Like many others, I’ve struggled to find the motivation to do any work deemed unnecessary while in quarantine. In the beginning, I sort of depended on the work left over from Super Roommates to get myself out of bed and feel productive. When that ran out, I started working on my novel, although that was a good deal less structured. Eventually, it all gave way to nothing and I just sort of floated through the days, proud to find the motivation to go for a run every so often, or write a couple hundred words. I forgave myself, because pandemics are stressful and exhausting and whatever I managed was enough.
But society is trying to get back on its feet, and that means work is starting up again. With work starting up, but the pandemic not letting up, I know we’re all going to be struggling with stress and exhaustion. I always want to turn to my hobbies when I’m stressed, writing, reading, painting, but sometimes it’s just easier to turn on Netflix.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with everything coming at you at once. So how do you find motivation to go to your hobbies when you can?
Firstly, I want you to cut yourself some slack. Acknowledge that times are unprecedented and there’s no clear way to react to how things are.
Take stock of how you feel and what you’re up for each day. If you come home from work completely exhausted, maybe writing isn’t the best way to wind down and it’s a better idea to pick up a book and escape into someone else’s story instead. But maybe the day after, you had a good day at work and want to keep the momentum going when you get home. Writing would be the perfect thing to do in that case.
We’re not gonna get everything done that we want to get done, and it’s better to forgive yourself and try again than to beat yourself up for not reaching old standards in this new normal.
Think about what takes energy and what return you get for your efforts. For example, if you work from home and can get away with not wearing makeup for a while, maybe it’s a benefit to you to have that time to sleep in in the mornings. But maybe putting makeup on makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something and gives you confidence that helps you get through the day.
Personally, I haven’t been wearing makeup much in quarantine, but I still put effort into getting dressed (although I’ve forgone bras temporarily). It makes me feel good and keeps me from going back to bed.
Have some rules to hold yourself to, but keep them flexible. Remember you won’t feel the same way every day and prepare to adapt to each day as you need to. Maybe you ban yourself from social media after dinner. Maybe you allow yourself Netflix only on weekends so weekday evenings are spent on personal projects. Maybe you want to spend an hour a day on the book you’ve been writing for ten years. It’s also a good idea to get anyone else in your household involved with these rules. Not only will you be able to hold each other accountable, but it’s difficult to avoid Netflix on the weekdays when someone else is watching it in the living room while you’re trying to write.
My brother and I have decided we would read together for an hour after dinner every day that we’re at the same house, whether our mom’s or dad’s. The other day, we were planning to watch a movie after dinner instead, so we moved our hour of reading to before dinner. We still got our reading done, didn’t compromise our rule of reading an hour per day, but still got to chill and watch a good movie.
A minor rule I’ve had for myself is to make my bed each day. Because I often work at my desk which is in the same room as my bed, this improves my workplace atmosphere and is also a way of ‘closing’ my bed so I don’t feel the desire to move back to it.
Sure, a job well done is its own reward, but desperate times call for new rules. Maybe a mini chocolate bar per chapter you’ve written would give you a reason to finish the chapter on a particularly difficult day. Maybe if you go a whole month without checking Twitter after 9pm, you deserve a good book (from a local indie bookstore to support local businesses who are struggling in this time, many which are offering curb side pickup or free delivery). Maybe when you finally finish that painting you put off for so long, it would be worth framing it and properly hanging it instead of hiding it in a closet with your other paintings. Maybe at the end of your first week back to work, a nice bubble bath is well deserved.
Personally, I’ve been rewarding myself for every 10k words of my novel with a treat. Sometimes it’s sushi, sometimes it’s a glass of champagne (specifically when I hit 60k about 25 minutes after midnight on January 1st, 2020). When I hit 70k in quarantine, I couldn’t so easily go out for a treat, so I rewarded myself by moving some money into my savings account.
Whatever works for you and fits in your budget (which I know is tight these days), remember to take the time to pat yourself on the back for making it this far. You deserve it.
These are strange times, and everything’s a bit crazy. I hope this was able to help you in some way. If you have any tips for others, I’d love to hear them in the comments below. In the meantime, stay safe out there!