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How to manage stress during a pandemic

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

It’s the end of the day, and you’re exhausted. You look back on your busy day, but… what exactly did you accomplish? Where did the time go? With more time than ever before to get things done, “safer at home” has brought a new reality with its own set of challenges. But even with all that time, the day manages to fly by, and suddenly, it’s time for dinner. Wait, what’s for dinner!?!

I’m coming from experience, so, with all of the compassion I can muster... it’s your time management. An unplanned day will take you with it. It may be time for a new strategy to manage your time, or it will manage you. If you have lost time due to an unwieldy, unproductive agenda, try these five steps to take it back:

First, start right where you are.

That’s right. Take a deep, accepting breath, and pick up a piece of paper and pencil. Write down words that you would like to describe yourself and how you would like to be remembered. This is called metacognition: the ability to see yourself from above, looking down (like from a bird’s-eye view) and asking yourself what you see. What do you want to see?

Then, take a look at your personal rhythms. Rhythms are everywhere you look in nature: the beating of our hearts, the ebb and flow of ocean tides, rotations of our planet around the sun. Understanding more about your own rhythms means making a plan that is a custom fit to your strengths. How much sleep do you need to be at your best? At what time of day are you more productive? What is the maximum amount of time you can stay focused on the “not so fun” tasks or chores? When are you most likely to feel like exercising? What kind of environment motivates you? When do the kids go to school? When does the family want to eat? Making a plan with these answers in mind will result in a plan that is more compatible with who you are and what will work for you.

Third, write it down and keep it in front of you.

Trying to hold your agenda in your head simply does not work. The old adage is true: out of sight is out of mind. Those missed appointments and unfinished projects will blindside you and leave you overwhelmed. To manage your agenda, you have to keep your eye on it. Start with a monthly calendar for the most important dates. A calendar that shows a week at a glance requires a little extra effort, but it will prevent conflicts and make it well worth your time. Then, use it to make your plan for each day.

Next, know the Law of Entropy.

Things in order, but left unchecked, are prone to disorder. Life must be maintained. This law is true for everything in nature. Think of a garden. Left to itself, it will be choked by weeds and will not bear fruit. It needs to be nurtured. Occasionally, plants that are not doing well need to be moved to a place where there is more sun or water for it to stay alive. So, what about your daily plan needs maintenance? Time is a moving target. When—not if—you see places in your agenda that are unraveling, give it what it needs to be more productive. For example, waking up extra early to squeeze more tasks into your day may be beneficial some days but not on others. What are some other possibilities that could work for you?

Finally, remember, this is a dance, not a march.

A rhythm is to a dance, as a routine is to a march. By listening to your own rhythm, you can prevent your agenda from becoming too rigid. It is up to you to take charge of it, keep your eye on it, and maintain it when it unravels in certain places. But it is not a march. A dance will result in time to find pleasure in the little moments while still moving to your own rhythm. It is more forgiving, creative, and fun. Keep it fluid, leave room for spontaneity, and most of all enjoy the journey.

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