How The Pandemic Allowed Me To Turn My Life Around – And How You Can Do It Too
Lockdown sucks. There are no two ways about it. You’re either stuck at home, or stuck at work while everyone else seems to be stuck at home. You either have the most spare time you’ve ever had on your hands, or you’re working your ass off as a key worker, possibly without the gratitude and respect you deserve for doing so. You might be on furlough. You might be recently unemployed. You might, of course, be sick. The news is full of terrible things – seemingly a new terrible thing every day – and you can’t hang out with your family or friends unless it’s over a dodgy Zoom connection. And now, joy of joys, this lockdown is happening in winter! Cold, grey, dreary winter (I live in England, we’ve just gone into National Lockdown 3, and our weather is pretty much as terrible as everyone thinks). It’s totally, completely, rubbish. 2020 in general was totally, completely rubbish, and – for now – 2021 looks like it will be much of the same.
And yet… there’s hope. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to all the vaccines now popping up, but there’s something else too. We have never (in my lifetime, at least) been given such an amazing opportunity before. Yes, I said it: AMAZING OPPORTUNITY. We’ve been given the gift of time, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan on squandering it.
[Please note: this article is not aimed at key workers (you’re all heroes!) or, obviously, people who have been personally affected by COVID-19, either because they’ve been sick themselves or because they’ve lost loved ones. My heart goes out to you. It is also not aimed at people who have lost jobs or lost customers and are now suffering the terrible financial consequences. No, I’m talking about anyone who has found themselves, yet again, with extra free time, whether because they’ve been put on furlough or because they simply haven’t been going out evenings and weekends like they used to. These are the people who have been given a wonderful gift, even when it feels like the world is collapsing around them.]
Writing My Way Through Lockdown
As a self-employed writer and editor, I worked from home before the pandemic anyway, and fortunately I continued to get work throughout 2020, even if it was less than I was used to. So, I had a bit of extra free time in the workweek, and a lot of free time in the evenings and weekends, and I made sure I used it. I didn’t want to waste all my time watching Netflix (though I did that sometimes, of course), and besides, being creative and being productive makes me feel good. I wanted to do something positive, something that would also help other people. As a writer, my mind immediately went to writing a book, one about the power of words and how writing things down (and writing ourselves into our own epic story) can help us improve our mindsets, deal with our pasts, and plan our futures. I also wanted to give hope – and purpose – to anyone feeling like they didn’t know where they were going in life, an already prevalent concern for many and one that had only been magnified by the pandemic. I wanted to give people a plan, a framework, that they could use to change their mindset, come up with their life goals, and go after their dreams – but one that was creative and fun to do. The perfect thing for our fun-starved, quarantined minds. And so, the Write Your Life Method was born.
I created a book, a website (two, actually), a mailing list, a blog, Instagram and Facebook profiles, a video course, an online challenge, PDF guides, and more. It wasn’t easy, but being positive, productive, and prolific got me through 2020. If I didn’t have the Write Your Life Method to work on, it would have been so easy for all the terrible things going on in the world to completely and utterly grind me down – and I know it’s going to be the same for Lockdown 3 (and beyond).
But how do you do this? How do you force yourself to be positive and productive when everything around you seems to be falling apart? I’ve come up with several questions you can ask yourself on a daily basis, giving you the chance to not only get through lockdown, but actually make the most of this amazing opportunity we’ve been given.
Am I going to help out my future self today?
There’s not much we can do to help our past selves (unless someone is currently in the process of inventing a time machine), and there are many things we can do to help our present selves, but do you ever think about helping out your future self? I do, and the result? It makes me do things NOW instead of putting them off. For instance, if I know I need to exercise (and during lockdown, this is vital, both for your body and your sanity) but I really don’t feel like it, I think of my future self. After all, I know I need to stay fit and healthy both to look after myself and to have the energy required to run my business. Going for a walk today, or lifting weights, or even just dancing around the room for a bit, will absolutely help out my future self. If I don’t exercise, I know I’ll feel lethargic, lacklustre, and lazy. My mindset will suffer, my work will suffer, and my body will suffer. If I skip one day I’ll be more likely to skip the next day, and the next, and before I know it I’ll have lost any progress I made. My future self will suffer.
