The COVID-19 outbreak and the current lockdown appear to be taking their toll on my ability to measure time. Natalie put it best the other day, when she announced that, essentially, ‘every day’s a Tuesday’. The hours, days and weeks roll together into one long period of foggy uncertainty. Thankfully, though, I’m slowly finding ways to manage my temporal confusion and to keep things on track.
Back when the world was normal, I had a range of activities that helped to demarcate time and to differentiate one day from another. Or, at the very least, to differentiate the working week from the weekend. Without these, though, it’s very easy to just keep working away at my desk or to allow individual tasks to take up far more of my time than they really should.
This isn’t helpful or productive. And it makes a difficult situation even worse. So to counteract this and to help me to take control of my time a little more effectively, I’ve developed a series of coping strategies.
I’m trying as best as I can to keep to my normal ‘working day’ schedule, not least because I am actually still working. I did this anyway when I was working from home in normal times, but I find it even more important now to start work at about 9am, to take a break for lunch at midday and to work until about 6pm or so. Oh, and I try to make sure that I only spend ‘work’ time on actual ‘work’. Anything else has to wait for the evening or the weekend.
Speaking of weekends, Natalie and I try to make sure that the weekend looks at least a little bit different from the working week. While we obviously can’t jump in the car and go to the beach like we usually would, I do take the dogs for a longer walk in the morning and try to spend a few hours in the garden. We also do the bulk of the household chores, like the laundry and the cleaning. (It’s all glamour here.)
I’m trying to keep up a decent exercise regime. I’m not doing as much running as before, as the ‘one form of exercise a day’ rule means that I have to combine the morning dog walk, a cross-country run and the dogs’ ‘agility’ session into one epic charge through the countryside each day. (Natalie does the evening walk.) But I still do a half hour or so of strength and conditioning training first thing in the morning and try not to spend all of the rest of the day slumped at my desk.
I’m also making a conscious effort not to comfort eat or to stuff myself with snacks, though I’m sure Natalie won’t hesitate to point out that results on this front are variable, at best. Still, we eat lunch together and cook a fairly healthy meal each evening. And I’ve managed to go a whole couple of weeks without a bowl of crunchy nut, which is a win in my book. (Crunchy nut, as you’ll know, works as a breakfast, a lunch or a dinner. Or, indeed, as all three.)
And I’m trying to keep various projects ticking over, rather than letting things slide because of the rather exceptional (and not in a good way) circumstances in which we find ourselves. There’s been an element of improvisation, of course, but I’m managing to keep Ozzy’s search dog training going. I’m doing an online course on archaeological excavation. And I’ve managed to keep up (so far) with seed sowing and other horticultural projects in the garden.
Most of all, though, I’ve been cutting myself some slack. As I wrote a while ago, what we’re going through at the moment is so much more than simply ‘working from home’. It’s an absolutely horrible period of fear and uncertainty from which few of us will emerge entirely unscathed. So if we need to take a bit of a time out every now and again, or to be a bit less productive than usual, I say that’s only human.
Stay safe, everyone.