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Running out of time or running out of energy (again)

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote an entry Running out of time or running out of energy? reflecting on the busiest time of the year and how it impacted my capacity to get things done. I’m back in much the same position this year but being in a lockdown has given me a different perspective on running out of energy.

According to last year’s entry, I still had plenty of time to go walking, read books, and so on, despite the amount of work that I felt weighing upon me. This year the work is much the same, but the lockdown means I do less walking or otherwise getting out of the house. Being at home, I feel I ought to be working on something (by which I mean any number of writing projects, research projects and educational pursuits)—yet a day of paid work often leaves me without the energy to pick up any of this other sort of work.

Of course I could read a book, or watch a movie, or play computer games, or any number of other things. Yet reading more books or watching more movies than I already do just seems boring, akin to a no-work dystopia in which everyone sits around sucking up entertainment. I’m also conscious of taking breaks between waking and starting work; between morning and afternoon; and between work and dinner; but they don’t seem to have quite the same effect as walking between home, the train station, and my office.

Perhaps I ought to get another hobby. I’ve been setting aside Sunday afternoons to play some guitar and do some live coding (with only rudimentary results); I set myself a challenge to translate a news article from Indonesian each week; and during the original lockdown I made a list of online museums to visit that I still haven’t gotten through. But none of these things have taken me the way that writing, programming, and responding to requests for academic assistance do.

Aside from the exercise, perhaps the greatest benefit of walking is the feeling that I’m doing something while yet being able to let my mind wander. Whereas doing nothing is simply boring and most other things I can think to do require a level of concentration that prohibits thinking about anything. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang’s Rest has a whole chapter on walking for much this reason. Perhaps the only other activities that have comparable effects on me are eating and drinking—but doing more of those than I already do would have consequences of another sort.

Making the previous blog entry and this one have helped me take stock of where I’m at and what my options are for getting through lockdown. As I write, the worst of my academic work seems behind me and I’ve found some enthusiasm for projects that I identified while taking stock. If I weren’t also craving some time away from the computer, I might almost say I should be writing blog entries while I can’t be walking.


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