Exercising today helps out my future self in a hundred different ways, and you can apply this idea to anything. Taking time to relax today will help your future self from experiencing burnout. Taking a few minutes for some self-care today will help out your future self as your mind will be more calm and ready to get going on your next project. Working on your side hustle today will help out your future self when you eventually turn that side hustle into a booming business. Doing nothing all day (if you’re on furlough or unemployed), or not making the most of your time off if you do have a job, will not help out your future self. Eating two giant pizzas and twenty cookies will not help out your future self (even though I love both those things). Getting in a Twitter argument will not help your future self (or anyone, really). Getting things done today will make your future self happy tomorrow, and don’t you want to make yourself happy? I know I do.
Time is going to pass by anyway, so would I rather waste it or make the most of it?
I ask myself this question often, usually when I’m embarking on – or right in the middle of – a project that seems endless or like it’s going to take forever to get anywhere with it. I did it when I was getting fit and losing weight, when I was starting my new venture, when I was writing my new book, and a million other instances. After all, it’s true: time is going to pass by whether you like it or not, and you can either spend it lazing around doing nothing day in, day out, or you can spend it chipping away at your dreams bit by bit, even if that means doing just one little thing each day.
Take writing a book, for example. When you open that Word document or that Scrivener file on day one and think of the 70,000 plus words you need to write, it can be incredibly daunting. Actually, I don’t think the word ‘daunting’ really covers it. But if you look at it one day at a time and commit to, say, writing 1,000 words a day, your first draft will be written in 70 or so days. Less than three months. Not too shabby. Of course, things will no doubt get in the way on some of those days, and then there’s the dreaded editing to think of, but committing to working on at least one of your dreams for an hour or two a day (even just 10 minutes a day, if you really don’t have a lot of free time) WILL get you there. Or you could spend the next 70 days watching TV or lying in bed and reading as your dreams slip further and further away. Then, after 70 days have gone by, guess what? You’re now 70 days behind where you could have been if you’d just put in a bit of effort on each of those 70 days. The time’s going to pass anyway, so a project or a dream ‘taking too long’ should not be a reason not to even begin. Get started and see where you are in a few months – your future self will thank you, believe me.
Do I want to ‘lose a year of my life’ or do I want to gain a year of productivity?
During 2020, many people felt as if they’d ‘lost a year of their life’. I’ve heard this being said by so many people in so many different situations. I heard a single person say they’ve ‘lost a year of dating’ (the Zoom dates had not gone well). I’ve heard students saying they’ve ‘lost a year of proper education’ (home schooling and Zoom classes have been a bit hit-and-miss, not to mention the whole discussion around exams and grades). I’ve heard people in travel groups on social media saying ‘I’ve lost a year of travelling opportunities’ (even though many people have still travelled during this time). People have lost a year of hanging out with their friends and family members, lost a year of advancing their careers if they’ve been put on furlough, lost a year of income if they suddenly found themselves out of a job – and all the terrible things that come with that – and so on. It can be so easy to think of the pandemic in this way, but it doesn’t do us any good.
Yes, we have been unable to do many things over this past year or so, and it sucks, but the way people talk, it’s as if they haven’t had the chance to do ANYTHING over this past year, and that’s not true at all (key workers and so on aside, as I said at the start of the article). By not having the chance to go out and live our normal lives, we’ve been given the gift of time to work on ourselves, time to reflect, time to dream, time to plan. Time to figure out exactly what we want out of life. That’s what I did, though I have to admit, I didn’t do it straight away. After a couple of months of feeling pretty crappy and putting on weight from not really going anywhere (I was also dealing with a back injury at the time, and was feeling low due to the constant pain), I decided I was going to make the most of this extra time I had – in several areas of my life.
