Thriving in the New Normal//

Microsteps That Have Helped Improve Our Well-being During the Pandemic

The best part? They’re too small to fail.

Astrakan Images/ Getty Images
Astrakan Images/ Getty Images

Earlier this week, we announced the launch of Thrive’s first book, Your Time to Thrive: End Burnout, Increase Well-being, and Unlock Your Full Potential With the New Science of Microsteps, which will be published by Hachette Go in March, 2021. After a challenging year, a big life overhaul feels more daunting than ever, which is why taking on small Microsteps is so crucial. Over time, these small steps lead to sustainable changes that impact our well-being, our resilience, our happiness, and our success.

In honor of the book announcement, we asked our Thrive community to share with us the Microsteps they’ve taken on during the pandemic, and how they’ve improved their day-to-day lives. Which of these will you implement into your own life?

Block off scheduled breaks in your calendar

“As an entrepreneur, it is easy during a pandemic to be ‘on’ all the time. One day tends to bleed into the next with limited boundaries between personal and professional time. I’ve started writing out my calendar at the beginning of the month and editing it every Sunday. I give myself designated days off, carve out two-hour breaks in my schedule, and even make time for working outside. Not only am I seeing my personal time as meetings with myself, but I am also more productive during my working hours when I know I have my personal time marked in my calendar.”

—Randi Levin, transitional life strategist, NY/NJ

Text a friend to check in

“My Microstep has been checking in with friends and family on a regular basis. I send a quick text, perhaps an emoji or two, an uplifting quote, or a beautiful image. It is my way of saying, ‘I am still here, and I am thinking of you.’ It only takes a few moments and it is a terrific way to stay connected.”

—Margaret Meloni, author, Long Beach, CA

Take a moment to identify what you can control

“My 94-year old grandmother is in top mental shape. When I ask her what her secret is, she tells me that it is important to know what you can control and what you cannot. If it is something that you cannot control, it has no room in your mind. One Microstep that has helped me realize this during the pandemic is taking a moment each day to identify what I can control. I make a list of various elements of my job and life that will remain perfectly manageable. The small ritual shifts my mind from what’s lacking, to what I still have.”

—Armida Markarova, professional coach and conflict resolution mediator, Chicago, IL   

Pause when you experience a negative thought

“I have taken on a Microstep to become more intentional about my thoughts and words — which starts with a pause. During this time, there is an overwhelming urge to highlight how daunting the environment has become and hope that 2021 will allow life to return to ‘normal.’  Now, I no longer wish 2020 away with my words but instead I pause and ask myself, ‘What has this year come to teach me?’”

—Monique Johnson, nonprofit executive, Richmond, VA

Set an alarm to get up and move

“After recovering from the initial adjustments required to work from home, I found myself in a funk. My head was filled with worry, work, change, and loss. To shake off my funk, I started setting a timer to go off every hour to remind me to push back my chair and get up. I do a few quick yoga stretches, start shaking everything out, take my dogs for a walk, or just walk outside to get the mail. The small bursts of movement have done wonders for my well-being. If you don’t move and open up your body, you will never be able to open up your mind.”

—Jenni Riley, financial management, Sun Valley, ID

Start your day with a few minutes of writing

“I’ve always found blogging to be a helpful way to clear my head, provide clarity, and help me connect with those I share my stories with. The challenge over the years has been finding the time to do it. The pandemic opened a door to a new Saturday morning routine that has allowed me to write without interruption. I quietly make my way downstairs while the rest of my family sleeps, put on a pot of coffee, put in my earbuds, and simply write for a couple of hours. It’s been a small change to my routine, but one that has lifted me during a time when inspiration has been in short order.”

—Marcie White, IT executive, Tempe, AZ

Make a second, lower-priority to-do list

“I used to make a long to-do list at the start of every day, and I’d get wound up if I hadn’t checked everything off by the evening.  I will always be a list-maker, since it’s in my nature. But now, I have two columns: one column for what I will get done that day, and a second ‘nice-to-have’ column. If I complete the tasks in the second column, it’s a bonus, but I don’t beat myself up about not getting to them. There’s always tomorrow for the second column.”

—Donna Peters, career coach, podcast host, Atlanta, GA

Spray lavender on your pillow

“Quarantine did a huge number on my sleep hygiene. Between going to bed too late and struggling with pandemic stress, I wasn’t getting quality sleep, which ended up affecting my overall health. In an effort to change my sleep habits with small Microsteps, I decided to buy my first lavender essential oil and give it a try. I put it on my pillow, pajamas, and aromatherapy bracelet, and it has encouraged me to unwind and get ready for a soothing sleep. I’ve been doing this for over two months now and have seen incredible results in my sleep quality.”

—Nita Diaz, freelance health and wellness writer, Calgary, AB

Schedule “commute time” before your workday

“One Microstep that I’ve found particularly helpful during the pandemic has been taking a short drive with my coffee each morning before starting my workday. Although I’m working from home, this small habit has allowed me to prepare myself for the day ahead and helped me find a moment of calm before jumping into my tasks. Since I was commuting to work before COVID-19, it’s also kept the structure in place so that when we do go back to in-person working, the idea won’t feel so foreign. It’s a nice transition in the morning and it gives my mind a chance to recalibrate from the day before so I can be as present as possible in my work.”

—Sarah Rudman, healthcare manager, Boston, MA 

Time block your calendar

“During the pandemic, I’ve taken on a Microstep that has done wonders for my focus and time-management: time blocking. This divides your day, or parts of your day, into chunks of time. For example, you decide that from 9:00 to 9:30 you only check email. From 9:30 to 10:30 you make calls and reach out to clients. From 10:30 to 11:00 you post to LinkedIn and grow your network. Time blocking allows you to become crystal clear with your intentions with your time and you let nothing come in between you and your schedule.”

—Tiffany Hoxie, writer, New York, NY

Which Microstep have you found particularly helpful during this time? Share it with us in the comments.

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