I was thinking lately that there’s one group of people that’s really going to be hit hard financially by the coronavirus…
I know what you’re thinking… boo-freaking-hoo, right?
COVID-19 recently affected my own travel plans, as we nearly got stuck in Europe when Trump announced the (latest 🙄) travel ban.
We managed to get home to New Jersey by the skin of our teeth, but unfortunately had to abandon our luggage that we’d left in Germany that we didn’t have time to go and back and collect before the ban kicked in!
(Side note: if anyone can recommend a cheap courier service that’ll ship our suitcases to the states, please let me know in the comments and I’ll send you candy 😉)
We landed at JFK last Friday and sailed through passport control, sans temperature-checking, virus-testing or anything out of the ordinary (we were expecting all of that, and more). And considering the carnage that I saw took place at US airports the following day (people waiting 6 hours to get to baggage claim), we realised just how really f*cking lucky we were.
And now we’re home, military-mandated self-quarantined for two weeks. So far we’ve used the time to catch up on washing clothes, disinfecting all of our belongings that touched airport surfaces, cleaned the house (all the while thinking “ffs Steph why wouldn’t you do this before your trip?”) and catching up with all the messages from family who were worried we’d been stranded.
Today’s been the first ‘working day’ back.
And yet, as many of you other small business owners will have probably found, there’s really not much work going around right now.
For many employees who’ve had their work places close up, or may be showing symptoms and were therefore told to go home, you’re learning that being at home 24/7 isn’t quite the awesome endeavour it seems.
And so I’ve put together a list of ten things you can be doing if you find yourself with free time that’ll enrich your quarantine experience, and your life beyond!:
1. PLAN A DAILY SCHEDULE
This one goes for both remote workers *and* also those with all the time in the world to play Sudoku and Netflix-binge.
If you’re in the latter category, being stuck at home with no work, you might initially be thrilled with the novelty. It will quickly get dull, trust me.
Write yourself up a schedule to keep yourself sane so you don’t find yourself sat all day scrolling through Instagram — it won’t be good for your eyes or your mental health. If you plan on trying to keep working out, reading books and doing other useful things like learning a language, ensure you write a daily schedule and to-do lists to make sure that happens.
If you are working from home and still have a boss to answer to, planning a daily schedule for yourself will keep you accountable. Especially if you’re not used to working remotely, suddenly having all of your home comforts around can be highly distracting.
When I first found myself remote working, I procrastinated to the nth degree: I’d keep picking up my phone every few minutes to check Twitter, keep getting up checking the fridge, getting into arguments about capitalism on aforementioned Twitter… I was useless.
And then I planned myself a schedule and suddenly I had an enforced routine. By the hour, I knew when I was to do research, when I was to write content, when I was to check events plans. And I scheduled myself in time to spend on my phone and time to read a book or play piano (because, honestly, if you can’t benefit from working from home somehow with the extra free time you’d have spent commuting, what’s the freaking point?!).
Becoming an effective remote worker = HUGE bargaining power. If you can be more productive whilst working from home, you can argue for this flexibility in the future, not just when the coronavirus has us grounded. Which leads me onto….
2. UPDATE YOUR CV
I don’t know about the rest of the world, but this is one of those tasks that most of us Brits put off just because we don’t like talking about ourselves or our own achievements. Even a gentle humble-brag is rough going.
Use the free time you have now to write down a list of all of your latest career achievements and massage your skills into an engaging CV. Update your LinkedIn while you’re at it too.
And if you’re self employed, be sure to update the Projects and Testimonials pages on your website to reflect your latest work.
3. WARDROBE CLEAN OUT
I’m sure this is on everyone’s to-do lists considering it’s Spring Clean time anyway!
Clearing out your wardrobe is beneficial for multiple reasons:
- makes choosing a daily outfit much easier
- it makes organising freshly laundered clothing a more pleasant experience
- creates a healthier relationship with your belongings by not taking for granted what you own
Go through your clothes with purpose. Be ruthless.
And then anything you don’t wear anymore, prep into bags ready to be donated to charity or to a shelter. Leave these bags by the front door so that donating them is the first thing you do after your quarantine period is over.
4. LEARN TO MAKE A NUT ROAST
The state of our supermarkets should be a warning enough that meat is hard to come by in times of crisis.
There’s never been a better time to start finding some vegetarian meals you love if you haven’t already!
The most recent new recipe I learned was a nut roast, at Christmas. It’s a flavourful meat substitute that’s part of a roast dinner. It was fairly complicated but I’m glad I took the time to learn how to make it — this is the recipe I used.
Also while you’re at it…
You have a few weeks without much to do… go through your food cupboards! You’ll be amazed at the treats you’ll find. And the out-of-date stuff. And the almost-out-of-date stuff that you should use immediately. This article will help you find recipes out of the ingredients you already own.
5. FREE UP SPACE ON YOUR PHONE
My iPhone currently sits at 6,529 photos. I’ve only had it seven months, and I didn’t import any photos onto the phone when I got it. These are all. fresh. photos.
It literally drains me every time I see that staggering number — more so knowing that a bunch of these photos are duplicates and I need to spend the time going through deleting the ones I don’t want rather than just backing up the whole lot.
If you also have this issue, use your time wisely now. Set yourself 20 minutes at a time throughout your days to go through and delete duplicates, back up to-keeps, and just generally having a good clean out of your folders.
You also might want to do this on your memory cards too if you use them for a camera.
