How to Plan Your Life During a Pandemic

 In COVID-19, Cyber/ICT

The covid-19 pan­dem­ic shocked the world and gen­er­at­ed high levels of eco­nom­ic, polit­i­cal, and social uncer­tain­ty. And for many people, the virus com­pound­ed the grow­ing sense of uncer­tain­ty they already felt in their lives as a result of automa­tion, geopo­lit­i­cal ten­sions, and widen­ing inequal­i­ties.

With the many sudden changes that covid-19 has brought, plan­ning for the future can feel impos­si­ble. Even short-term deci­sions — What will we do this week­end? Should I send my kids to school? — now require us to process a broad set of data and con­sid­er­a­tions. Trying to envi­sion life months or a couple of years down the road may seem futile or even fool­ish.

When faced with high degrees of uncer­tain­ty, we tend to worry about all that might happen, and often do so in an unstruc­tured manner. This kind of worry can spur knee-jerk reac­tions and inhib­it sound deci­sion-making, which is espe­cial­ly prob­lem­at­ic in the middle of a global crisis when so much is at stake.

Strategic fore­sight offers an alter­na­tive to unpro­duc­tive worry. It’s a way of think­ing that uses alter­na­tive futures to guide the deci­sions we make today. This tool can help us better antic­i­pate pos­si­ble cir­cum­stances and — impor­tant­ly — adapt when those cir­cum­stances threat­en our abil­i­ty to achieve our goals.

Strategic fore­sight can be a pow­er­ful tool to help you under­stand and eval­u­ate your options even when the future seems very unclear. I use this prac­tice every day in my work, and I believe it can also help people nav­i­gate their per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al lives during the pan­dem­ic.

The good news is, we often prac­tise fore­sight with­out even real­iz­ing it. You’re doing it, for exam­ple, every time you leave the house and decide whether or not to grab an umbrel­la. But we can make a more explic­it effort to think ahead in times of greater uncer­tain­ty, or when we’re feel­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly anx­ious about what’s to come.

Here’s how to start apply­ing this prac­tice in your own life:

Clarify your goals. Defining a vision is a cru­cial first step, and an espe­cial­ly pro­duc­tive one for those of us who sud­den­ly find our work or mis­sion in peril. A vision can be a pre­ferred future, a desired out­come, or just an idea of what you need to sus­tain your­self through a dif­fi­cult time.

For exam­ple, in the face of eco­nom­ic insta­bil­i­ty brought on by covid-19, your vision may be finan­cial sus­tain­abil­i­ty — or even just sur­vival — over the coming months and years. This might trans­late to a goal of earn­ing enough income to sup­port your­self and your loved ones.

Consider what futures you might face. Develop sce­nar­ios to explore the future world in which your deci­sions will play out. Scenarios are plau­si­ble futures that are strate­gi­cal­ly rel­e­vant and struc­tural­ly dif­fer­ent. They include ele­ments from the past that carry for­ward, such as exist­ing trends and estab­lished com­mit­ments, along with new com­po­nents, such as busi­ness models, tech­nolo­gies, or value sys­tems that may soon emerge.

To con­tin­ue our exam­ple, you could create sce­nar­ios that con­sid­er dif­fer­ent shapes for the even­tu­al eco­nom­ic recov­ery — taking into account what jobs might dis­ap­pear, change, or bloom, as well as fac­tors like whether and how much gov­ern­ment sup­port might be avail­able, if you were to need it.

MIT Technology Review source|articles

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