Managing the New Normal: Quarantine Style
By Valerie Rice September 26, 2020
Many of us have had their lives turned upside down this last year. If you are one of the lucky few who managed to escape this, we all envy you. For the rest of you, keep reading. The worldwide pandemic has shut down jobs, destroyed businesses, closed schools, closed countries, toppled economies, killed hundreds of thousands, and exposed world leaders for who they really are. We, the people of the world, have had to watch and ultimately adjust to a new set of rules almost every week. Pretty frustrating, right? Yeah, no kidding. As a single mother of 4 disabled children, a writer, someone who is medically fragile and not in the best health, and jumping into the new school year, I am seriously tempted to pull out my hair. Or I would be if I hadn’t figured out how to manage my time. To be fair, I have had a LOT of practice and have worked in fields that have shown me how, so this is second nature. Plus I have a fancy degree. More like an expensive degree, but I digress. So. Here are five easy steps to effectively manage your new normal.
Step 1: Get a White Board
When I say whiteboard, I mean a big dry erase board you can mount on your wall. But…can’t I just use a day planner? Nope. Planners are great and I will get there in a minute, but what you need is a visual, custom reminder. Not only do they allow you to put anything and everything on them, but they are also large enough to be in your face all day long. This is a trick I picked up from working with people who have developmental disabilities. It is also handy if you have a kid who has autism, or executive functioning deficits. What are those? Here is more information. No need to protest, people without DD still get major benefits from this. So get your board, put it in a place you will see often. Mine is on the dining room wall. Now fill it out with what you need done every day. Mine has a reminder for each kid, every appointment, and what I need to order in. I can add to this or change it as needed. My kids can check off their chores and school assignments as they finish them. It is an interactive tool for the whole family. I have a separate tool for work. Cue that planner…
Step 2: Use a Personal Planner
There ya go, day planner lovers! As convenient as apps are, I suggest an actual, physical book. What? Why? Well, because the act of writing something down helps us remember it better. It doesn’t have to be super fancy or expensive, it could just be a basic spiral notebook that you label with the date and time. But science shows that the more you connect yourself with an activity, the more likely you are to remember and repeat. That’s why teachers were all gung-ho about you taking notes in class. Now, don’t think you are magically going to remember everything you write down, especially if you have a super busy life. Never fear, there is an app for that!
Step 3: Set Alarms
What is your favorite calendar app? I bet it has an alarm setting. In fact, I bet you can set a number of alarms, reminders, sounds, and vibrations on your phone. Some of you brilliant readers have already guessed that we need an auditory and touch reminders as well.Oh, my sneaky plan is ruined! No, no. You just jumped ahead. I am trying to get you to engage as many of your senses as possible when it comes to your schedule. You may be wondering how this relates to time management. Well, we use our senses to interact with the world around us. Using as many of the 5 (not that you can lick time, but that sounds a little bit fun) as possible helps your brain process the information and keep it where it needs to be. Science. Which brings us to the next step.
Step 4: Make a Routine
This may sound like the last thing you want to do.Stephen King once wrote a book in which he said “Hell is repetition.” Okay, fine, but this is real life. Besides, we don’t really have demons stealing our children and aliens buried in our forests. So wake up at the same time every day. Eat dinner at the same time every evening. And yes, go to sleep at the same time every night. This includes weekends. Not only will your body be thankful, but so will your brain. It makes it easier to run a house/school/office/daycare. It also gives those kids of yours a sense of normalcy, and eases the misery of quarantines. Oh, and one more thing.
Step 5: Work in Advance
Huh? Anything you can do in advance, you should. Right now I am writing a week’s worth of posts and scheduling them out.. When you make dinner, make extra and freeze half of it. You’re already cooking anyway, might as well do tomorrow’s work today. What can you do ahead of schedule? Maybe shop in bulk? Buy a little extra of those sale items to keep your pantry stocked. I know I have to. Who doesn’t love 20 pound bags or rice? I may have 10 pounds of pasta and a freezer of frozen meat, but I know we won’t starve if I miss a shopping order. I also know that I have 7 appointments coming up and you never know when someone is going to get sick, or my Wi-Fi is going to be down, or a child is going to need extra help with their school work. Life is completely unpredictable and, while you can’t predict the future (IDK, maybe you can) you can try to cut down on the fallout by being ahead. Trust me, you got this!