It's currently day 20 in quarantine, and it feels like the coronavirus pandemic will never end. I lived through the 2008 recession, but I was in high school, so I didn't pay much attention to it. Now, 12 years later, I'm a working adult trying to stay safe and sane during a global outbreak.
Like many other people, I’ve never lived through such a catastrophic event. Everywhere from China to Italy is issuing comprehensive quarantine and travel bans for its citizens. Drone footage shows completely empty streets that make San Francisco and New York look like ghost towns.
The coronavirus is hurting everyone in different ways. Currently, about 50,000 people have died from the virus, and about one million are known to be infected.
Over six million Americans filed for unemployment just last week. That statistic becomes worse when you realize that 58% of Americans have under $1,000 in savings.
Almost every major event has been canceled or postponed, including Coachella, the Cannes Film Festival, every sports game, every concert, and even the 2020 Olympics.
Life is on hold for just about everyone. What can you do besides wait for your stimulus check and learn TikTok dances? I certainly won’t claim to have any cure-alls, but I can tell you how I’ve been holding it together:
Maintaining a Schedule
The first thing I realize I needed was adding some order to my life. I’ve had countless weekends where I told myself I was going to do something productive, only to end up wasting time on my phone. I knew I had to do something differently.
I was unemployed and forced to stay at home and had no idea what to do. I could just play video games and watch Netflix all day every day, but what would that accomplish? I have no idea how long this quarantine will last, but I saw it as a blessing in disguise. I could finally accomplish all those things I kept saying I’d get around to eventually.
I started by making a list of what I needed and wanted to do. Obviously, I should focus a bit on job applications, but I could also get around to several personal projects, including freelance writing, reading, cleaning, learning, exercise, and meditation.
This helped me start a healthy morning routine – something I never felt like I had time for when I was working. Nowadays, I start each morning by getting up at 7:00am and jogging to the local library and back. I see a few other runners and dog walkers each morning and make sure to keep my distance.
Then, I do a few at-home workouts when I return. My friends and I are doing a 30-day sit-ups and squats challenge, which has helped me build muscle even without weights.
After, I eat breakfast, meditate, and write in my bullet journal. Then it’s time to work.
I didn't follow my schedule to a T. Rather, it serves as a loose guideline for my routine. There were days when I'd wake up at 7:30am instead of 7:00am. Sometimes my writing would overflow into the next task's timeslot, and I'd have to move that item back. Often, I'd move tasks to the next day.
I spent the first two weeks of my quarantine applying and interviewing for as many jobs as possible. Some of them seemed quite promising, but none of them ever went anywhere. In a few instances, the recruiter told me that the job was put on hold due to the coronavirus. As you might imagine, the market for administrative work isn’t very fruitful right now.
Making a To-Do List
Not worrying about jobs for the time being means that I have even more time on my hands. I didn’t want to waste a single minute, so I made a to-do list of other things I wanted to accomplish. I’d already got my daily healthy habits down, so it was time to expand.
I made a list of everything else I finally had time to complete. I could finally clean out my closet, take online classes, and organize my miscellaneous Google Drive files.
But not everything needs to be productivity-related. I made lists of what video games and books I started, but never completed. I wrote down which albums I wanted to listen to and vowed to hear at least one new album each day. It might sound strange to set goals for recreational activities, but it gives me something to look forward to and adds some much-needed structure.
Limiting Social Media
Getting rid of distractions was probably one of the best things I could do for myself during the quarantine. Only a few days into my quarantine, Android decided to conveniently roll out a feature that limits the time you spend on specific apps. I set timers for my two most significant time wasters: Reddit and Instagram. I restricted myself to 30 minutes a day, though I could ask for extensions if needed.
Often, I'd open Instagram or Reddit the very first thing in the morning. I'd scroll through my feed, save whichever posts caught my attention, and close the app.
This new time-limiting feature helped me realize just how often I was checking my favorite apps. After I started using it, I noticed that I was spending 10-15 minutes on Reddit or Instagram even before I ate breakfast.
I also now use FlowTime and Toggl frequently. It’s a browser extension that functions as a timer. I set mine for 30 minutes at a time and work consistently through it. In other words, it’s the digital version of the Pomodoro Technique.
Staying in Touch With Friends
Humans are social creatures, and we crave human interaction. Well, most of us do. As an introvert, I mostly enjoy the alone time but would go mad if I dealt with complete isolation.
Sadly, I can't see any of my friends in person, which makes some of my hobbies, especially board games, impossible to do. But there are other things you can do.
For example, I make sure to call my girlfriend every night. Sometimes we will watch a program together on Netflix or just talk until we fall asleep. We switch up the activity each night to make it fun. It’s yet another recreational activity that I’ve turned into a routine.
Preparing for the Future
We don’t know how long our quarantine will last. Trump says it could maybe go into July or August. Dr. Anthony Fauci says that we could get one in 12-18 months, and that’s a generous estimate. Vaccines need to go through a lengthy process of animal testing, human trials, and FDA approval – a process that often takes years.
However, the pandemic won’t last forever. Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but I think our lives will return to normal eventually.
When the coronavirus is finally contained, how will you look back on the time you spent in isolation? Did you emerge as a better person? Did you learn any new skills or accomplish any goals?
Consider how you’ll spend the next few months. What you do now will impact your future.
For example, I’m working on brushing up my writing skills and getting a portfolio together. I’ve started my own blog, created a portfolio, and spent a lot of time unsuccessfully pitching to editors.
I’m also getting back into photography. My original goal was to get better at travel photography, but that’s obviously not an option currently. So I’ve been studying poses and camera techniques. I practice different shots on houseplants.
Plus, I invest spare cash in the stock market. I set alerts for when index funds hit new 52-week lows, so I know when to buy. The market will recover, just like it did after the Dot-com bubble, 2008 recession, and countless similar events.
If I had one takeaway, it’d be this: do something today that you’ll thank yourself for later. Time is something we all wish we had more of. I've got a whole lot more time on my plate, and I intend to make good use of it. What will you do with your spare time?