Are you wasting your “free time”?

Which type of person are you?

Are you spending your quarantine time at home, reading books, watching Netflix, doing jigsaw puzzles, and enjoying the heck out of it? Or maybe you’re industriously cooking and gardening, retooling your business to provide virtual services, cleaning and organizing your entire house, catching up on home repairs, learning a foreign language, and writing the next Great American Novel…? If so, this post is not for you. Carry on! You’re doing great!

If, on the other hand, you feel you are “wasting time”, and you’re feeling guilty about it…. or if you’re thinking, “Free time? What free time?!?!”, then this post is for you!

If you haven't been very productive lately, give yourself a break! Things are hard right now. Click To Tweet

These are not normal circumstances

Many of us are 7 weeks into quarantine by now. 7 weeks? Wow. That’s a long time. Under normal circumstances, just imagine what we all might have accomplished during that time! But these are not normal circumstances. None of us has ever lived through a pandemic before, and we are all affected in different ways. All of us are shell-shocked with continually changing and conflicting information about COVID-19. Our lives have all been disrupted. But the similarities end there. Our employment and financial situations vary wildly, as do our living arrangements and health conditions. Even in the best of times, we all have different ways of coping with uncertainty and stress.

It simply takes more time and energy now to do and think about things we never had to worry about before. Like working from home when you never did before, while the kids are home, which they never were before. Toilet paper shortage? Masks? Social distancing? Comorbidities? Ugh!

We are all weathering the same storm, but our boats range from yachts to dinghies. Some of us may be shipwrecked, and others caught in an eddy. I hope your boat is weathering the storm and you aren’t too seasick!

To be productive? Or not to be productive?

Ah, that’s the question! I have read umpteen articles about HOW to be productive at this time, and an equal number of articles advocating that we give ourselves a break and not expect so much of ourselves, or others, at this time. It is a big enough topic that I have linked to several of these articles in the “Stay Productive and Focused (…or not…)” section of my Survive & Thrive Resource Roundup, which I update frequently. If you feel like you’re wasting time, I recommend reading one or more of them.

As for myself, I vacillate between being unproductive and feeling bad about it and being unproductive and not feeling bad about it. LOL? Actually, I’ve been productive in ways that are driven by the need to understand our collective situation, and to help where I can (resulting in new blog posts, resource roundups, newsletters, and social media posts). But I’m feeling the need to get back to my pre-pandemic projects: client work, Mom’s Boxes, genealogy research, finishing my book: What’s a Photo without the Story? A guide to telling the stories of your photos, family, and things.

Do you need a new schedule?

Part of the problem with quarantine is that no one really knows when it will end. Various parts of the country (and world) are “re-opening” now. Others will be slower to re-open. Even when everything is open everywhere, there will be individuals — like me, and maybe you? — who will need and want to continue to stay home. And then there is sure to be a “second wave”, if not a third, of illness and death. I will talk more about schedules in a future post. For now, though, if you had a routine that went out the window 7 weeks ago, and if you’re not returning to your old routine anytime soon, and if you haven’t yet settled into a new routine, it’s probably time. It will make you feel better (she says to herself).

How about a day off?

I recently took a day off and it did me a world of good. How did I know it was a day off if I’m home 24/7 anyway, and didn’t go anywhere? Well, I purposely did no work. No virtual clients, no planning, no writing, no personal tasks or projects, even. Nothing but guilt-free TV, hot tub, a previously-scheduled Zoom chat, audiobook, and jigsaw puzzle. OK, I did order groceries. But that’s all. Not even laundry. Every time I thought of a task that needed doing, I told myself, “Not today, it’s my day off. Put it on the list.” (My list is ALWAYS handy.) Or, “It’s already on the list. It can wait.” If you haven’t taken a day off lately, as I hadn’t, I highly recommend it! Do you need permission to take care of yourself? You’ve got it!

Are you thriving? Or merely surviving?

Thriving in the midst of chaos is a wonderful thing. But surviving is an accomplishment too! It’s good enough. And it’s much better than not surviving. Right?

Please take a moment to check out my Survive & Thrive Resource Roundup, which is updated frequently, including the following categories:

  • Stay Informed
  • Stay Healthy
  • Stay Prepared and Helpful
  • Stay Productive and Focused (…or not…)
  • Stay Grateful, Creative, Entertained, and Inspired
  • Stay Connected
  • Stay Calm

Have you been productive lately? Not so much? Feeling guilty? Got tips for us?

Please share in the comments below!

Copyright 2020 by Hazel Thornton, Organized for Life.
I welcome social media links directly to this page!
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  1. Jane M Severance on May 2, 2020 at 12:02 pm

    I have been having a lot of difficulty adjusting to the new normal and Hazel touched on a lot of my issues. One thing I’ve had to battle is that whole cheery Facebook expectation that I’m going to not only be upbeat but spend the whole quarantine becoming a better person. I’m just not going to take classes and find a Spanish conversation group. That wasn’t the kind of thing I enjoyed before – why should I like it now?

