It was about time the world came to a standstill. All the busyness, all the hustle and bustle have been numbed by the fragility of life. While this has created a lot of panic and chaos in the world, I feel that at the same time it has brought peace and tranquillity. The planes are being held to the ground, people are kept indoors and businesses have shut down indefinitely. The markets are now close, supermarkets have empty shelves, events have been cancelled, news have mostly being reduced to one daily update… it all feels apocalyptic.
But, there is one big positive thing that comes out of this. The time we gain. Time is our most invaluable resource, that most of us don’t normally have enough of. For once, we now have the most amount of time possible (whilst continuing to work or study at the same rate, but from home).
All the external factors that would normally hijack our time, like the commute to work, going places, commitments to attend, events, the urge to travel and shop and other social distractions have all been removed, as we are forced to stay indoors and distance ourselves from one another. This creates the most amount of time we’ve ever had and this is something to cherish.
We now have the possibility to attend to and appreciate our homes more, discover new things that we enjoy doing in the comfort of our home, cultivate new hobbies and skills and spend more time with our partners. And I love this! I have been longing for this feeling of idefinite finding and mental space, for a long, long time. Normally, I would spend my day working for 10 hours and commuting for 2 hours, so my time and headspace were squeezed to a minimum. But not anymore! Now, I feel free and liberated from the crushing feeling of not having enough time to do the things that I love the most. Now I have so much time, that I need to be careful in how I structure it in order to use it productively and make the most of it.
Most of us workers will save at least in 1 to 2 hours daily, by not having to commute to work. Plus, the lack of interruptions, distractions, places to be or things to do outside of our homes creates even more time and it’s so blissful. When are we ever going to have this privilege again? We should all be so grateful for this precious gift of time.
This time is different from the free time you may have during the holidays or when you take annual leave from work. On those occasions, your free time can still be hijacked by social commitments, events, travels, leisure activities outside of your home, friends and family visits. By contrast, all of these distractions have now been enforcedly removed from your schedule, leaving you with the time for complete relaxation, reflection, self-discovery and the pursuit of your highest interest(s) that you never had enough time for before.
For example, when I go on holiday, I never feel that I can fully enjoy a blissful block of uninterrupted time. Especially, when I travel to a new place (which happens in most holidays), I feel the urge to explore, to engage in local activities, to film and take pictures, to run, swim, exercise and play. While this is a great way to enjoy a new place and to relax, it often leaves me with not much time left for my inner pursuits, like blogging, writing, video editing, organising my content and reading literature.
Similarly, during the festive holidays, when the world takes a break, I feel the natural urge to travel and spend that cheerful time with my family, which again doesn’t leave much personal time for self-reflection and the creative things that derive from it. I also tend to succumb to all the shopping attractions that the retail world creates around that time of the year like end-of-year sale, festive events, extended shopping hours. But now, it’s all so different. All the stores have shut down indefinitely and they don’t even have enough active workers to send us enticing offers that lure us to spend time on their websites or enough order fulfillment capabilities to be able to provide a good and timely service. This, to me, feels so wonderful. No distractions, no unnecessary decisions to be made, no money wasted, just a pure and vast newly created universe of uninterrupted time.
How are you planning to make the most of this precious time? Here are my top tips:
1. Make a to-do list in the morning when you wake up
Create the flow rather than go with the flow of the day. Starting the day with the top 5 things you wish to accomplish on that day will steer your mind towards accomplishing them. Without this list, your mind will waste energy continually thinking about what to do, perhaps even getting distracted switching form one thing to another in the search or the best ways to fill that time.
In terms of the number of items on your daily to-do list, I recommend keeping it to a maximum of 5. You might even consider limiting it to 3, if you have complex or ambitious projects to tackle like DIY, book writing, video editing and so on.
Better to do well the top 3 or top 5 most important things for you than to clutter your day with lots of insignificant activities which will not bring you any personal content at the end of the day. For your mental state and personal satisfaction try not to succumb to the things that might be easy to tackle (and potentially preferred by your mind naturally prone to leisure and shortcuts) at the expense of not having enough time or energy for the things that can bring you higher satisfaction.
