I finally turned in my end of year report a couple weeks ago and after spending several days doing light work, I was a little bored but not quite in the right headspace to fully dive back into my work. I needed a break, but also didn’t want to completely do nothing. Perhaps you can relate?
Now I’m going to preface this article by saying that I am very fortunate to have a home, be able to continue my work (although it has had to change) and still receive my PhD stipend each month. I am relatively comfortable, healthy and safe in my home. Being bored, I know, is a privilege not everyone has. I don’t have caring responsibilities, I don’t have many worries except for those associated with my research and myself. Beyond that, I am for the most part happy and healthy.
Being home almost 24/7 has been a big change for everyone, and maybe you’ve missed the busyness, the hustle and bustle of a well-scheduled day like I sometimes do. However, there have also been some overwhelming days where being productive is not even a thought, and feeling better is the only priority.
Most of the last two months was focused on work as I had a big deadline. Now that’s done, I have most of my evenings and weekends back again. But with nowhere really to go beyond the confines of my home, I’m often looking for something to do that isn’t work-related but also isn’t too involved.
If you’ve been looking for something to do to pass some of your time without taking up much effort, I’ve collated some ideas below. Many of these I’ve already done or continue to do, some I’ve learned from friends. So if you want to feel just that teeny bit productive without having to leave your sofa, there’ll be some options here for you. Or if you’re up for something a little more energetic there’s a few ideas here too.
Have a browse of the list below and take your pick!
1. Clean up the photo albums on your phone. Have screenshots of random things on your phone? Yep, me too. If you’re nearing your phone storage limit soon, now’s a good time to free up some space. Tip: Consider deleting unused apps too.
2. Unsubscribe to emails. Until recently, I was getting about 30 marketing emails a day that I never read. I spent about an hour unsubscribing to and deleting emails – definitely recommend! Tip: Perhaps unfollow IG accounts and leave FB groups you’ve moved on from too?
3. Give yourself a manicure/pedicure. Simply clip your nails and put on some hand cream, or take a few extra steps and soak your feet, give yourself a scrub, and put on some nail polish. Whatever you feel like doing!
4. Organise your lecture notes. I have, in the past, eagerly put my notes-filled binders away as soon as my exam was over, only to regret it three months later when I took them out again. Put some music, your favourite podcast, or a TV show on and organise away. Works just as well for digital notes!
5. Put on a face mask. Is it just me or were you also breaking out at the beginning lockdown? I was surprised given I wasn’t wearing makeup and was also sticking with my skincare routine. But apparently loads of people have experienced it too, and was likely stress-induced. My skin’s tons better since then, and I’ve pampering it a bit more than usual too. Use a sheet mask, clay mask or a homemade one.
6. Tell a friend you’re thinking about them. Miss one of your friends? Drop them quick message saying so. They’ll appreciate it. Maybe check in with someone who’s been quieter than usual and let them know they crossed your mind J Tip: All you have to say is “Hey, thought about you today! How are you?”
7. Journal. There are no rules. Write yourself a bucket list, a gratitude list, a to-do list, a ‘Things I’m Looking Forward To’ list. Or write about how you feel. Whether it’s a braindump or a more thought out piece of writing, it doesn’t matter. Writing helps me make sense of everything, perhaps you’ll find it benefits it you too.
8. Stretch. I don’t know about you, but my body feels less flexible with the longer periods of sitting in lockdown. Often, I’ll be stretching whilst sitting/lying on the sofa in front of the television. It might be my neck, shoulders and arms or my ankles and calves – just some light movement so I don’t feel stiff. Here’s a video with some moves.
9. Doodle. My iPad and Procreate app have been my go-to for doodling, sketching, lettering. I’ve been turning photos of my family and friends into some cartoon-y sketches. It’s a fun way to pass the time, and I often get a little giggle from my friends when I send them my not-so-great sketch! J Tip: Grab a pen and paper or try one of these free apps on your phone or tablet.
10. Read. This probably goes without saying, but I’m including it here to note that reading doesn’t just mean books. There are some great blogs and magazines easily accessible online as well. I’ve been reading Medium articles a lot lately. But there will be a blog out there for anything.
11. Karaoke. Don’t have a karaoke machine? No worries! Head to YouTube and search for: ‘title of song karaoke’. Enjoy alone (admit it, you’ve done it too!) or with housemates or your family. You could even turn into a game, and have everyone score each person afterwards! Tip: If you have a Disney+ subscription, there are sing-alongs on there too!
12. Sort out your computer files. I have a 4-year long project so I’ll have a mountain of files at the end of my PhD. I want to be able to easily find what I’m looking for anytime I need it, so file organisation is key! You might want to organise by year (e.g. 1 to 4) or experiment or thesis chapter – up to you. Perhaps rename your files too so they’re easily identifiable and searchable! Future you will thank you. J
13. Create a playlist. I’ve recently put together a nostalgic playlist, and it’s just perfect. I’ve since made a few more, for different occasions with different vibes. Tip: Don’t forget you can create playlists on YouTube Music too in addition to Spotify and Apple Music.
14. Take photos of things to sell and list them. Being home so much makes me crave space even more than usual, and it’s obvious I don’t need as many things as I currently have. If you’re in the same place, or could use some extra money, you might want to sell what you don’t need. Sit on the sofa, take photos and list them. There’s Depop, eBay and Facebook Marketplace to name a few places to list them.
15. Create a budget. A plan for your money, no matter what that number is, is always a good thing. Grab a pen and notebook, or bring up Google sheets on your phone/laptop and plan away!
16. Plan your dream trip. It might be quite a while, understandably, before we can go on holidays again. On the bright side (being positive here!), that means we’ve got more time to plan the perfect trip. Tip: Perhaps read up about a city’s history, the sites and watch some travel vlogs.
17. Knit, sew or embroider. Personalise or upcycle your clothing with some fun embroidery. Sew a face mask. Or knit a scarf or coaster.
18. Play a game. Complete a puzzle on your own, play board games with a couple other people, or enjoy an online game with others! Have you seen this online escape room?
19. Create a vision board. Get on your Pinterest account and pin away. Year 2020 feels a little bit like a write off, but it doesn’t have to be! Even if you’ve already created a vision board for the year, and made goals, some it will likely have changed given the circumstances.
20. Nothing. Literally just sit or lie there in peace and quiet. Or just put some music on and listen to it. Or just enjoy a TV show, documentary or film and do nothing else. You don’t always have to be doing something even mildly productive too.
Whether or not you’ve found something from the list above that you might want to do, just remember that there’s no requirement whatsoever to make this lockdown period a productive one. (Well, beyond your university must-dos at least!) Your health and wellbeing comes first. And so perhaps the best thing isn’t to be doing. Perhaps it’s to just be.