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Setting Goals in Uncertain Times

I’ve been setting goals for years, but this month more than ever I feel like I’m setting goals when I have no idea what to expect. After my third culture kid childhood, uncertainty is hardly a new experience, but it’s still unsettling. Learn how I’m setting goals in uncertain times.

Setting goals in uncertain times

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How to Deal with Uncertainty While Setting Goals

As stressful as the current situation is, life is honestly ALWAYS uncertain. I started March off feeling pretty organized. I had some great goals set for March that felt manageable.

Then March happened. It started with me losing my voice in the middle of music class. Understandable; I spend my days teaching band, orchestra, and ukulele to middle schoolers. I have a lot of vocal training, but it still takes focus to speak loudly and clearly without damaging my voice.

By that evening I felt awful, so I called in sick for the next day. I hate doing that, because our school is short staffed and I guessed (correctly) that nobody would take the sub job and someone else would have to pull double duty.

But I got sicker and sicker, and wound up in the ER the next night, struggling to breathe.

Thankfully, it was only Influenza A. Not the other thing that we are all currently terrified of catching. I got Tamiflu and started recovering, although in all honesty I still feel the effects of that bad case of the flu a month later.

I made it back for one day of seeing my students before the schools were closed. It looks like I won’t be seeing those kids I worked so hard to build a relationship with again.

The relationship is still paying off, though, because now I’m running classes online. They aren’t all showing up, and I really worry about those who I’m not seeing. But some of these kids are doing an amazing job of getting assignments done despite the odds.

When the Unexpected Begins, Plans Fly Out the Window

My goals for March, though were kind of a joke. Thrown in with everything else I already wrote about, one of my son’s friends died when a truck hit their bike. Supporting my children through that took precedent above all else.

I finished sewing the (thankfully very straightforward) test pattern. I was thrilled with where my students were – right before school was closed. Now I’m just beginning to set successful norms and expectations for a whole new way of doing school. And some of my students still don’t have computers or internet, and I need to figure out how to deal with that once they get online.

I didn’t edit any photos.

Our container garden is still waiting for me to plant it.

I made a little progress on decluttering the house, but nowhere near what I planned.

I didn’t file taxes, but now that that deadline is mercifully extended until July 15th, I’m postponing that goal until the school year is over.

My jazz curriculum won’t work now that my kids don’t have instruments, so I have to rewrite it.

Focus On the Positive to Stay Sane Under Stress

There were some real wins in March. Firstly, I was never so grateful to have the flu instead of alternatives!

Secondly, some of my students really impressed me with their online work. And my years of homeschooling my own children meant that they slotted easily into completing schoolwork at home. Since I’ve always worked from home at least part time, I already know how to work at home with kids – although teaching classes with kids underfoot is a new challenge.

I’m still figuring out how to teach my students effectively online, but so far people are being understanding and patient with that.

We are in a shelter in place situation, but we live in a sufficiently suburban place that we are still allowed to go out and walk around. Getting outdoors makes a huge difference!

I am ever so grateful that we now live in a nice house instead of the tiny condo we lived in for our first five years in California.

My children’s activities are all canceled, which is sad, but it also means that I don’t have to drive them. Anywhere.

I decided to spend the saved gas money on Kiwi Co crates.

The kids especially loved the new Eureka Crates line. It’s marketed for ages 14 and up, but my 10-year-old and 12-year-old worked together to build this pinball machine.

And this so-appropriate-for-these-times soap dispenser:

The kids were able to build these on their own, buying Mike (also working from home now) and I some time to focus on our jobs.

Cut Everybody Slack in Challenging Situations – Including Yourself

Honestly, though? This has been hard! I can’t believe I dropped a couple of online consulting jobs to take a lower paid teaching job because I missed being around people. And then I went back to teaching the one year it switched to being online!

I teach music – kids with instruments. Suddenly I have students with no instruments and a new curriculum to write.

My children are all happy in school this year. Suddenly they are losing that happy situation and missing their friends.

Mike got promoted, but his job put a salary freeze on all positions so the promotion means no raise. Hopefully it will when this is all over, but we were assuming that raise would happen. The promotion does offer more job security, which is amazing.

My dog and one of my kids came down with ear infections. Random and not serious, but one more hassle.

We have always been a minimal screens family. Suddenly we all have to be on screens all day so that I can teach and the kids can complete their schoolwork. Then when schoolwork is done I end up letting the kids watch a movie because I’m teaching online and I can’t answer their questions or moderate sibling conflicts.

