To steal a word that so many politicians are already overusing: We’re living in unprecedented times. As this is written, around the world there are countries taking steps to attempt to limit the spread of what is commonly referred to as the coronavirus or COVID-19. Most of the steps involve limiting people in their travels and social interaction. In the United States this has many state governors issuing “Stay at home” orders; orders issued and legal (allegedly) under their powers during a State of Emergency. Government workers who can even partially do their jobs from home are being told to telework. Schools are closed and parents who never even considered home-schooling their kids are trying to come up with something to teach them each day, and ways to fill the time with entertainment for the rest of each day. Believe it or not, there are plenty of people who don’t have school age children and those people are still trying to figure out what to do with their day. Some (a lot?) have turned to day drinking for entertainment. Some are binge watching any TV show anyone says isn’t terrible. Some others are using the time to get ahead in a lot of ways. I thought it might be a good idea to look at some ways we could productively use the time available rather than potentially wasting it as we get through the current crisis.
I have previously written about the strength and importance of journaling. As we pass through this era of COVID-19 and all that comes with it, we may not realize it but history is being made. No matter how old you are, you have a perspective on this and the events surrounding us. That perspective is unique to you and may be of value both to you and your children / ancestors at some point in the future. Think about writing each day about what you did, what you thought, how you felt and what the day brought. What will tomorrow bring? What are your hopes for it? It doesn’t matter if you journal by typing on your computer or writing in an actual paper notebook, but spend some time each day documenting your thoughts and feelings. Pay special attention to any of the lessons you feel you’ve learned. They may prove of great value to someone else who yet needs to learn them.
“I don’t have time,” is the number one excuse used by people not to exercise. Ironically, being in good health is one of the primary ways of defeating COVID-19 (or any other disease) if you get infected. So… exercise. Eat just a little cleaner (aim for less red meat, more fruits and veggies). Walk. Jump rope. Run. Lift weights. Do some cardio kickboxing. It really doesn’t matter. You have time to burn. The time you spend exercising is an investment in your health and if you don’t see current conditions as encouragement to invest in your health, then you have simply doomed yourself to a life (however long or short) of unhealthy misery. One hour of exercise represents 4% of your day. A half hour is 2%. 2%! If you can’t invest 2% of your day in your own health and potential survival, stop making excuses and just admit you don’t care enough about yourself to take the first steps.
Begin or Complete (or both) a Craft Project
My wife has bags full of cross-stitch… or needlepoint. I can never remember which is which and which one she does. If she weren’t so busy studying for a new certification, I’d be encouraging her to open up those bags and start working on what used to be one of her favorite hobbies. As time permits for her, I will encourage her to do that. Even if she does it while watching TV, she can still do it. Many of us have projects we’ve been putting off for whatever reason. I’ve had a beautiful cigar box in my basement for a year waiting for me to turn it into an equally beautiful pistol display box. I got that one done last week. Now I’m looking for my next project. I’m sure you have at least one you could get done.
While millions of people watch TV for hours per day, how many people read for an hour each day? It works different parts of your brain and offers you a chance to work your imagination. Whether you read on an ereader like a kindle or actual bound books with covers and paper pages, just read. Read something educational. Read something entertaining. Read true crime or total fiction. Read about some segment of history that always interested you. Now you have the time to study it. Parents, read whatever your teenagers are reading. (That’s how I ended up reading the whole Twilight and Harry Potter series). It’s good to know what they’re reading and what outlooks are being expressed in those pages. What are those authors teaching your children? What are their friends talking about? What is the popular opinion about something? Do vampires really sparkle? Okay… that last question doesn’t matter much, but the rest does. Be aware of what your children are reading and what it’s teaching them. It may be fantastic. It may not be. If you don’t know you can’t act accordingly.
Learn a Language
DuoLingo is a free app for your phone, iPad, computer, etc. It allows you to learn a language and is pretty easy to use. There are plenty of languages available. I never realized how much Spanish I already knew until I started studying it with my wife. I had never before even contemplated learning Scottish Gaelic until I started studying it with my son. I need to invest more time in both. Spanish is one of the top three most spoken languages on the planet. Scottish Gaelic may be, for all intents and purposes, a nearly dead language. To me that makes them both cool to learn… and it’s FREE. It just costs me some time and studying. It’s self-improvement.
Build a Time Capsule
This is a project I’ve been working on sporadically for years now. It seems to evolve faster than the time goes by. Pick a small container – say lunch box size – and figure out what you can put in it that would give someone in the future a glimpse into your day to day life TODAY. How far in the future? That can be set or it can be entirely unknown. I was present when a time capsule was opened in a Masonic lodge after 50 years of being held in secure storage. I’m working on a time capsule that I intend to put inside a retaining wall I’m building at my house. It may never be found… or it might be found fifty years from now when the house is being torn down for whatever reason. I have another I’m building that I will hand down to one of my children, asking that they hand it down to one of their grandchildren. Should I ask that that grandchild (my great-grandchild) hold it and hand it down to one of THEIR grandchildren? How about if I just entrust it to family care until a given year? How about 2120? The possibilities are pretty cool. What would you put in one? Go ahead. Build it.
Do Your Spring Cleaning Now
Easily my least exciting option, but viable none the less. It may not be officially spring yet but in a lot of places in the United States the temperatures are springlike. It’s the perfect time to clean, reorganize, throw away, etc. It’s the perfect time to clean out your garage or basement or attic. Complete that landscaping project you wanted to get done. Refinish that chest of drawers you’ve been wanting to get done. THOROUGHLY clean your car. Get the shop-vac out and strip the inside of your car as much as you can; dust, clean, vacuum. Wash it, wax it. Clean the windows. The added benefit is that you’ll have damned near sanitized it when you’re done.
These are all projects you can take on to help pass time but to also help you feel productive and satisfied with how you invested your time. They all involve mental exercise and physical activity of some kind. Don’t waste this time we all seem to have available and then complain about everything you’re not able to get done. Do some of it!