How Quarantine Taught Me to Stop Wasting Time

Time flies when you’re wasting it . . .

Before the COVID-19 quarantine, I thought I couldn’t accomplish things because of my busy schedule — then suddenly we were stuck at home for 3 months, and I realized my schedule had nothing to do with it.

It was all in my head.

Keeping a Full Calendar

My husband, Curtis, has a job working with high schoolers. When life is normal, we spend most nights and weekends going to their events: sports games, plays, dance recitals, horse-riding competitions, and game nights.

I love it, but like any other professional with a full social calendar, I’ve had to learn to manage my time. Between working full-time, keeping the household functioning, and spending evenings with teens, there’s not much time left for my interests. I’ve learned how to be productive in short bursts of time, but it’s not easy.

Before, I blamed my lack of accomplishments on our schedule. “Not enough time” and “no margin for rest” became my most-loved excuses. But then the COVID-19 stay-at-home order hit.

Suddenly, we were stuck at home all day every day, with a clear social schedule and a clean house.

And that’s when I discovered that a busy schedule wasn’t the problem — I was.

Prioritizing Your Goals

I’m introverted, so when our governor told us it was our civic duty to stay home, I wasn’t upset. I could be with Curtis more, keep the house and yard neater, and complete some personal writing projects I’ve been putting off.

But when lockdown started, I didn’t become a hurricane of productivity.

Curtis and I took a walk every night. We re-watched Psych, Curtis picked up the guitar again, and I read more, things we always want to do but never have the time for. I didn’t write more, do projects around the house, or prune my apple orchard. I ignored my goals. Instead, I did nothing.

And being lazy felt great. At first.

But as the lockdown went on, my goals pestered me. I started to feel guilty. After all, a season of rest is healthy for everyone, but rest can be dangerous when it turns into laziness.

So, motivated to action by my nagging guilt, I came up with a system to help me accomplish goals. It worked in lockdown, and, if I’m dedicated, it’ll work even when lockdown is over and we’re back to normal.

1. Pick priorities. I may be too busy to write a blog post, but I have time to scroll through social media or watch two episodes of The Office.I’ve discovered that I make time for what I want to do — so if I pick one project a day, or a week, and I promise to do it, then it becomes a priority, over one more episode, or 20 minutes of looking at Instagram.

2. One thing at a time. My to-do list is longer than my arm. I’ve learned the hard way that if I try to do multiple projects at once, I end up burnt out, with a half-dozen half-finished projects. But when I do one project at a time, and don’t start anything else till I finish it, I can slowly cross things off my list.

3. Monitor wasted time. I value relaxing on the couch with ice cream and a movie just as much as the next person. But when relaxing turns into avoidance, and we’ve binge watched our way through an entire Saturday, that’s too much. Now, I keep track of the time — and after a certain allotment, I get back to my projects.

I’m sure I’ll still waste time in the future, sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose. But if I have a plan, at least when I’m not watching cat videos, I can get more done.

Published author, freelance writer and editor, biking enthusiast, and blogger at annelieserider.com.

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