The Quarantine Rut

If you’re anything like me then over the last few weeks you might have noticed that you’ve slowly become less productive, you might have been sleeping more with weird sleep cycles and you might be slipping into some bad habits that you thought you’d escaped.

That’s The Quarantine Rut.

Despite working and studying from home for about 5 years now, being in quarantine is a whole other ballgame. There’s a big difference between spending time at home and not being able to leave home.

Before quarantine I could easily leave the house to go to the gym, or to a co-working space to refresh myself. This is no longer possible. So refreshing myself becomes harder. I found I was sleeping more because I felt like I have less reason to get up. I have nowhere to go, nowhere I need to be, so immediately turning my alarm off and going back to sleep is completely justifiable. I’d even slipped into a video game habit again.

So here are 3 ways that I’ve helped lift myself out of my quarantine rut:

  1. Have a good morning — I’ve never been a morning person, I always struggle with getting out of bed unless I absolutely need to and quarantine has made this even more difficult. But getting out of bed, without checking my phone, going straight to the shower and getting ready sets my day up in a positive way. I’ve already succeeded before my day has even started which inspires and motivates me to continue with additional positive action.
  2. Do something — This may seem like a very simple step but I think it’s incredibly important. Coming from the idea of having no ‘Nothing Days’ and being similar to point 1, it’s to do something that can be seen as productive. This can be anything! Clean your kitchen, do some kind of exercise, practice an instrument or do some coding. It doesn’t have to be a substantial task but it has to be something. So now if I’ve completed both points 1 and 2 I’ll have had a good start to the day and I’ll have done something productive, usually by midday. At this point, because I’ve had a productive start, I’m now motivated to keep it going and do even more. This feedback loop is basically hacked by taking the first couple of small steps at the start of the day.
  3. Have a focus — Once you have points 1 and 2 down then it’s time to start with point 3, the point I think is the most impactful — have a focus. This may take a little while to identify, which is fine, but even brainstorming towards something to focus on is a good start. I went from struggling to do anything productive to having full days of work that I actually enjoyed again, all thanks to a new focus. For me, this was writing (partly on Medium partly on my blog and partly just for myself). I think a focus can be something completely new, for example you might want to learn to code (which I highly recommend), or something you’ve been putting off for a while. Either way a focus can completely change your mindset and your life.

With these three fairly simple steps I managed to bring myself out of my quarantine rut in just a couple of weeks.

There are a couple of important things to note to make sure this is as effective as possible:

This will take time, don’t rush it and try to have a day that is absolutely crammed full of productivity for the sake of it. Small steps helped me get out of the rut, just like the small steps that got me into the rut in the first place. I made sure that each day I never did less than the day before, or if you want to think of this in a more positive sense, I always did more than the day before.

It’s important to reward yourself. If on your first day of trying this you’ve done points 1 and made an attempt at 2, that’s fine. Take the rest of the day off or reward yourself in another way. It’s all about small steps in the right direction.

Over time consistent, deliberate action will compound into substantial, tangible progress. Just keep going.

Date: 08/05/2020

Location: Peterborough, UK