The pandemic was supposed to change your life. For the first few days, you started off well — you woke up early, you got things done, you clocked into your zoom meetings, had your lunch, and did a little bit of stretching.
Three months later, you find yourself in a state of potato-ness. You’re not quite sure where the time went. The next thing you know, the year came to an end and nothing much has changed — except perhaps your waistline and that baking bread isn’t really your thing.
Whatever the case, or variations of this case, you find yourself back where you were at the beginning — maybe still stuck at home and nothing much else but the same old, same old.
This state is commonly known as the Potato State.
We’ve all experienced the Potato State in some capacity. You know that feeling when you start off fully motivated, only to deflate into a state of despair as you stare at your piling dishes, unwashed clothes, and sink into a state of existence paralysis. In time, you turn into a literal potato — slumping into your couch and disconnecting from the real world to escape into the world of Netflix and endless scrolling.
So how do you fix the Potato State? here’s a 4-step process to help you get started.
Let’s get real — your life feels uninspiring because it is uninspiring. You’ve fallen into the trap of monotony and habituated the process. But before you can truly kick yourself out of the potato state, you need to figure out what your non-potato state looks like.
Write down your ideal future self. Be as detailed as you can be. Here are some questions to help kickstart the process:
- what do you look like?
- what does your bank account look like?
- what kind of worldly possessions do you have?
- what kind of people are you surrounded by?
- what city/environment are you living in?
- what kind of job are you doing?
- what’s your work to leisure time ratio look like?
- what’s your family dynamic look like?
The purpose of this exercise is to figure out where you want to end up. It gives you something to aim for rather than just being productive for the sake of productivity.
True productivity is when you are actively moving towards a tangible goal. False productivity is just the act of filling up our schedules so it makes us feel like we’re doing something. True and false productivity are two very different things that achieve polar opposite results.
It’s ok to MVP your life. There’s no rule against it. In fact, it might actually help you achieve your goals faster.
When you create a minimal viable plan that puts you on the path towards your ideal future self, it lets you quickly test how effective your plans are. The thing about plans is that we tend to overestimate what we can do, then fall into a state of defeat when we find out that we cannot possibly achieve everything we’ve set ourselves out to do.
The point of MVP is to fail — and fail quickly — so you can scale back and make it smaller, more bite-sized, and therefore more attainable. Once you’ve hit your equilibrium, then you’ve found the sweet spot between productivity, rest, and leisure.
So how do you begin to plot and execute your MVP? Start by figuring out the steps you need to do to get to your future self. Work backward until you’ve reached the point to where you are now. Break down the step closest to you and figure out what you need to do to achieve it.
Many of us get stuck on step 2 on repeat. We plot. We plan. We think about what we are going to do but never actually move forward because we don’t do it.
You need to execute your plan. Try it out. Stick to it for a set period of time and see how it goes. If you feel depleted and potato-y by the end of the set period, then it means you are doing too much. Start again, but smaller and more manageable.
If you fail, your task/goal/step is too big. Make it smaller. Make it achievable. Make it obtainable.
If you’ve been in your Potato State for a long time, breaking out of it is like getting on the treadmill for the first time in years. You need to ease yourself into the process and be consistent at it. Don’t burn your calves out by going hard for the first few days, only to find yourself incapable of moving because you’ve overdone it.
It’s the same idea when you’re trying to get out of your Potato State.
You’re never going to get your plan right the first time around. You’re never going to execute your plan perfectly the first time round either.
At the end of our trial session, evaluate what you did well, where you went wrong and how you can improve. There’s no shame in cutting back.
You do run into the risk of getting back into the Potato State if you stop.
If you feel like stopping, rather than giving up, go back to step 2. If step 2 doesn’t inspire you anymore, go back to step 1.
Step 1 is essentially your why. It’s the thing that gives you a target to work towards. Like all the steps listed here, it’s unlikely that you’ll get your why correct the first time around. The more we do the things that get us closer to where we want to be, the more we uncover ourselves, our values, and the things we actually care about.
It’s part of our personal growth and the process of figuring out what actually nourishes us internally. When we are nourished from the inside, we tend to flourish. Over time, it becomes easier for us to do the things we want to do because we know and understand how it’s going to help us achieve what we want to achieve.
It’s easy to fall into the Potato State. We drown ourselves in the process of dealing with life obligations like bills, rent, and student loan repayments. Sometimes there are kids thrown into the mix.
It’s called life.
But life doesn’t have to take control of your journey. It starts with the decision to un-potato your life and do something about it. You’ll probably get it wrong but that’s the point — you’re doing something and most of the time, when you’re stuck in the Potato State, doing something is the catalyst that creates the change you need to get out.