I'm a planner by nature. I like to make to-do lists. I "beat" my deadlines to avoid rushing my work right before a deadline, and am uncomfortable when I have to change my carefully-made plans. In short, I fit the Myers-Briggs "Judging" type to a "T."
The Myers Briggs' personality assessment's fourth pairing, judging versus percieving, describes how we interact with the world. Myers Briggs "judging" types, prefer a planned, orderly, and structured approach, while "perceiving" types prefer a spontaneous, open-ended, and adaptable approach. Like me, others with a judging preference often find it painful to have to change their plans. How can we cope with uncertainty as our families and communities respond to the COVID-19 pandemic? Our daily routines have been disrupted and replaced by questions quite difficult for us to plan for: When will I go back to work? Will I lose my job? When will I see my family again? How can I maintain financial stability?
Here are four tips for anyone struggling to adjust to our "new normal."
1) Plan for what you can, and focus on what you can control. We can't control when our schools and workplaces might re-open, and what types of social distancing measures might continue for us in the future. Still, there are many things you can still plan for throughout the day. For example, creating a meal plan, laying your clothes out for the next day, signing up for a virtual yoga class all can help add a sense of routine and control to your days.
2) Set new manageable goals with deadlines. Setting personal or professional goals can help add to a sense of structure, plus it feels great to "cross off "those accomplishments on your to-do list! I recommend keeping your goals small, such as reaching out to an old colleague on LinkedIn, writing in a gratitude journal a few times a week, or organizing the folders on your desktop.
3) Identify alternative outcomes. Keep in mind that having to change your plans (while difficult!) does not necessarily mean bad outcomes. For example, if an important event or conference gets cancelled, perhaps you can take an online training with your extra time. If you need to work from home for a few more weeks or months, what virtual conferencing tools will you need to adopt to make your work easier? While you may be working outside your typical comfort zone, adopting a flexible attitude to the way that you do your work offers the opportunity to learn new skills.
4) Remember times of successful spontaneity. Can you remember the last time things worked out with little to no planning? Or, a time when being spontaneous led to a better outcome than you originally planned for? Can you remember how you felt - maybe optimistic, excited, and open-minded? The happenstance approach - or the belief that life's twists and turns can often lead to a better outcome than a focused, logical plan, is helpful in reframing unplanned events.
Lastly, take a deep breath. This is a time of unprecedented stress, and it makes sense that you would feel anxious, distracted, or preoccupied. It is important to prepare, but not panic. Choose a few coping strategies that work for you, and use them liberally!