The Stars of Tracker and Field

Sunday, May 10, 2020
Photo by Mike Force of Dribble. Title by Bellow & Sebastian.
It's currently Day 55 of quarantine, and thankfully I haven't gone completely insane just yet. I've always been a fan of staying home and cooking my own food. Recently I've discovered the catharsis in doing dishes (sometimes while listening to an audiobook) and cleaning my bathroom. Like every other human being, I do long to see a handful of people, eating in my five favorite restaurants, and going to the gym.

It's so easy to wallow and get lost in all of this confusion and frustration. Since I've been working from home since Day 1 of quarantine, it's also easy to get lost in work, or zone out after work hours. I noticed that on the first week of quarantine, I wasn't doing much outside of work. I'd still be working the long hours, and I'd forget to water my plants, postpone doing the dishes, and even dreading cleaning my bathroom. There were also the nagging things at the back of my head like "I really should read," or "If only I had time to try that recipe." I couldn't take it anymore, so I played up my strengths to get me out of the impending rut. I love to-do lists and I love spreadsheets, so I made a tracker to help me get my shit done.

In my previous company, I learned that having too many goals is found to be detrimental to productivity. The more goals you have, the less achievable they become since you're all over the place. The best way to make something happen is to zero in on the top (no more than) three goal you want to accomplish by so and so timeline, and then identify another three goals, and so on. I've applied this to my own life, as seen in my personal scorecard. Lately, inspired by the daily telecommuting tracker I had with my old team, I've applied this to my own life. Three goals a day, big or small. They just had to get done.

Each night before sleeping, I write down three things I want to accomplish the next day. They don't have to be grand. My main qualifier is that they have to be productive, in however I would define productive that day. For example, earlier this week, my goals were to draft this blog entry, to work out, and to watch an episode of Mozart in the Jungle, a show I'd been meaning to watch for years. By writing it down and committing it to myself, I am more inclined to watch it! It doesn't contribute to society or enable me to help around the house more, but it's better than sitting around watching the same old shows, playing games on phone, or getting lost on Instagram.

There are days when I get excited to plan things in advance, so I sometimes write down to-do's for an entire week. It helps me look forward to the next day, but more importantly, it helps clear my head when I feel like there are too many things to do but not enough time. For example, this coming Saturday, I plan on trying out a cheesecake recipe my sister recommended, cooking a noodle dish I'd been itching to do, and cleaning my bathroom. Writing these things down silences the nagging voice at the back of my head nagging me to do chores all day, everyday. This is my way of telling it that it's fine if my bathroom isn't sparkling every day of the week, but I'll get to it on this day. This "method" also helps me plan out the times when I want to reach out to friends and family members who might need someone to talk to. 

Since I often write down things in advance, I put two ground rules. Rule #1 is that I can make as many changes to my to-do's as I want, but once I wake up on the day I'm supposed to do them, there's no turning back, unless of course something completely unavoidable comes up. Rule #2 is that I don't postpone commitments, or else it'll feel like cheating. Instead I put "belated" instead of adding them to another day.

I religiously update my Excel sheet with daily commitments with their color-coded statuses. Dark blue 15 for Accomplished, as in tasks that have been completed 100%. Those that are incomplete but have moved that day are marked in light red 13 and Moving. If I didn't lift a finger to do that task, they're called Stuck and colored in hot pink. I also have a marker for Belated -- tasks that were Stuck or Moving but were Accomplished on another day -- in light cyan 13.

I'm the type of person who likes to plan things in advance. Since I've never been more in control of my own time than now (funny how ironic that is), this really helps me get by and keep sane. I also make sure to adjust to accommodate down time, when I feel like I'm close to burning out from being so "productive." What these kinds of days look like are "Water plants. Watch a new movie. Read 25 pages of Daisy Jones and the Six." Nothing too heavy.

This tracker has been so helpful during these times when it feels like we're being sucked into a black hole. I've been keeping (in)sane because of it. If you're reading this, I hope it helps you, too! Or maybe you could share your own ways of keeping sane in these times of uneasiness.

Stay Wasted (and hydrated).

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