    I have ordered a mini trampoline and think I will feel better with more exercise. Also, I have began testing my blood sugar three or four times a day. There is so much I can’t control, but I can control my blood sugar. The better I feel physically, I hope, the better I am going to feel emotionally.

    So, at the moment, feeling more like surviving than thriving. But there are ducklings at Wilson Pond and my sister is waiting for a walk!

    • Lucy Kelly on May 4, 2020 at 3:48 pm

      a mini trampoline is an AWESOME idea, thanks for mentioning it Jane!

    • Julie Bestry on May 6, 2020 at 2:17 pm

      I’m with you, Jane — we may not be able to control much, but we can definitely have some impact on what our A1c tests will look like when we next get checked. Enjoy the ducklings.

    • Hazel Thornton on May 6, 2020 at 2:32 pm

      Yes, I think we ALL need to take better care of ourselves and focus on what we CAN control. And I know you’ll enjoy the mini-trampoline because you did before.

  2. Kathy on May 2, 2020 at 1:20 pm

    I LOVE the idea of taking a day off! I need that, need a day that is markedly different and guilt free.

    • Hazel Thornton on May 7, 2020 at 7:02 am

      Please give it a try and report back!

  3. Donna Matthews on May 4, 2020 at 7:16 am

    Has there ever been a truer statement? “All of us are shell-shocked with continually changing and conflicting information about COVID-19. ” I too vacillate between widely productive days and stay in my pajama days. I do, however, find setting structure and goals first thing in the morning comforting and beneficial for my mental health

    • Hazel Thornton on May 7, 2020 at 7:05 am

      I do think most people benefit from a little structure. The ones who resist it are imagining too much structure and don’t realize they’re in control.

  4. Seana Turner on May 4, 2020 at 7:50 am

    I’d have to say I am batting 50%. I have surges of productivity, and am committed to a couple of projects. I have maintained a few virtual clients (perhaps a new one today!), but haven’t been face to face with clients. I have an unpack scheduled for two weeks from now, when I’m hopeful this will be “ok.” The weather has been undermining my attempts to work outside. This past weekend was great, but we are headed back to highs in the low 50s for the foreseeable, which is bumming me out. All in all, I think I’m doing the best I can, trying to keep my distance and still get things done. I keep reminding myself that humans have endured much worse, and it is important to be thankful and merciful, with myself and everyone else.

    • Hazel Thornton on May 6, 2020 at 2:50 pm

      We have been fortunate to have good weather lately in Albuquerque. But I have yet to take full advantage of it. I do think gratitude is key to survival!

  5. Stacey Agin Murray on May 4, 2020 at 9:22 am

    When this all started, my husband and I compiled a list of tasks we needed to complete in our house. I’d say we’ve completed about a third of them. Between creating Olympic-level meal planning strategies, helping my kids get through their online learning and stay occupied in their down time, and navigating this new coronavirus world, I have very little ‘free time’ for personal growth or productivity. On the flip side, I’m enjoying the time spent with my kids and hubby. I wouldn’t say I’m thriving but I’m definitely doing better than ‘surviving.’ Only a little seasickness on this boat (mainly seasonal allergies..)

    • Hazel Thornton on May 6, 2020 at 2:55 pm

      I’m glad you are enjoying your family. Can you imagine if one was stuck at home NOT enjoying one’s family? Ugh! And I can relate with the allergies. Am I coughing? Well, yes, but it’s been windy and my house has gotten dusty, so…(that’s kinda new for me as a symptom — coughing in a dusty environment regardless of the season).

  6. Janet Barclay on May 4, 2020 at 9:44 am

    After reading your definition of a day off, I realize I haven’t taken on throughout this whole time. If I’m not working on client work or other business tasks, I’m working on a personal project. Maybe this weekend I’ll take a totally down day.

    • Hazel Thornton on May 6, 2020 at 2:56 pm

      Please do, and report back!

      • Janet Barclay on May 20, 2020 at 7:22 am

        We just had a three-day weekend here in Canada, and I decided to take the whole time off. I guess I’m just not good at it though, because I ended up creating a new personal blog, But I didn’t do anything else that I usually do so I think it counts. It was great!

        • Hazel Thornton on May 21, 2020 at 10:45 am

          I think your use of a weekend off was perfect for YOU. You either were suddenly inspired and felt free to act, or you’d been thinking of it for a long time and previously felt you didn’t have the time. I know the creativity and mechanics of setting up a new blog for the fun of it was playtime for you. Good job!

