If you’re like millions of other Americans, you’re currently experiencing a lot more downtime than you typically have on your hands. Work has slowed down (and dropped off completely for some). Errands, kids’ extracurricular activities, and social engagements are no more. It’s like someone took a large bottle of whiteout and slathered it all over your calendar.
COVID-19 has stripped us of all the busyness that once occupied our schedules. And even if most of your peers are choosing to see this as a disaster, you have the option to view it as an opportunity. By reframing how you approach this downtime, you can make it more productive.
Here are some specific ways you can do just that:
- Read Books
Take a poll of successful business owners, entrepreneurs, and wealthy individuals and you’ll discover that almost every one of them reads on a regular basis. In fact, many of them read 20-plus books a year.
If time is the biggest mitigating factor in your ability to consistently read books, this is your chance to try it out. In just one hour per day, you can easily read one book per week. If you commit even more time, there’s no reason you can’t read five or six books over the next month.
One idea is to alternate between fiction and nonfiction books. Switching things up keeps you engaged and exposes you to a variety of new material and information. The fiction books teach you a lot about personality, storytelling, and imagination. The nonfiction books will teach you real-life skills and powerful concepts.
- Watch Documentaries
If you absolutely, positively can’t force yourself to read a book – or you have a condition that makes it challenging and cumbersome to do so – consider watching documentaries. Not ridiculous, sensationalized documentaries about nonsense, but good educational ones.
To make sure your time is being well spent, create a Google Doc where you type in your three to five biggest takeaways from each documentary. This will help you retain the most useful information so that it can be referenced and applied at a later time.
- Take Professional Courses
Do you work in an industry where you’re required to take continuing education courses in order to stay certified? This is a great time to knock out these courses. (Assuming they’re online.)
Are you ready to make a career pivot – either by choice or out of necessity? Consider taking an online course to jumpstart things. For example, you might be able to get your real estate license online.
- Volunteer or Serve
Whenever there’s some sort of national crisis or global disaster, there are opportunities to volunteer. Helping others is what makes us human. Can you find chances to serve in your local community? This might look like volunteering your time to deliver food for local restaurants, offering to grocery shop for an elderly neighbor, or using your professional skills to help a local business stay up and running.
- Start a Hobby
Everyone needs a good hobby – and what better time to start one than now?
A hobby gives you something to take your mind off things. It also allows you to acquire a practical skill (assuming the hobby is something hands-on and productive). Good at-home hobbies include gardening, woodworking, sewing, painting, drawing, writing, graphic design, or photography.
- Organize Your Digital Life
It’s easy for our digital lives to turn into chaos. Commit to spending some time decluttering and organizing your digital life. This may include:
- Clearing out your email inbox
- Unsubscribing from spam email
- Removing unwanted desktop icons and organizing files/folders
- Running updates on all of your devices
By addressing these cumbersome tasks, you free up your mental energy to focus on the things that truly matter.
How Will You Fill Your Downtime?
Think back to six months ago when your schedule was so busy that you could hardly come up for air. What would you have given to have a few hours of downtime in your daily schedule? A lot, right?
While the circumstances leading to your sudden explosion of downtime might not be ideal, you can find plenty of productive ways to fill this time. Use it wisely and you’ll come out of this situation with new skills, thoughts, and experiences to better your life and the lives of those around you.