Time is a fickle thing. If you’re like me, you probably complain a lot about not having enough of it. And yet, in the face of free time, we don’t always know what to do with the extra hours. It’s daunting, isn’t it? Free terrain. Space to roam. But cows manage. So why can’t we?
As somewhat of a skilled procrastinator, I thrive in the busy and chaotic. But now, standing here in week four of quarantine, I’m starting to reassess where and when I’m most productive.
While I definitely do work well under pressure, in my personal time, I often use other non-conflicting commitments as excuses. I’m too tired after work to do anything. There’s only an hour before I have to go meet someone. If I start that project now, I won’t be in the right headspace. Blah. Blah. Blah. It’s shocking how good I am at convincing myself there’s no time for the things I really enjoy.
Today though, those excuses only go so far. I’m no longer going out or commuting. I don’t really have plans and honestly, there’s only so many hours a day I can spend binging shows. So all those previously neglected activities, now I guess I have no choice but to give them my time.
To both combat and embrace the added hours I now have to myself, I’ve found these four areas critical to staying positive and productive. They not only pass the time but also assure I’ll leave quarantine happier and more myself than when I started.
Without the pressure of grades, learning can be a great way to develop new skills and interests. Maybe you’ve wanted to learn a new language or get a little more creative. Obviously, in-person classes aren’t an option right now. But for some of us, they weren’t anyway. I looked into Spanish classes a while back and the total cost was in the thousands for less than a year! But fortunately, sites like Skillshare and apps like Babbel make it possible for you to learn affordably from anywhere, all at your own pace.
Skillshare is an open platform where professionals in the field teach courses on graphic design, video editing, copywriting, and other creative topics. After your free trial, Skillshare is $99 a year for unlimited access, which means you can tune in and complete courses when you have the time. Really good at something? Skillshare makes it easy to become a contributor and upload your own courses to share with others.
As for new languages, Babbel, Duolingo, and other apps on average cost less than $10 a month. Because you test into these programs, they’re great for everyone—true beginners to advanced speakers. I personally use Babbel to keep up with my Spanish language and writing skills. I love that the app offers speaking, writing, and matching exercises and how each course builds on the next. It really is like being in school but A LOT less pricey.
Anyone else looking to get smarter about sustainability? Slow Factory is offering a three week, free crash course in sustainable literacy starting Friday, April 17th. Regardless of where you are in your own journey, this class offers valuable information from expert sources and can add some much-needed structure to your day.
If you’re willing and able to pay for them, the University for the Arts London (UAL) offers online short-courses spanning all areas of fashion sustainability. UAL is known internationally as one of the best fashion and arts colleges and is one of the only accredited institutions I’ve found that offers courses addressing the intersection between sustainability and the fashion industry. Their courses are taught by professors and are very much doable, even while working a full-time job.
Finally, Coursera—yet another great online learning resource—is also offering a free, 14 hour Sustainable Fashion course through the Copenhagen Business School. The three instructors teaching the course work within the fashion industry and boast some pretty impressive resumes. For your convenience, the class is entirely pre-recorded so you can start whenever you’d like. You also have the choice to take the course for $49, which will get you a certificate of completion for you to post on your LinkedIn—or give to mom to put on the fridge.
Like with any learning experience, success relies on your motivation. For example, I set aside 10-15 minutes almost every day to practice my Spanish on Babbel. It’s not a lot of time but because I do it consistently, I am noticing progress. If you’re a student already or working full-time, be reasonable with your time commitment. Don’t learn something just to get a certificate or check a box. Dedicate yourself to studying something you love and that you know will contribute to the skillset you want.
I’m not sure why, but sitting at my computer all day at home is almost more draining than it is in the office. On top of the absence of people and energy, most days leave me feeling kind of like a wilted plant in need of some serious creative juices.
I’ve found hands-on activities to be the most therapeutic for my drain. I actually have enjoyed cooking lately (?!) and there has been a surge in my embroidery activity. For some of my friends, puzzles have been a great use of their time. Others have started making their own cleaning products, sniff, and making me oh-so-proud.
And it’s not even necessarily about backing away from the computer, just using it differently. For someone, recording a shitty podcast to share with friends could be a great release. My designer friend uses her iPad to create some really cool art that she then sells on Etsy. The beauty of creativity is that it can be anything you want it to be—and, most important, you don’t even have to be good at it to enjoy the process.
I don’t count my steps on a daily basis but I don’t need to to know that my mobility is blob-like right now. Even so, during this time, I’m trying not to worry about how much I work out and instead, focusing on my intentional movement. Some days, I wake up ready to go and log a 10k easy. Other days, take yesterday for example, I’m slower and spend 40 minutes flowing with Adrienne. It doesn’t really matter what I do, it’s just doing it that changes my outlook on the day.
Leaving the house, walking your dog, riding your bike, reiki, pilates, stretching—it’s all intentional movement. I recommend logging this movement in the AM. Especially if you’re able to go outdoors, the mornings usually mean fewer people and it’s less likely that you’ll run into conflicts or constraints during those early hours.
So—mark it on your calendar, tell your roommate to wake you up. Do what you need to do to hold yourself accountable. You may grumble all the way outdoors or to your yoga mat but I promise that once you’re there, you won’t regret it.
Here are some of my favorite free workouts:
Even introverts are social creatures. Yup, you heard it here first. Although I’m not struggling socially as much as my extrovert pals, there are some days when I swear I’ve spoken more to my cat more than human beings.
The world we live in is inherently social. We work in open office spaces and live our lives in constant communication. So of course it’s a shock to the system when our physical community is taken away and suddenly we have to learn—or maybe re-learn—how to connect.
As much as social media is helping ease the burden right now, I encourage you to do more than like your friends’ photos. Check in with people individually to see how they’re really doing, set up virtual happy hours or game nights, and send cards, if you can. These gestures, that we might normally ignore or take for granted, count for so much right now. It’s very easy to assume people are doing fine so long as they’re physically well, but with the added stress of job and financial insecurity, online courses, and shifting home environments, you’d be surprised just how many of your friends would really appreciate a touch-base.
Another fun thing I’ve noticed people doing is trying out different social media. Tik Tok is apparently a huge thing (AM I OLD?!) and I’ve been loving watching random celebrities force their families into group dances. If it’s not going to be disruptive, maybe you create a satirical Twitter or IG, join a dating app, or start a Youtube channel. It’s never too late and the time has never been better for these means of virtual connection.
But for as great as social media is, there is someone even the latest iPhone can’t help you get in touch with. When it comes to self-care, taking a short break from your phone and computer can be really helpful for decompressing. Either because of work obligations or boredom, my screen time has gone up significantly since the stay-at-home order began. I get panicky about missing a text from a co-worker or not being there if my parents need to call. And those are all valid concerns, but so is caring for your personal wellbeing.
Every day, I challenge you to set aside at least an hour where your phone is in a different room than you are. Go for a run and leave it at home. Eat dinner while your phone’s on Do Not Disturb in another room. Just get away from that crack devil, even if it’s just for a little while.
There’s no doubt about it, now is one of the strangest and most difficult periods of time many of us will ever encounter. That’s why finding simple pleasures within your day is so critical. Don’t think of these activities and routines as requirements or scold yourself for not doing all of them every day. Instead, just take a little bit of each area and find the groove that works best for you.