How to Use Your Time Effectively During Self-Isolation

Last updated on June 18th, 2020 at 09:04 pm

It is important to remember that for all of the disruption, hurt and pain the coronavirus has caused, there are also heartwarming stories to be found that give us hope. Stories that showcase the kindness of humanity when faced with unprecedented circumstances. A 99-year-old gentleman raised 12 million for the National Health Service in the UK, families are spending more quality time together in their households and the country has shown their nationwide appreciation to the dedicated key workers who risk their lives to ensure that society continues to function. I was definitely among the crowds as I clapped for my wonderful mum who works as a nurse and has done for the past thirty years.

If you are one of the thousands of people who are helping to stop the spread of the virus by self-isolating, you might have a lot more time on your hands than you did previously. We can use this time wisely; helping others (while maintaining social distancing boundaries of course!), reflecting on what we want from life and making a plan to achieve our new goals. Or we can get sucked into an endless Netflix loop, watching the outrageous documentary Tiger King and frantically collecting fossils in Nintendo’s latest instalment of the Animal Crossing game. It’s okay, it can happen to the best of us!

Treating yourself to a few hours of entertainment is fine. But it is far too easy to watch and scroll mindlessly. Without a schedule to guide us through a working week, we can lack focus. Your dreams of putting your extra time to good use can fade into internet oblivion unless you start to take control.

I have learned a great deal during my time as a psychology teacher. Recently, I re-read my copy of The A Level Mindset (Oakes & Griffin, 2016). The original purpose of this book was to empower teachers with practical advice to help improve the outcomes of their students. I was amazed to realise how many of the tips in this book could be adapted to help people who want to start and maintain a new project.

The approach suggests that a successful student tends to have five key qualities. I believe that if you want to be successful in whatever challenge you set yourself, it would be helpful to adopt these traits. They are:

Vision: They know what they want to achieve
Effort: They put in many hours of independent and proactive practice
Systems: They organise themselves well and use their time effectively
Practice: They practice and develop their skills
Attitude: they respond constructively to setbacks

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing my top tips for staying motivated and making the most of your time. These have been inspired by the VESPA approach.


First of all, let’s talk about vision. No, I’m not talking about the kind of vision you need to get checked by an ophthalmologist! Vision can be defined as being able to imagine what you what to achieve. Research has shown that students who did not have a vision underperformed by approximately one grade (Oakes & Griffin, 2016). This makes sense when you think how tough goals can be to attain. Think of what you want to achieve. Creating a business, studying for a degree or even writing a blog is difficult. They are also, wonderful, life-affirming achievements. But if you don’t know why you are doing it, when challenges begin to increase, your resolve is going to falter.

How do you develop a vision?

1) Set yourself a meaningful goal
Think about what truly matters to you. What do you want to achieve in life? I’m not asking your parents, your close friends or your neighbours, I am asking you. This is the first and most important step for a reason. If our goals do not align with our values, then we could pour hours of hard work into something with the best intentions and still not be very successful. You could be a zebra trying to win a race built for horses. The phrase “Know thyself” has been passed down from ancient Greek times because it is true!
If you want some help to identify your values, I recommend reading The Happiness Trap or see this article. Alternatively, try “The Unusual Birthday” activity below right now.

2) Action plan
Break your goal down into sub-components. These are actions that you can achieve more easily and within a set deadline. I am a fan of writing ‘to-do lists’ which reduce a lofty goal such as “Write a blog post” into actionable components, such as “Create a title” and “Edit your first draft”. Completing these small wins fosters a sense of motivation to keep going and achieve the main goal e.g. “Maintain a successful blog”. Need a more structured approach to goal setting? Try the SMART approach as described below.

File:SMART-goals.png - Wikimedia Commons
Credit: Wikicommons
Credit: Cortoys Graphic

If nothing else, do one thing today that will get you closer to achieving your vision!

3) Become gritty
No, I’m not asking you to act like a shady character from Trainspotting!
Grit means sticking with your goal through the long-term, despite setbacks. Duckworth’s popular TED talk and research argue that “grit is a stronger predictor of success than intelligence” (Oakes & Griffin, 2016). Perseverance will make you more likely to succeed in reaching your goal. There will be tips on how you can develop a gritty attitude in my future blog posts.

