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Finding Motivation during the Quarantine

October 10, 2020

Back in March, when we first began to "shelter-in-place", I went through a brief period of a sudden burst of motivation. Here was a rare, possibly once in a lifetime, chance to work on my long list of personal goals and hobbies that had been put on the back burner for so long. Without my commute eating up two hours of my day, I suddenly seemed to have unlocked a treasure trove of additional time and energy. I remember that weekend before the official office closings began, we took a trip to Costco (it would be our last one for quite some time). Despite feeling anxious about COVID and what would soon become a toilet paper shortage, I couldn't help but also feel almost excited. We went home with a cart full of good food, and for a few weeks, I ate quinoa for lunch, drank protein smoothies, and lifted weights religiously, all in the comfort of my own home.

Soon though, as the novelty of working from home wore off and the initial burst of inspiration disappeared, I found myself in a slump. All around me, the number of new cases seemed to be increasing relentlessly, and there seemed to be no end in sight to the quarantine. The monotony of being at home following the exact same routine each day began to wear me down. I couldn't bear the thought of yet another Zoom meeting at work. I began to eat more junk food and skip my workouts. I began to spend a disproportionate amount of time sitting on the couch playing Animal Crossing or watching Netflix.

As time went on and spring slipped into summer (not that there's much different between the two here in San Francisco), my motivation fluctuated, sometimes briefly elevated by something I read or heard about, then returning back down to couch surfing levels. A part of me felt guilty and kept reminding myself that I'll probably never have this type of freedom and opportunity again. But with the virus still stronger than ever and the California fires ruining our air, it was hard not to default to ruminating over when this would be all over.

Now we are deep into fall, and it looks like we may very well be stuck here until well into 2021. I'm not only getting tired of lounging around at home, I'm getting tired of feeling tired and unmotivated. Recently, I've started to pick back up on the things that I said I would work on at the beginning of the quarantine. Is this one of my momentary bursts of motivation or the beginning of a steady upward trend? I don't know, but I'm certainly hoping for the latter. Here are a few strategies I've been using to maintain my motivation this time around.

1. Zoom out

Look at the situation from a bird's eye view once in a while by reminding yourself where you are and what you are doing. For me, I'm living in a warm and cozy house in SF with my husband. Our refrigerator is stocked with fresh and delicious food, and our faucet gives out unlimited clean water. I have a flexible job that is even fun and interesting at times which can be done 100% from a computer in the comfort of my own desk and swivel chair. Thinking about these things really puts into perspective how lucky and privileged I am compared to many others. Any complaint or discomfort I have immediately gets reduced to a tiny speck that can be flicked away.

2. Establish a routine

I know this may sound counterintuitive given that many of us are already in such a monotonous routine, but physically writing down a schedule and sticking to it has really helped me to follow-through with my plans because it allows me to focus and prioritize. I'm guilty of not being in the moment when doing a task because I'm thinking non-stop about the million other things I ought to be doing. Having a schedule lets me give myself "permission" to forget about all else for the time being except the current task at hand, knowing that I've accounted for the other stuff elsewhere.

3. Get inspiration from others

One type of Youtube video that's all the rage right now are these ASMR "day in the life" videos where content creators share their daily routines at home, including what they cook/eat, how they do chores, and their hobbies. Not only are these vlogs super calming and aesthetic, they've inspired me to slow down and pay attention to the little things in life. Watching how others go through their life (even if it's exaggerated or sugar-coated) has encouraged me to enjoy even the most menial of tasks, like doing laundry, and to experiment with new dishes and home décor. It makes being stuck at home seem less like a tedious chore and more like a fun adventure. This and this are among my current favorite channels to follow.

I hope this post provides some inspiration to those who are feeling down in the dumps during these uncertain times. Even if motivation ebbs and flows, as it often will, I hope that these ideas can at least give you some way of resetting back in the right direction.