Overcome the Monotony of Social Distancing with the 20/80 Rule

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Scott Brassart

As I write this, my state is under a “shelter in place” order thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. And even though I’m not the most social guy on the planet, I’m starting to get a little bored. Admittedly, I value and enjoy solitude to the point of occasionally creating it on purpose, but the monotony I’m feeling now, thanks to 24/7 social distancing, is a different story.

I’m actually somewhat used to a degree of social distancing because I work from home with only my cat Lily for company. That said, I make it a practice to leave the house and be social for at least one hour per day. I attend a 12-step meeting, counsel sponsees, have a meal or see a movie with friends, meet someone for coffee even though I don’t drink coffee, etc. I get out of the house and socialize every single day no matter what.

But not now. Now I’m sheltering in place, not getting out of the house at all, and the monotony is starting to get to me. And I know I’m not alone with this feeling. A few days ago at the weekly online Addiction and Recovery webinar that I co-host with Dr. David Fawcett, we had twice our usual number of attendees, several of whom sent chat messages expressing their gratitude for something interesting to do – especially something that, at least for an hour, provided them with a sense of connection. And I couldn’t help but agree with them.

Today, however, I’m sitting at home writing articles for several different outlets and I’m feeling isolated, slightly bored, and deeply overwhelmed. It’s not that I don’t enjoy my work as a writer. Quite the opposite, in fact. But without my usual social life, I feel like I’m stuck in a rut. And feeling stuck in a rut causes me to think I have no control over my life, which causes me to feel overwhelmed.

I’m not overwhelmed, of course. I’m dealing with my usual workload – no more, no less, and without the usual distractions. So really, I should feel the opposite of overwhelmed. But that’s just not how I’m feeling. Instead, I’m sitting at my desk and thinking maybe I should poke Lily in the middle of her afternoon nap just to create some social interaction.

Rather than annoy my cat, however, I’ve decided to do something a bit more productive with my day. And “a bit more productive” starts with me implementing the 20/80 rule.

Any time I feel scattered and overwhelmed and lethargic, I implement the 20/80 rule. I ask myself: Which 20% of my to-do list creates 80% of my positive results. When I’ve answered that question, I create a new to-do list, comprised only of the tasks that will give me the greatest positive result. Basically, I search for the lead domino, knowing that once I knock it over, the rest of the dominoes will fall.

In my case, the lead domino is to write a blog about overcoming monotony, which I’m doing right now. When I’m done with this, I’ll write a few other short articles with looming deadlines. And with that, I’ll have accomplished the 20% of my to-do list that gives me 80% of my positive results. After that, I’m going to find a way to be social while I shelter in place.

Most likely, I’ll call my parents and a few of my older friends to check in and see how they’re doing, and then I’ll look for an online 12-step meeting. I strongly suspect that taking these simple actions will alleviate my feelings of monotony, keeping me relatively happy for another day. As for tomorrow? Well, I’ll deal with tomorrow when it gets here, likely by implementing the 20/80 rule again.

If you’re feeling the monotony of social distancing and you’re looking for some online webinars and 12-step meetings to break it up, please check out the free webinars and drop-in discussion groups hosted by SexandRelationshipHealing.com and the online 12-step meetings (more than 130 per week) hosted by IntheRooms.com.