8 Ways to Get Fresh Starts on Your Calendar

If you haven’t done these things in a year, now is the time

Woman cleaning her kitchen with a smile.
Photo: Halfpoint Images / Getty Images

Many of us have spent the past few weeks acknowledging the anniversaries: of the last time we went to an office, or that our children went to school, or that we ate inside a restaurant.

It’s a sad time, and a strange one, but it’s a hopeful one, too. After a long year-plus, every one of those anniversaries is for something we may be able to do again somewhat soon. Which means that right now, about a year since the World Health Organization officially declared a pandemic, is a good moment to start readying your life to expand again.

What haven’t you done in a year that would make your life better and less stressful? Here are eight tasks you probably should get to if you haven’t since the pandemic began. Think of them as a leap of faith that everything is, however slowly, getting back to some semblance of normal.

Make that doctor’s appointment

When the Covid-19 pandemic nulled all non-essential medical appointments, my family had at least eight pending visits to the dentist and doctor on the books. Most of them ended up happening after a few months’ delay, when non-essential visits began to feel a little bit safer again, but I’m still putting off rescheduling my mammogram — not because of the pandemic, but because mammograms are unpleasant and make me feel old. There, I said it.

I know I’m running out of time to keep making that excuse. If you’re falling into that bad habit of using the pandemic as cover to keep avoiding some appointment, now’s the time to grit your teeth and make it. Ask a friend or your partner to make the appointment for you if you really need to. If it’s dental phobia (this is way more common than you probably think!), call the office and explain your fear. (Any dentist worth seeing will be kind, empathetic, and willing to put you at ease, or write a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication.) If you’re avoiding the doctor because of pandemic weight gain, please immediately listen to the podcast Maintenance Phase, follow Dr. Joshua Wolrich on Instagram, and read this history of how the BMI was never meant to measure individual health.

Get yourself some new socks and underwear

A friend recently sent me new socks, and every time I choose them over my old, threadbare ones it feels like a small luxury. Yes, it’s a small thing, but comfortable socks and underwear that, ahem, stay put, really make you feel like you can take on the world.

Reach out to that one friend you haven’t talked to in forever

It’s not weird. Covid-19 has burned all norms of social interaction to the ground, anyway. If it’s just been too long, write an email or call her up. See if he still responds to G-chats. If something difficult happened — you forgot an important birthday, her mom died and you didn’t know what to say so you didn’t say anything, or you were in some way an actual jerk, apologize and do it well. Ask questions. Share. It’s challenging to make new friends right now, but it’s never a bad time to love on the ones you have.

Update your calendar

If you use it well, a calendar can do a lot more than structure your workday: In the age of social distancing and stagnation, it provides a sense of forward motion. Scheduling in exercise, meditation, phone calls with friends — all the sanity-preserving actions that are easy to blow off in favor of more Netflix or more work — is a very good way to take care of yourself. Adding the birthdays of your friends and loved ones to your calendar makes it far more likely that you’ll send a card or package. Giving a specific date to a long-simmering idea for weekend fun, like a hike, day trip, or big project, will make it more likely that you’ll actually do it.

Deep-clean your kitchen

The cleaning expert Jolie Kerr, host of the podcast Ask a Clean Person, has guides to deep-cleaning your kitchen in both written and audio form. She estimates one to three hours for this task, depending on the size of your kitchen and how thorough you want to be.

To start, go through your cupboards, even the one above the refrigerator, and take everything out. Anything you haven’t used in a year, put in a box to donate (or give away on your local Buy Nothing group). Same with the drawers and any closets you’ve been stashing kitchen gear in. Throw away old spices and half-used packets of anything. Reorganize to your liking. Take everything off the counters and wipe those down, along with the appliances and containers you moved. Clean out your fridge and clean the oven. Mop the floor.

Make a list of things you need but haven’t yet bought yourself, like a digital scale or a new spatula. Buy them. If you like greenery, get yourself a plant on the way home and put it somewhere now that you have the room. Doesn’t that feel good — and, in a small, meaningful way, like renewal?

Figure out how you want to work in the future

So this isn’t necessarily something that you’ve been putting off for a year, but it is something that has been a year in the making: When it’s time to go back to the office, how do you want to manage it? There seems to be an unlimited appetite for stories about how the pandemic has changed work. But once offices open, we may very well be surprised at how easy it is to slide back into old patterns.

Assess what has worked for you and what hasn’t over this past year. What would be ideal? Half-time in the office? Off-peak commutes? Less travel, more Zoom? Wednesdays off? No one is going to give you anything you don’t ask for, so figure out now what you like about remote work and how to articulate your needs.

The financial thing that’s stressing you out

Do you need to move your IRA to a low-fee plan? Make or update your budget? Set up auto-billing on your car loan? Argue with your internet or cable company for a lower rate? Do it.

Optimize your computer

Digital clutter is still clutter, and it can make your computer sluggish and your workday more stressful. (If you’re working on a computer that your employer owns, ask your IT department for guidance on this.) Here’s a good overview of how to clean the interior and exterior of any computer. Have a Mac? Follow this 10-step guide. To take it a step further, adding RAM and replacing the battery in many Macs is surprisingly easy and makes you feel incredibly resourceful. Google instructions for your specific model, watch some YouTube videos, and you’re practically ready for a job at the Genius Bar.

That one thing on your to-do list

It’s been on there a year, maybe more. Step back, take a deep breath. Identify why you aren’t doing it. Is it too expensive? Do you need help? Are you stuck and don’t know what to do next? Do you just not want to do it? If it’s something like your will that has a million emotional and financial friction points, make a pact with a friend. Agree to both tackle your stressful task, and to a reward that you present to one another upon completion, meaning that you must finish your own task for the other person to get their reward. If it’s something like painting the kitchen cabinets or sorting through your paperwork, use this procrastination-ending trick to get on with it.

Or, if it’s an optional task you keep putting off, just cross it off and forget about it. Now you’re free and ready to move on to whatever comes next.

Annaliese Griffin is a writer and editor who most recently led the Quartz Daily Obsession, an award-winning newsletter. She lives in Vermont with her family.

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