Reality Check: Productive Uses of Time

For many of us, regular routines have been disrupted. It looks like the disruption may go on for quite some time, too.
It’s disconcerting when we can’t go about business as usual. The coffee shop is off limits, so folks can’t meet up with their friends in the morning. Many of us can’t go to our workplaces and do our regular jobs. It’s upsetting, and the uncertainty can be frightening.
Another effect may be confusion. In the course of our regular lives, there’s so much to do. While the things to be done are still there waiting to be done, we can’t do a lot of them now. What do you do when you suddenly have unexpected “free” time?
There are, of course, two ways we can look at this—as opportunity or as aggravation. I’m sure you’ve already heard plenty about how to perceive the situation as an aggravation. I’ll do my best to offer possibilities for perceiving it as an opportunity.
What would you like to get done that you normally never have time to do? Perhaps it’s the year to learn a new skill. What can we do that’s productive, as opposed to just putting in time? Maybe you can think of an activity that would bring your family closer together.
For example, we could choose this time as an opportunity to do a “Pandemic Project.” When we look back on this year, what project would you like to have accomplished?
You may have books at home that you love; now’s a time to reread them. Create, draw, paint, play. Write letters!
Learning is always a great use of time. This may be an opportunity to add to your “talent stack,” that collection of skills and knowledge that contributes to making you who you are. Learning can make you more valuable to any workplace, and it can also make you a more interesting and capable human being.
There are lots of learning resources online. For fun with math, my favourite is It’s a non-profit that’s not just for kids, and not just for math. Their learning opportunities have expanded to include science (physics, chemistry, biology.) There’s also electrical engineering, computer science, history, grammar, even storytelling. Khan might not turn you into an engineer, a programmer, or even a storyteller, but this can be an encouraging way to learn and a productive use of time.
Here’s another recommendation. Turn off the TV. Pull your eyes away from the incessant statistics, speculation, criticism, and fear. Of course, we need information. But if you are using the “I need to be informed” rationale to plug yourself in 24/7, ask, “Is this helping me? Or hurting me?”
Try a news/opinion “diet.” Decide what information you really need to stay informed. What information actually helps you decide what to do? Devote the remaining time for things that are genuinely productive for you.
This thought from Naval Ravikant offers perspective: “The virus makes us fear for our health. It imprisons us in our homes and steals our productive time. The virus makes us value our health. It delivers us to our homes and gives us free time. Let’s become the healthiest we’ve ever been.”
Many people may be spending more time together with the people they love, possibly in closer quarters than they are accustomed to. For those of us who have high needs for freedom, the combination of worry and confinement may lead us to interact in ways that reflect something less than our best selves.
We are all in this together. We have choices in how we respond. One way to look at the situation is as an opportunity to build the habit of being our best selves.
What are you doing during this time?

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