If you’re currently following government guidelines on physical distancing and staying at home, you’ll likely have more blank space in your calendar than ever before. The removal of in-person encounters and the closure of entertainment venues and restaurants mean you seem to have more time at your disposal. Perhaps you can’t work, freeing you up further.
Blank space in your calendar provides options. Options for how you spend the time. What I know for sure is that time will continue to pass, and life will go on. From Tony Robbins, “Ten years from now you will surely arrive. The question is: Where?” Swap “ten years” for “tomorrow”, “next week” and “next month”. All the time laid out in the future will one day be today. How will you spend it? In a month or a year’s time, what will you have to show for it? Here’s how ambitious people are definitely not spending this time:
4 ways ambitious people are absolutely not wasting this time
Wishing the clock would go back
It’s easy to become trapped looking back at the good old days, perhaps even only a month or two before the world changed so significantly. Maybe you’re fondly reminiscing about those social events, meals out or work opportunities you once had and feeling sad they don’t match your reality anymore. You might find your conversations starting with “When things go back to normal…” or “When we’re through the other side…” or phrases that signal you see this time as temporary, to be endured, and not part of a bigger picture.
Instead, imagine that this is how life will be from now on, indefinitely. You’d frame it differently, right? Rather than wishing for normality back, you’d accept this as your new normal and you’d make plans to thrive within your circumstances. Do that. Who knows, maybe this is our new normal. Maybe this will happen every few years. Learn how to thrive in a crisis. Don’t let yourself be put on the back burner when it might be your time to shine brighter than ever before.
Without designing how you spend your time you will spend it by default. Spending time by default means not having a clear intention, but following every passing urge, closest distraction or doing what everyone else is doing. From Atomic Habits, by James Clear, “Be the designer of your world and not merely the consumer of it.” Default is the opposite of design.
Default means turning on the TV and watching whatever happens to be on. It means scrolling social media and news feeds looking for something, anything, to surprise you. It means having grandiose plans but never becoming intentional about taking the first step. It means repeating excuses for inaction and accepting them as the truth. “I can’t exercise because the gym is closed”, “I can’t achieve anything because my kids’ school is closed”, “I can’t eat healthy because there’s only junk in the cupboards”, “I can’t earn because my workplace is closed”, and so on.
Instead, plan your time as if it’s something you have complete control over. Create a list of daily actions that will help you develop intentional habits. When you feel yourself slipping into an old, unconscious habit, or doing something because everyone else is, or because someone asked you to, or because it’s the easy option to take, question it. When you find yourself using X as an excuse for why you can’t do Y, thereby creating an arbitrary link between the two, pull them apart. Excuse yourself from things you don’t want to do in favour of things you do. Ask: Is what I’m about to do congruent with the person I want to be? If not, make a change and get on a new trajectory.
4 ways ambitious people are absolutely not wasting this time
Replicating without questioning
You might have taken your old life and tried to replicate it as closely as possible within the new rules. Perhaps you’re still having back-to-back meetings but using Zoom instead of an office or coffee shop. You might be WhatsApp video calling with friends at the weekend instead of meeting them in person. You might still feel busy and overwhelmed and time-poor when it doesn’t have to be like that.
You’re trying to play a new board game with the pieces from the old one, and something isn’t quite working.
There are new rules to live by. It’s a chance to question everything. Every action you take or habit you follow. Everything you do each day and each week is up for discussion and potential removal. Take the pros as well as the cons. Perhaps you used to crave a quiet place to work away from the distraction of co-workers. Now you have it, why are you glued to Slack? Perhaps you prayed for spare time to dedicate to hobbies or learning a language. Now you have it, why are you binge-watching Netflix? Spend your time according to the new version of the rules.
If you’re stuck in unhelpful thought patterns including stress and worry, it’s likely that the external factors surrounding you are affecting your inner voice. If you’re not living every second as the best version of yourself, something is responsible for it. Sure, it might be temporary, but your neurons are firing and wiring all the time and it will change your whole personality unless you stop it.
Make a note of things that bring you down and those that lift you up. Recognise when you’re in a place of low energy and make interventions that move you to high energy. I know that reading the news and speculating about current affairs leaves me with low energy, because the majority of this media is fear-based. When your thoughts and conversations become aligned with fear so do your actions, and it will only lead to worry and making decisions based on a pessimistic view of the future.
Repeat positive affirmations based on the identity of the best version of yourself. “I am not a worrier”. “I am gritty and adaptable.” “I am someone who thinks of good ideas”. It will make it easier for your actions to align with the person you want to be, no matter the happenings outside of your control. Identify what moves you to a place of high energy and repeat those actions every day. Walking around, stretching, eating well, speaking with people who inspire you, certain songs or YouTube videos, journaling, meditating, planning. Whatever those actions are, choose one to do whenever you feel like you’re in a slump. Learn how to be your own hype girl.
Stay away from unconsciously following old patterns, looking back and getting frustrated, or wallowing in media coverage and breaking news. Swap the behaviours and habits that don’t serve you for reimagining your life and acting with intention. Make recovery, reassessment and reinvention your priority. Question everything. See your time like the finite resource it is rather than something to be wished away until normality resumes, and act accordingly. Normality is not something that will resume, so your thoughts, actions and words at this present moment will become your new normal. Make it good.