6. HAVE A SPA DAY
Mostly because this is an uber important time to work on our mental health, in order to boost our immune systems. And also because you deserve it.
This is actually one I told my cousin to do. She’s had her Spanish holiday cancelled with only a couple of days notice and now has an entire week free at home with nothing to do.
A home spa day will take some organising mind, so you’ll want to plan this a few days ahead of time and schedule it into your week (pretend it’s booked at a spa resort!).
Firstly, tidy your home. Get rid of clutter, and hide anything left out to create a minimalist vibe so you can visualise walking around a grand country manor.
Order online everything you’ll need for a ‘hot tub’ experience if you don’t have them already:
- bath bomb
- face mask
- lavender essential oils
- decent moisturiser
- scented candle
And when the day comes, start off with a gentle YouTube yoga session, followed by a good foam roller roll-around (it’s almost as good as a Swedish massage 🤷♀️).
After a shower put on a fluffy bath robe and slippers — this will be your #ootd.
Cook a simple but healthy(ish) breakfast like poached eggs and avocado on toast with a Bellini on the side. Then head straight into a morning meditation on your sofa (try the breethe app — several meditations are free but there’s also a 7 day trial for the full version).
The rest of your day should be spent relaxing in your ‘hot tub’, meditating, sipping cucumber water, doing steam inhalations to clear out your sinuses and doing hair masks. If you have a container big enough to fit your feet, lounge on the sofa with a trashy novel and do a foot soak. Go to bed at 9pm and fall asleep listening to dreamy ocean wave noises (or whatever floats your boat).
7. IF YOU’RE WHITE, WORK ON YOUR ANTI-RACISM
It’s been an important part of my life in recent years, ensuring I’m constantly working on this -ism that so many of us white people never pay any attention to.
It goes without saying that white privilege absorbs much of my life, and I strive to undo that thought process.
Some really important literature I’ve read to educate myself and try and combat my own internalised shortfalls are:
- Natives, Akala (especially if you’re British)
- How To Be An Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi
- White Fragility, Robin Diangelo
- The Color of Law, Richard Rothstein (especially if you’re American)
- Black Wealth White Wealth, Melvin L. Oliver and Thomas M. Shapiro
I will also point out Aja Barber’s Instagram, who continues to provide education (for free) on a daily basis. She also has a Patreon where you can pay to receive her exclusive newsletters (they’re brilliant).
8. VIRTUALLY VISIT A CITY
Were you planning a trip to Venice that got cancelled? That Tenerife anniversary trip getting rescheduled?
In Europe, and the US, we’ve become accustomed to such travel freedom that being told to stay put is hard.
The best thing you can do for the house arrest blues is plan for the next trip. Utilise Google Streetview to walk the urban trails of a city you’ve been meaning to visit. List all the places you want to see in person and work out your day plan so that when you arrive, you can really capitalise on your time there.
As you do this, use Spotify to play music from your chosen country, and order in a takeaway to honour your trip… Pavarotti and pizza anyone?
9. PLAN OUTFIT COMBOS READY FOR YOUR RETURN TO WORK
If you’re anything like me and my wardrobe, your morning routine on a working day consists of going through 17 outfits, um-ing and ah-ing in front of the mirror, and discarding everything you own into a heap.
One thing I did recently was invest in a standalone clothes rack (like this) and put a selection of similarly toned clothing on it on a weekly basis, and that would be my outfit choices for the week. Kind of like creating a new capsule wardrobe per week.
I’m sure many of us at this time are slobbing in our PJs all day long, but now’s the time to think about when you return to civilisation.
It might seem a bit OCD to plan outfits out several weeks in advance (and it can be tough if you live in a climate where the weather changes on a daily basis) but you’ll be thankful for this productive use of your time when, in a few weeks’ time, you get an extra half an hour in bed every morning because you’re not fretting over what to wear.
10. WRITE A DIARY
Purely because in a few years’ time when (I assume) the world is back to normal, we’ll pretty much forget this ever happened.
For many of us in privileged positions who haven’t been affected that badly so far (as in the worst thing that happened to you was having to drive to a different supermarket down the road because you couldn’t get your favourite brand of toilet roll), we do not yet know what is to come — but if we read reports of the lockdowns in China and Italy, we have a potential glimpse in our own futures.
While that is incredibly scary right now, 5 or 10 years from now, this will be a distant memory.
Writing a diary of your day to day experience to check back on in the future will remind you not to take things like buying toilet roll and food whenever you need it, and travelling, for granted.
And, actually, while you’ve got the pen out, why not write some letters to your family? Letter writing is a lost art, as they say, and I bet your relatives and friends will have the biggest smiles on their faces when they open your mail.
I will just add to this that many of us are having a much harder time than others (spare a thought for nurses, supermarket workers and carers who haven’t got the option of staying at home right now).
There’s never been a more important time to take care of others and your community. Things you can do:
- If you have someone elderly or immuno-compromised in your life, call them now and ask them if they need anything (and obviously take precautions if you do need to go near them) — check with neighbours too
- If you can, donate to a charity (eg Beauty Banks) that is helping others right now, or donate to a food bank
- Tweet @ organisations (such as clothing stores) who insist on being open right now totally unnecessarily, endangering their own staff
- Buy gift cards to small restaurants who really need the income flow right now — it’ll be a treat for yourself in the future when everything is back to normal
- And don’t avoid using Asian restaurants takeaway services
Stay safe everyone!
Tell me in the comments, what do you plan on doing with your self-quarantine?