2020 really is different

October 4, 2020

What a mess, this year, right? I’m ready for 2020 to be over.

(Although, at the rate that COVID-19 is still spreading, perhaps I’m ready for 2021 to be over, too.)

This week, I spoke directly with a bunch of my students. Several of them told me that there’s so much going on in the world right now that they find it almost impossible to focus.

Now, I’m not the kind of guy who likes to make excuses.

When my first few business ideas didn’t pan out, I didn’t say, “people just aren’t appreciating what I have to say”. When I burned out, I didn’t say, “my boss worked me too hard”. And when I decided I wasn’t happy with how skinny I was, I didn’t say “that’s just my genetics—I can’t change that”. Instead, I looked inward, and asked myself what I needed to change.

I don’t say this to toot my own horn. My point is: I believe in personal growth. I believe in self-improvement. I believe that, to get better results, you should change yourself, rather than trying to change the world around you. That’s my favorite lens, if you will, through which to look at life.

Normally, this lens works great. The world around you is usually stable, so it follows that, if you encounter a problem, it’s likely that something happened to you specifically, rather than to the entire world.

But—as with all lenses—this lens is not universally useful. Sometimes the world changes so dramatically that new problems aren’t coming from deep inside you. Sometimes, you can’t find solutions through introspection. (At least, not in the short term.)

2020 is such a time.

You may or may not have been infected with COVID-19. But even if you haven’t, I’d be surprised if 2020 has not been mentally draining for you. This is especially true for my American readers—which is 70% of you. I won’t even try to list all the crazy stuff that’s happened in the USA this year and that’s still happening from hour to hour.

Regardless of where you are, amidst the craziness that is 2020, it’s okay to get less done. It’s okay to be less focused. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed.

Most of the time, if you faced such problems, I would encourage you to look inward. I’d ask you to find the root cause. I’d help you think of ways to solve the problem, to improve. This is not one of those times. It’s just a crappy year.

That doesn’t mean you can’t improve your skills, your beliefs, or your attitude. Using a task manager properly still frees up mental space. Planning which projects you’ll work on this quarter—see: Big-Picture Productivity—still reduces overwhelm. But the circumstances have changed, so I recommend changing your expectations, too.

Better times will come. It might take a while for them to arrive. But they will.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already, give yourself a break.

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