I am a massive planner. I plan obsessively. I plan which homework to do when, calculating precisely how long I approximate each piece will take. I plan which meals to have, how long it will take me to cook them and when I need to put the oven on so I can eat at precisely 8.30pm each night. I even plan my weekends to the hour, fitting in as many outings as possible while factoring in journey times and contingencies for travel delays.
And suddenly I have nothing. Nowhere to go, no one to see, and a significantly reduced amount to do. But worst of all, for me at least, is the uncertainty. The uncertainty means I cannot plan – not for tomorrow, and certainly not for a few weeks’ time. The government cannot tell us when lockdown will decisively end. The NHS does not have the data to predict exactly who will fall ill. And my school doesn’t know how A-Levels and university applications are going to turn out.
And for someone who spends almost the same amount of time planning her life as actually living it, this uncertainty completely throws me. I feel like my super-planning-power has been curbed, as if uncertainty is my kryptonite. But after a few days of feeling lost and helpless, and more than wholly directionless, I’ve decided to get back up and make a new plan. A plan on how not to plan. Or at least how to plan for the unplannable.
How To Plan for the Unplannable
Plan one thing every day that is within your control. Decide exactly when and where you are going to go for a walk, or how you’re going to start a new arts project. Make sure it’s at a time when no one else can interrupt you, so that you feel that this part of your day is 100% down to you.
Make a ‘To Do’ list of long-term goals you want to achieve while in lockdown. This could include learning a new skill, such as baking or playing a new instrument. This means you will have some permanent aims to achieve, so you will always have something to turn to if you’re feeling lost or don’t know what to do.
If you catch yourself feeling restless, try to multitask. Watch a film while doing some colouring, or bake while video calling a friend. This will help you to feel busy even if you’re stuck inside the house. Write down a plan for a week’s worth of multi-tasking activities if it helps.
If you still feel the need to plan, write down a mind-map covering every eventuality that you are concerned about. Getting your worries down on paper will make you feel
more in control of any anxious thoughts.
Set aside dedicated time to do nothing. It’s important that every day there’s a period when you allow yourself to relax without feeling guilty about it. Plan one relaxing activity per day and set it aside for when you feel you need a break.
I’m trying to implement my own advice, and so far it has indeed helped, however minutely. Maybe it will work for you, maybe it won’t. The most important thing to remember is that it is natural and legitimate to feel panicked or anxious in a time like this.
There is no need to panic about feeling panicked. No one is alone in feeling like this, and no one ever needs to be.