Jonathan Rivett’s column in this weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald (2 May 2020, Business p. 9) takes on “sanctimonious thought leaders” who one of his correspondents blames for “pre-emptively berating people for a lack of discipline” if they don’t use their time in quarantine to learn a new skill or side hustle. Rivett goes on accuse the so-called thought leaders (without naming them) of themselves regurgitating lazy clichés about self-improvement long spouted by thought leaders before them. I’ve previously written an entry or two about how much easier is to say such things than do them.
Rivett takes some advice from a psychologist who makes the point that many people don’t actually have any extra time in which to learn said skills or side hustles, since they are working just as many hours as they did before (and, if they are home-schooling children, might be working even more). But finding the discipline to learn new things is also made difficult by anxiety and uncertainty surrounding the present circumstances. She suggests that it might be most appropriate to simply set an objective to get through the experience in a good a frame of mind.
Now, I do have spare time since I only work part-time anyway and I don’t have any children to be home-schooled. I even have a couple of side hustles, albeit ones that are yet to make me any money. But with even more time at home created by a lack of events to go to and an inability to go hiking and travelling, I have sometimes struggled to set the “get through the experience” goals. Being at home when I would usually be hiking or participating in SCA activities, I feel like I ought to be working on the kinds of things that I usually do at home—but under ordinary circumstances I wouldn’t be doing those things so why should I miss them?
Of course if I don’t do something, I’ll just get bored, and maybe suffer more from that anxiety and uncertaintly to boot. But forcing myself to do things I’ve already done enough of during the week, or that I don’t have much enthusiasm for at all, leads to more or less the same result. And being in such a state probably saps my enthusiasm for the next project in turn.
The hardest part for me, I think, has been the monotony of finding myself doing more or less the same thing every day. When working at home or on holidays I’ve typically alternated between days spent around the house and days spent going somewhere. But for the past six weeks or so nearly every day has been around the house. I’ve done a little more reading and watched a few more movies than I might have done otherwise, and I’ve tried a few virtual art galleries, but none of these have done much to break the pattern of participating in teleconferences and waiting for e-mail to come during the day, and trying to turn out 500-1000 words each evening, with varying levels of success.
Still, with restrictions on their way to easing, and it being a pleasant sunny day outside as I write, I’m hopeful I’ve gotten through the worst without anything too awful happening. It may be a little while yet before I’m able to travel very far or return to my office, but I’m hopeful I’ll be able to get out of the house a little more often and get back into something like the mood I’m ordinarily in.