2. Exercise (ideally in nature)
Exercising will enable you to get the right amount of oxygen to your mind and body, which will, in turn, enable you to be productive and energetic throughout the day. If you don’t like exercising, particularly in the morning when is the most optimal time to do so (in order to reap out its benefits throughout the entire day), then I recommend combining it with a chore that you can schedule to do first thing after waking up.
For example, I often need to go to the post office in the morning and therefore take the opportunity to run there and back. This is my exercise for the day. Probably I wouldn’t do it consistently every day, if I didn’t have a higher purpose (above exercising, which I can talk myself out of) like going to the post office. You can find any reason to run places, such as going to the supermarket for a top-up that you can run back with, going to the bank, o any other errands that you may need to do in town. You can also use self-gratification, like the first cup of coffee that you will enjoy after you finish exercising as an incentive to propel you to start exercising. Starting is the hardest part, once you’ve got your mind in a good place to want to exercise your body, your body will just follow.
Once you have finished exercising, you will feel invigorated, uplifted, productive (as you will have already used the first X minutes of your day doing the most productive thing your body can do), and will be keen to continue the day as you started. Exercising in the morning kickstarts your inner engine and replenishes it with self-generating fuel for a long time. That is why exercising in the morning is the best thing you can do to ensure you are making the most of your time throughout the day.
3. Get ready for the day
Once you finish exercising, getting ready for the day will ensure you continue to cultivate your productivity. I do not recommend putting on a full suit or the clothes you would wear in the office, but instead, wearing comfortable clothes that can still trick your mind into thinking you are in a work-ish mode. For example, I find wearing casual shirts achieves this purpose (whenever I put on a casual shirt, it instantly lifts up my mental state from a dormant state), or any clothes that are presentable enough to go into town with. Following through with your skincare and beauty routine even when you don’t need to leave the house, will also ensure that you are getting your mind into a state of desiring to accomplish things and make the most of the precious time that you have at your disposal.
Even though I am not fancy enough to wear make-up, I really enjoy wearing perfume and so I put it on even when I am by myself in the house. I love floral and fruity scents from Jo Malone, they are so uplifting and so I take the opportunity to spritz on my favourite perfume whenever I feel like I lack energy or need a little boost. It works wonders.
In the same realm, I love to spritz my face with hydra-mist whenever I feel like I am succumbing into tiredness and need a pick-me up. I often have The Grown Alchemist or Aveda tonic mist on my desk near me, ready to apply when I feel the need to refresh myself instantly.
4. Clean your house / your space
I think it’s nearly impossible to feel productive when your environment is messy and disorganised. By cleaning your space, you are not only creating the optimal space to feel contempt and willing to achieve things for yourself, but the physical act of cleaning puts you into a dynamic state of mind that gets your creative juices flowing.
Maintaining your space tidy is as important as the initial house clean. This entails the keeping up with the routine of small but frequent cleans, like tidying up after yourself regularly, putting your things away after you finish using them, doing the dishes, cleaning up the kitchen and dining room after each meal, and making your bed in the morning.
5. Organise your digital content
I find that in this digital age we accumulate so much content that the mere thought of going through it seems overwhelming. Now that our phones have so much memory that can store thousands and thousands of pictures, videos, screenshots and clips, we keep accumulating them but never actually revisit them. This is because going though a sea of unorganised content can seem like you would drown in it.
Downloading our digital files from our phones into our computers and organising them into appropriately named folders is the admin task that we never make time for. But now, we have the unique opportunity of having enough time to dedicate to this arduous activity. And we should take it like a therapy and another opportunity to cleanse our (digital) space.
6. Pursue the top 3 things you ever wanted to do but didn’t have enough time for (provided you can do it from home)
Use the extra time that you now have wisely, by doing the things that you had put off for a very long time. Now it’s the time to dedicate yourself to the things that bring you joy. Now it’s the time to indulge yourself in the deeper things that may lead you to acquire a new skill like learning to play an instrument, knitting, editing videos, putting your thoughts on paper… things that you have longed to do for ages, but which you had to put because of not having enough time to even start them. As they may be things you are deeply interested in, and therefore potentially more intellectually challenging, you may have used the time scarcity as an excuse to not tackle them. Now, you have the time, you have everything. Go start.