          • Janet Barclay on May 21, 2020 at 11:00 am

            I used to keep a spreadsheet of the flavors I’ve tried which for whatever reason I stopped, but recently referred to it and found it useful. Spreadsheets aren’t very interesting (which may be why I stopped updating it) but a simple blog with photos is fun, even if no one else reads it.

  7. Sabrina Quairoli on May 4, 2020 at 10:18 am

    I found that, for me, productivity ebbs and flows through this pandemic. On Saturday, I cleared out a lot of paper and decluttered my cabinets. But, on Sunday, I just cooked, watched shows, and did exercise. At the beginning of this pandemic, I found that I was judging myself for not doing stuff. I had to keep telling myself, that it is OK to be unproductive and that I will get it done eventually. That worked and now I stopped planning the weekend out to minimize my anxiety of getting the list done. Thanks for reminding us to practice self-care through this process.

    • Hazel Thornton on May 6, 2020 at 2:56 pm

      Sound like you’ve got the hang of it! I can relate to the ebbs and flows.

  8. Linda Samuels on May 4, 2020 at 12:34 pm

    As I read your post, I kept thinking, “Yes, yes, and yes, me too!” But when you wrote about taking a day off, I realized that I hadn’t done that in all of these weeks. I will take parts of days or do less on certain days (like the weekends,) but I always have “something” on my list. And you know what? That’s not so good. I mean, it might sound good, as in trying to be productive and accomplish at least one thing in a day. But truthfully, I hadn’t identified that I actually need a break- a very specific ENTIRE day break. So thank you for that reminder. I needed it.

    I’m sure this is partly due to guilt. Since I don’t feel as productive as I had in pre-pandemic times, I somehow feel that I need to do at least one productive thing a day. But I’m going to revisit that. The uncertainty in the world and worry over my loved ones have been energy draining. I need to extend more kindness and self-care than I have been.

    • Hazel Thornton on May 6, 2020 at 2:58 pm

      It reallly helped me. I might be due for another day off!

  9. Lucy Kelly on May 4, 2020 at 3:53 pm

    I’ve been taking the afternoons off. I keep to my routine in the mornings and then after lunch, I take a few hours to read or nap or chat to people. It feels like a good way to untie myself from screens, and I’m laughing because I kept saying I was going to take time for myself but it didn’t happen until I scheduled it. Such an organizer.

    • Hazel Thornton on May 6, 2020 at 2:58 pm

      Nothing wrong with the way you’re doing it!

  10. Ronni Eisenberg on May 4, 2020 at 10:11 pm

    I enjoyed reading this because you made so many great points. My only tip is that all of us should just “be.” We don’t have a playbook to fall upon and measure ourselves, what we should do and what we shouldn’t do. As you pointed out, we are all coping differently and that’s ok.
    My only hope is that every single person does the best they can to take care of themselves and be healthy, stay safe, and do their part to make sure that the next person does too.

    • Hazel Thornton on May 6, 2020 at 2:59 pm

      Yes, we need to take care of ourselves…..and each other.

  11. Janet Schiesl on May 5, 2020 at 5:47 am

    I found that I have a similar flow to my day, but to the extreme. What I mean is that mornings have always been my most productive time of day and it still is. Afternoon, I am way less productive in the afternoons. Lately completely unproductive in the afternoons. I even try to nap each afternoon, which has never been part of my day. Because of this I have more energy in the evening and have used that energy to cook more, better, nicer dinners. I’d like to incorporate this into my life when we move into the new normal, so maybe I’ll also try to incorporate a nap in the future as well.

    • Hazel Thornton on May 6, 2020 at 3:01 pm

      I hope we all do that — identify the new/lovely/creative things about this experience, and incorporate them into our lives going forward.

  12. Julie Bestry on May 6, 2020 at 2:23 pm

    OMG, Hazel, every point is perfect. And yes, this week, I’m definitely feeling seasick!

    I readily at admit that I’m being more busy than productive. I’m getting some blog posts written and watching a lifetime’s worth of webinars. But I’m not actively marketing, I’m not pulled to try to get virtual clients during this time. (It still feels crass to loudly market when people are anxious, broke, sick, mourning, and dying on such a large scale; I try not to judge anyone else, but it just wouldn’t feel authentic or sit right with me.) So, I’m go-go-going, even to the point that my DVR is filling up with things I’d normally be eager to watch but I’m trying to get in even more webinars and wisdom. But there’s always a twinge of guilt for not being more professionally productive during this time.

    But you hit the nail on the head. I haven’t taken a single “day off” where I do nothing for work or home, just for me. Not just during the pandemic, but I’m not sure I’ve taken a 100% day off since Thanksgiving! You’ve inspired me to do that this weekend; I think it could make all the difference!

    • Hazel Thornton on May 6, 2020 at 2:28 pm

      Oh, Julie, I hope you do take a true day off, and I hope it helps. And I hope you report back!

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