Rethinking how we spend our time

I woke up today to be surprised that the dollar was trading at ₹ 76.04 (it’s the highest ever!). I walked the streets to the nearest grocery store (the only open one) and was tempted to stock up 2-3x of what I needed. On my way back, I walked at least a few meters away from others to avoid contact… A lot has happened in recent times, so much that it at times feels like a bad dream that I should wake out of any moment now. Yet, with each passing day, the reality gets more and more clear to me.

To set some context, luckily or unluckily, the idea of quarantine and cutting down on socializing didn’t come forced on me. Around the first week of February, I had already planned on shifting from Bangalore to Manipal (my alma mater city) to focus better on my new venture with the least possible distractions. My team was already working fully remote even then and thus our ways of living were not much impacted when this COVID-19 lockdown worsened. To keep it short, you can read more here.

I’ve pretty much read/watched most content that there is to understand how long it may take for use to recover from this, and if I sit optimistically, it’s still a good while before that happens. What does this mean for us then? What are we supposed to do? Why does all this seem to be difficult when laying down on the bed, sipping coffee and doing nothing for a day is something we thought of as a luxury once. Yes, I’m surprised too.

The more and more I read into it, I start to understand the predictive behavior we collectively are inhibiting. It’s not what has happened but how it has happened that left a void with us and nothing we do seems to fill it. In the last week, I’ve spoken over 30 odd people or so just to check on them and see if they’re doing okay and are safe. Few of the major consequences of this in my attempts to understand were,

  • a good number of us are now having to spend time with ourselves and we don’t know how exactly to do that because we never thought that was important,
  • some of us are taking a pause from simply running around and appreciating what we can do with this time, even so, when it’s offered with a hinging sword on us
  • and yet to my surprise, there are few of us who have gone mostly unaffected by the drastic lifestyle shift we are experiencing

All this compelled me even further to write this out of necessity and with a hope that I can be of some help for people struggling to understand how best to utilize the enforced serfdom.

Staying Positive

“I’ve realized there’s a distinct difference between loneliness and being solitary. There are times when I want to go out but no one is available so I feel ‘lonely’ but then I look around and see laundry and dirty dishes and decide to be productive and exist alone. And then I’m content in my solitude.” ― Jesse E.

This is an excellent example of how relativity can impact us such drastically. How we feel about the current abundance of time, is a function of how we have been utilizing our time so far. If you’ve been over performing with your hours at work, you’d feel quite unproductive and agonize over it. If you’ve been using your time chaotically and were rather unproductive, you’d find this time rather more fulfilling and a way to look back on what better could have been done. The upside of both the case is, you get to focus on one major thing that often gets neglected, YOU.

Think of it this way – when you live alone, your time is accountable only to you, and it’s a really great opportunity to figure out exactly what it is that you actually enjoy doing, and then having the time to actually do it without feeling guilty.

Once you start to think of this as a way of focusing more and more on yourself, and your loved ones, you’ll realize that’s the sole thing that truly matters in the long game. Your mind now starts to be more attentive to events that didn’t seem that important once and yet now you see it were so. Think of doing things more qualitatively than worrying about how much can get done.

How to best spend your time

If all of the above does not seem to help much and you’re looking for ways to utilize this time better here are few suggestions that may help –

Create morning and night routines you love

When you are alone, there are often two prime times loneliness can peak: morning (when you’re lying in bed thinking of the whole day ahead) and evening (when you get home from work and aren’t quite sure how to fill your time). This provides a structure so you know what’s coming and what to look forward to. Having a sense of purpose is an excellent way to combat loneliness

Focus on what you have, not what you don’t have.

I’ve always liked maintaining a journal, and yet never been consistent with it. Recently, I’m trying to change that. It lets me reflect back to any previous date and read up on what things I am thankful for, what did I accomplish, what did I learn and so on. Today, I’m thankful that I can keep a clean house, that I don’t have excessive expenditures, or that the living room is decorated exactly how I like. Small gratifications can be a tremendous boost in keeping up your spirit through this tough time.

Challenge yourself

Start the book you’ve always been meaning to finish, clean up that mess in your wardrobe, start writing the blog you once said you’ll do once you had enough time at hand. The idea here is not to impose anything on you, but you to acknowledge all the things that you once wanted to do and blamed not enough time as an excuse.

I can go further on this but it’s Monday morning, 9 am and all this advice won’t be fitting if I lacked myself on those. Until then, drop your thoughts in the comments.

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