Fresh suggestions for how you might harness untapped energy to meet goals, tackle new projects, or indulge in something fun

If you find, like we have, that the stress of this year-long pandemic has created a kind of nervous, untapped energy—if you’re tired of “pandemic hobbies” and eager for new ideas as we begin to entertain the light at the end of the COVID tunnel—then this post is for you.

Let’s be clear: surviving in this pandemic is an accomplishment. In this perfect-storm soup, one option is to just accept what is and what isn’t getting done, focus on your breath, and take it one day at a time. (We are strong supporters of this option.) But if you’re itching to take something on—something to harness your untapped energy into action—then read on for idea sparks to help you turn that energy aflame.

An uncommon approach to projects: kill “should”

This is not going to be the post where we tell you that you should learn a new language and start playing a new instrument and finally write that dang screenplay.

There’s a weird pressure right now of, “You have the time, so you should do that thing you’ve always put off!”

But it’s not about time. It’s about mental bandwidth—and with everything going on right now, do you really have the mental bandwidth to practice bonjour and the ukulele? Probably not.

So let’s do something radical—let’s STOP telling ourselves what we SHOULD have done with pandemic time. (I should have learned French. I should have played the ukulele. I should have written my screenplay by now. I should have started these things months ago. I should…)

And let’s ask ourselves THESE questions instead:

  1. Who do I miss working with? Who is someone that I’ve worked with before and have had a lot of good energy with? Who do I work with when I really want to get something done?
  2. Who is someone I’d like to work with in the future? Who do I admire that I’d like to know a little better? Whose work do I find really interesting or energizing?
  3. What is a recent project that’s made me feel really energized? What specific TASKS did I enjoy during this project?
  4. What is an issue I really care about right now? Or a question I’m curious about? Or a topic I’d like to learn more about?

Importantly, guard against SHOULD here. The question isn’t “What’s a topic I should know more about?” The question is, “What is a topic I’d like to learn more about?” See the difference?

Again, want to call out here—just surviving in this pandemic is enough. But one way to celebrate the resilience you’ve shown this year could be to ignore the “should do” and think more about what you would enjoy doing.

Once you’ve brainstormed these questions a bit, you can move on to the next section.

Project ideas for your untapped energy

Once you’ve thought more about people you’d like to work with, tasks you enjoy taking on, and an issue or topic you care about, then consider these ideas:

  1. Curate a collection. If your interests led you to want to explore a topic or theme more, think about curating a collection: a bookmarked list of the best articles on a specific home renovation project; a Spotify playlist for a 2021 mood or pre-game tailgate (at home) celebration; a collection of images for an Instagram hashtag or travel wishlist. You can curate recipe ideas or gardening tips or card game suggestions… or book recommendations for fans of Nordic Noir psychological thrillers set in Scandinavia. Lead with your interest, then set to work curating.
  2. Interview someone. If you’d like to know more about a person, their journey, their work, ask if you can interview them for 20 minutes. Tell them it’s part of a personal research project. Use it as a way to ask a lot of questions, and at the end of the interview, ask the person who they would recommend you speak with next.
  3. Build something. This can be anything from a Raspberry Pi coding project to a literal raspberry pie. Follow your interests here. Try creating something new. Catalog your progress privately or publicly. Consider recruiting help.
  4. Write an article. Pick a topic and pick your collaborators. Focus on something that interests you and that you would be excited to write about. (Or if you don’t like to write, create an infographic.)
  5. Start a discussion. You can do this alone or with a group, but think about a topic you’d like to hear others’ opinions on, and start posting about it on social media. Or, connect with a new community—start a pen-pal discussion with a senior citizen or through a social justice project like Write a Prisoner. Engage in the responses. Ask follow-up questions.
  6. Practice radical generosity. Show gratitude for the outdoor spaces we’ve been overusing; take a trashbag with you on your next hike and pick up trash you find along the way. Donate gently used clothes or shoes or housewares to local charities (and also make a monetary donation to help them offset the cost of organizing your items). Order takeout from local restaurants and include a tip so generous it will make that server’s day. Challenge yourself to help relatives or friends get linked with an Amazon Smile account so their purchases support charitable causes. Start posting positive Google reviews for all the shops and services you use.

Where do I start?

Grace and kindness, friends. The best way to start is with a deep breath—remind yourself that this isn’t about being perfect—and then just try. We can’t say this any more loudly or any more lovingly. Give yourself some grace!

These are meant to be projects you enjoy. So pick something that energizes you, then take a first step.

Feeling too overwhelmed to start? Well, ask yourself—Can I work on it for 30 minutes? Still don’t want to? Okay, how about 10 minutes. How about 5? Just give it a few minutes, and see what you get done. Sketch something out. Brain-dump a first draft. Email someone you’d like to work with and ask if they have anything they’d like to research with you.

You’ve got this. Pat yourself on the back, and commit to taking a second step tomorrow.

Just start.

Because the rewards you could see—from harnessing this untapped energy, to connecting with something or someone you’re interested in, to gifting yourself a whole-hearted distraction from current challenges—they’re rewards you deserve.

And after a year like this one, you deserve all the rewards. 

Good luck!

Want to talk more about how we can work together?

Even if you don’t have a project right now, we’d love to connect over coffee and ideas.

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