when you hit rock bottom when you can muster the willpower to make a significant change. I had been mindlessly surfing the internet for an entire afternoon when I realized that I had stopped progressing or even maintaining myself; I was doing substantial damage to myself.
I decided that I would overhaul my life again, this time at an even greater extreme. Needless to say, that didn’t work either. It’s simple, really. It’s impossible to start from scratch. Your brain just doesn’t work that way. You have to take small steps towards a bigger goal, essentially building up a system of habits that are automatic.
You might be skeptical of this since you see the YouTube videos and the success stories that show how a person overhauled their mindset and changed their life in an instant, but those are lies.
Real change comes with time, so motivation has to be intrinsic. Dig deep within yourself and find why you want to change a specific part of you, and make that at the forefront of your mind.
Look at it every day when you wake up, and make your motivation extremely clear to yourself. You will undoubtedly run into resistance when you try changing yourself, but keeping the motivation at the forefront of your mind will make the transition easier.