I committed to walking 10,000+ steps a day – something that wasn’t exactly easy when walking with a back injury, though I’d been told walking would help it. This also got me out in the fresh air, giving me a break from being stuck inside and helping both my body and my mind. During my walks I listened to inspirational podcasts on entrepreneurship or uplifting music, filling my brain with positive things rather than all the negative news stories constantly bombarding the TV and internet. I started writing my book, Write Your Life: The Ultimate Life Hack For Achieving Your Dreams, working on it a bit each day. I started this blog. I started two new Instagram profiles, a Facebook page, and a Facebook group. I took online courses and read books on entrepreneurship and finances. I took part in a monthly online mastermind with my friend Beth, making our way through Lori Harder’s book, A Tribe Called Bliss. I finished Marie Forleo’s B-School programme. I did everything I could to stay positive and productive, to get healthy, and to plan for a much brighter future.
It might sound like a lot, but I did all this over several months by putting in an hour or two a day after I’d done my regular work. Might as well, right? It’s not like I could go out to the pub or go catch a movie at the cinema. This time was going to pass anyway, and I had no desire to come out on the other side of the pandemic – God willing I’d survive it – being exactly the same person as I was before it. I wanted to come out on the other side being a better, bolder, more confident, healthier, fitter version of myself, who was ready to go out there and achieve all my wildest dreams.
At the time of writing, the pandemic has been going on for almost a year, and it could go on for another year yet (despite vaccines becoming available). By the time this is over, do I want to have ‘lost’ two whole years of my life? Hell no. I want to be two whole years ahead in terms of how much I’ve grown as a person, what I’ve achieved, and what I’m planning to achieve in the future.
Life is short – so what really matters to me?
Life is short. We all know this – we all know we’re going to die at some point – and yet many of us act as if we’re going to live forever. I know this topic is a bit morbid, but it’s SO important. This pandemic has made many of us slow down, pause, and think: what really matters to us? And if you haven’t asked yourself this question yet, do it now! What matters to you the most?
If you have extra time and you’re not sure what to do with it, the first thing you can do is to reflect and take stock of your life. Are you happy with where you are? Are you happy with your relationship, with your job/career, with where you’re living? Are you happy with how you spend your evenings and weekends? Do you want more? Or do you want to cut back and do less? Do you want to live somewhere different or completely change your career path? This is the time to think about these things. Right now. This very instant. When else (assuming you’re not a key worker) are you going to have so much time to really sit and think about what you want? To reflect on your past and to plan out what you want for the future? To change the path you’re on? To completely transform your life? Do it now! I know I’m being bossy, but sometimes we just need a little nudge in the right direction.
If you’re really not sure where to start, I recommend my book, Write Your Life (and not just because it’s my book!). I wrote it during the first UK lockdown of the COVID pandemic, and I wrote it with everyone who was stuck at home, not knowing what to do with themselves, in mind. It was written for this very purpose, and out of it came the entire Write Your Life Method, which I believe will help people all over the world figure out what they want in life, both now and in the future – when the pandemic is finally over.
I hope this post has given you some ideas of how to spend Lockdown 3 if you’re in the UK, or if you’re currently quarantined anywhere else, and remember – these lessons can be applied to your life at any time, pandemic or not. It’s a terrible time for the entire world right now, and my heart goes out to anyone who’s lost loved ones, but just remember: this is temporary. This too shall pass. Time is going to continue marching on anyway, no matter what we do. And the extra time we’ve been given is not something to suffer through or wish away – it’s an amazing gift that could truly change our lives. So, what are you going to do with it?
At jessicagracecoleman.com you will find all the books, courses, challenges, PDF guides, resources, merchandise, and community you need to help you completely change your life. After all, words are powerful, and so are you. It’s time to Write Your Life.