This is all new for all of us. We miss a lot of things about our old life, we don’t know how long this will last, and we are all figuring it out as we go.

When Life Is Hard, Find Ways to Connect With Others

This is one of my top coping strategies, but here we are, all in our houses, intentionally separated from our communities.

How to Stay Connected When You’re Isolated

So this requires a lot of creativity. I organized a clover hunt in our neighborhood that a bunch of people participated in for March. A neighbor proposed Easter Eggs for April, and there is also a Teddy Bear hunt going on.

My parents, siblings, and I established a recurring Zoom meeting at 5pm every day where we can check in and catch up. Mike’s extended family did the same.

We’ve arranged for all the little cousins to play the Prodigy Math Game at the same time. We start a Zoom meeting at the same time, and they all agree on which land to go in and where they can meet up online.

I’m texting and calling friends, although right now most of us are so overwhelmed with jobs and kids that we don’t have a ton of time to talk.

Find Ways to Help Others

I look for ways to help my community. My time is limited, so I can’t spend a ton of time sewing face masks, but I had elastic because I have a habit of buying in bulk. So I found people who were making face masks for people who really needed them and giving them away and I gave them elastic to make their masks. My elastic stash is gone through no contact pick ups where I never even met the people I connected with, but I was able to help out without having a lot of time to give.

Put Your Oxygen Mask On First – Set Self Care Goals in Uncertain Times

This one is easy to neglect, but critical!

As parents, we have so many things to worry about. Kids, bills, health concerns, and jobs for a start.

We can only worry about those things effectively if we take care of ourselves first.

So, especially in times of uncertainty, it’s important to set goals that help you calm down, relax, and refocus on what matters most.

For me, this means making time for music (my own music, not my music classes I teach), some crafting, down time with the kids, and walks with my dog.

Setting Goals for April 2020

Here are my goals for April:

  • Become a better online teacher. I’ve never been a fan of video or being behind a camera. This is my opportunity to figure it out! Focus: education
  • Enjoy my spring break. I did, but it’s already over! Next week is my children’s spring break, but I have to teach again. And my spring break was so different from the “I don’t have school but my kids do” relaxing time I’d originally planned. Still, I desperately needed this past week to recharge after my first frantic two weeks of trying to teach online while looking after my kids. Focus: gratitude
  • Sew. This post is actually late because I pushed it aside to sew face masks, which we are now being asked to wear. I have a few more to make for people I know who desperately need them. Hopefully I will also get some for fun sewing done, but we will see. Focus: gratitude, mindful living
  • Continue to declutter. Clutter really stands out when you’re all living in a house 24/7. Since I don’t have a lot of time right now, I’m planning on tiny daily tasks, which worked well for me in March. Focus: mindful living
  • Check in with friends and family. I feel like this is the main thing that keeps my life in perspective right now. Focus: gratitude and mindful living
  • Get outside as much as I can. I don’t know if we will be allowed to go outside all month. Right now it’s not considered a risk in our area although we can only go places we can bike or walk – no driving to go on a hike, or to the beach. I’m fine with that rule, and I will enjoy all the walks I can get. Focus: mindful living
  • Plant my container garden! Focus: mindful living
  • Bonus goal: Edit photos. Mindful living and gratitude

What are your goals for April 2020? What are your top tips for setting goals in uncertain times?

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MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

5 thoughts on “Setting Goals in Uncertain Times”

  1. We’ve had very similar experiences! My sister and I both had influenza B in February and it was rough. My voice was gone for weeks, and hers to this day is still not 100%. It must have really been a bad strain! I really like your positive attitude in this post.

  2. I love your goals. I need to sew and declutter too. Somehow, even though I should have more time, I don’t seem to have more time. It’s strange!

  3. First of all, I’m so sorry to hear about your son’s friend. What a tragedy! Secondly, that’s awesome that you are setting goals through this. I may have to consider doing the same. I have totally been winging every day. Some days I create a checklist when things really need to get done, but goals may actually be helpful now. Thanks!

  4. Coming up with a new norm is so funny to think but it’s really true. My kids are really missing their activities. I’m totally with you on the decluttering. That’s my biggest goal for April!

  5. Decluttering is so important right now. It’s kind of scary how much stuff is hiding in our houses.
    I’m having the kids work on cleaning different big areas of our house to try and keep it cleaner, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.

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