Activity Ideas to Develop Your Vision
Now you might know what vision is, but finding a vision that fits you can be tricky. So I have adapted two practical activities from the A-level Mindset to help you.

Birthday Wallpaper · Free Stock Photo
Credit: Pexels

The Unusual Birthday Party

Imagine that your party guests have planned a unique twist for your birthday in five years time. After the traditional cake has been eaten, they will stand up and give a speech about the kind of person that you are. What would you want them to say? Think about…

  • How would you like your friends and family to describe you? What qualities would they be most proud of?
  • Which key strengths and career highlights would you like your work colleagues to discuss?
  • When everyone looks towards your future aspirations, what do you expect that they will talk about?

Write down the responses that you would like to hear. This activity will help to reveal the kind of values you have and the vision that you aspire to.

Fake,eyeglasses,nose,black,face - free image from
Credit: Needpix

Fake It
Does thinking about committing to one goal turn you into an indecisive mess? If you have figured out what goals are important to you, but you are still unsure of which to pursue, then try this activity.

Chose one of your goal options. Maybe you are stuck between choosing a career as a lawyer or a business owner. For an entire week, you need to live as if your decision has been made. This week, you have decided you are going to be a lawyer. Breathe a sigh of relief. The anxiety involved in the decision-making process has been taken away. Now you can focus on what the option would be like to experience. During this week…

  • Research the option. For example, if you are looking into a certain career path, find out what daily tasks you would complete, the hours you might work, the salary you would earn and the personality traits that might suit the role. Can you find experiences online from people who are in this profession?
  • Make a note of how you feel about your goal choice. Does it feel like you? What is your gut instinct?

Repeat this process starting afresh each week until you have played out all of your options. Use what you have learned to help decide which goal is right for you.

Final thoughts

I hope that this information will help you to use your time wisely. Check out my free productivity cheat sheet if you are hungry for more information.

Let me know in the comments section if you have tried any of the activities I suggested! Or maybe you can share an idea that has helped you to be more productive?

If you are finding that you are worried during these difficult times, check out a really helpful article “How to worry less – lyrics of life”.

Oakes, S & Griffin, M (2016). The A Level Mindset: 40 Activities For Transforming Student Commitment, Motivation And Productivity. Wales, UK. Crown House Publishing. ISBN 13: 9781785830242.

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11 thoughts on “How to Use Your Time Effectively During Self-Isolation

  1. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts on this topic. As you say, it is a strange and difficult time that we are facing. But hopefully these tips might be of some help. Stay safe also. From Beth @BehaviourBabble .

  2. I like to read your writings and feel lots of people would get a lot out of reading it and maybe doing some of the things you mention.

  3. Hi beth enjoyed your article, we all no alot of the things we should be doing during this strange, stressful time to help us get through this in the best way possible doing jobs and activities we’ve always planned to do but some how never get too, its very easy to get sucked into too much tv, scrolling and getting mind numbingly bored, lethargic and feeling down, which can be very detrimental to our mental health and inner peace, its good to have a reminder like your article to help get ourselves back on track and re-focus. It was well written and loved the humour in there too, it really does help and its great your writing again. I certainly will be taking mental note of the advice and tips as a reminder of the things i can be doing to stay busy, distracted and also feel your acheiving some goals even if small ones like clearing out that wardrobe you keep promising yourself you’ll get too one of these days. It makes you feel so much better. Its good to have daily goals that we can have some control over even if we can’t control other things that are going on at the moment. Thankyou and stay safe and well.

  4. Hi Charlotte, really glad to hear that these tips have been useful. I cannot live without to-do lists at the moment or else I wouldn’t get as much done! Stay tuned for more posts in the future with more motivation tips. Beth @BehaviourBabble

  5. Really good read, just what I needed as I keep thinking of useful things to do in lockdown during the pandemic e.g clear out Jessica’s room, sort the garage, spring clean, sort the gardens etc and the to do lists I shall definitely start using! Also scrolling the internet is my hobby at the min I need to lessen the screen time thanks for the motivation! Xxx

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