April 7, 2020 – Observations and Thoughts…
Time for a New Plan. What do I do when I don’t know what to do next, you ask? If anyone reading this blog post knows me, I bet you can answer that question: I make a plan.
As I wrote about a few days ago, when going through change I like to consider myself a quick adapter. However, that rapid movement to action often precedes a swift, downhill slide into sorrow, frustration, and melancholy. But thankfully, there’s such a thing as a change curve. Many experts use the Kubler Ross change curve, which I’ve drawn above, to represent the typical path individuals take when experiencing change. And although I think my change curve looks more dramatic, like what I’ve drawn below, there’s still good news for me. What goes down, must come up. Right?
I would say right now I’m somewhere between recognizing that “Being angry & frustrated isn’t good for me” and self-reflecting with “What can I learn from this?”.
In the beginning, when it looked like we were going to have to quarantine, I saw opportunity in being homebound and having a quieter schedule as a family. I knew I would have more time to write and finish projects around the house. I was excited about what this new change could bring in terms of personal and community growth.
Then came my disappointment that others were not adapting as quickly; and frustration as I saw many people flouting the CDC requests for social-distancing and quarantine. I was frustrated with the schools for not appearing to be attentive to the immense pressure students and families were feeling. I was angry at the amount of work and time on the computer my children were expected to complete. I felt we were buckling underneath the enormous weight of all the instant change put upon us.
I felt hopeless with not being able to talk to someone about these concerns. I have a learning background and have both created and rolled out online learning, and in very large, global organizations. I have experience with managing change and was frustrated because I felt others were not open to listening to suggestions that could ease some of the stresses in the remote learning rollout.
I have advocated for change to the point that it was affecting my health. I have felt sad and hopeless, wanting to stay in bed all day. I have listened as God told me to “Be still.” And, most recently, I have forgiven myself for being impatient and forgiven others as well. I am starting to remember that everyone goes through change in their own time and own way. In general, my empathy is returning…and that’s a place where I like it most and feel best about myself.
Now, I’m ready to move on. One of the best ways for me to get to “moving on” is to write it down. Get a plan on paper. Set a goal to use my new plan for a month, noting what works well about the plan and what needs to change.
Start Small: For others just starting out on a change journey, I would not recommend trying to keep a plan or a schedule for an entire month. Rather, I would recommend trying something for just a few days, jotting down what works and what you would change, and then tweaking your plan. Then I would try that new, revised plan for a few more days, note what works and what should change, tweak again, and so on.
For me, however, my professional career has been all about managing change and driving completion of goals. I have had a lot of practice with planning and learning what works for me. Though, I still fall prey to sitting in indecision, avoidance, anger, and sadness when going through change. But when I can finally recognize what I’m doing and where I’m at, I can usually quickly reset.
To Reset, Write it Down or Draw it Out. Resetting and creating a new plan works best for me when I write down a few thoughts about what I’ve learned, what I want this new normal to look like, and how I want to feel. I then scribble out a new, loose weekly schedule that reflects these thoughts. It usually takes a few iterations until the loose schedule feels right. The new version of my schedule is shown below.
Include What is Important To You. From experience, if I don’t have time reserved on my calendar, whatever the goal, task, priority, it doesn’t get done. Through many bouts of trial and error, I have learned that a successful schedule for me needs to include:
- Time for…
- God (prayer, devotion, and online church)
- My health & wellbeing (meditation, PT exercises, and other exercise, and daily rest and decompression)
- Tennis (right now that’s visualization, cross-training, and watching tennis videos)
- Work (writing, art, advocacy)
- Running the Family LLC (cooking, cleaning, buying groceries, maintenance & repairs)
- Plenty of unstructured time
- I feel claustrophobic if too much of my day is scheduled, so I leave plenty of time for uncertainties, and also my health. That way, if I have a migraine, it won’t totally derail me
- Mornings: I don’t plan anything in the morning before school starts. This is my quiet, coffee time. Oh! How I love coffee! I have a routine I follow but this also allows for any reading, listening to music, creating art, or other cup-filling activities I want to do
- Afternoons: Right now unstructured time in the afternoon and evening allows for the uncertainty of quarantine, including helping kids with schoolwork, getting outside for a health break or exercise, dealing with emotional issues, discussions with my husband, connecting with family and friends, spending time together as a family, etc…and completing any unfinished work
Flexibility is King: The biggest key, and I repeat the biggest key, to the success of any plan is flexibility. I have learned that if something doesn’t get done in the time I’ve allotted, I need to either let it go or roll it over to the next block of time I’ve allowed for that activity. I don’t try to make it up somewhere else. If I don’t finish an article on Tuesday, then it rolls over to Thursday. If all the cleaning doesn’t get done on Monday, it doesn’t get done. I may try to pick it up again on Friday but I won’t try to fit it in somewhere else. In the past, this created a feeling that I was always behind and never had time for anything. Now, I try to celebrate what I could do and let go of the rest.
Use Mind Tricks: I also have to play games with myself, setting very short timers to keep me on task. I avoid setting a timer for more than 15 minutes. This keeps me hyper-focused and prevents me from feeling overwhelmed. If I think a task is going to take too long, I won’t do it. Plain and simple. I’ve had to learn to trick my brain by saying as my grandpa used to say, “Fifteen minutes. I can do that. I can stand on my head for that long.” It’s amazing what can be done in 15 minutes, when I put my mind to it.
Most of all, have patience. Change doesn’t happen overnight, unless we are talking about the impact of COVID-19. But the change I’m talking about is personal change; adopting a new way of doing things or new skills, under normal, non-life-threatening circumstances. That change does not happen overnight. But, with patience, sticktoitiveness, a plan, and a willingness to adapt your plan, change will ultimately occur. And it’s very important to note and celebrate the progress you make along the way. This is what helps you feel successful and stay motivated.
I believe purposeful small steps, with constant self-encouragement and reflection, are the way to see impactful, permanent change. It takes time but it can be done.
#changeisgood #alonetogether #hopeinsuffering #thisiscoronalife