Productivity and the pandemic

Well it’s all ramped up again in the UK as Covid-19 cases rise and lockdown 2 begins. After the relative freedom of the summer, returning to stricter measures is very frustrating! There are so many things I miss about ‘normal life’ – having friends and family in my home, eating meals with friends, high days and holidays. But I want to focus on a positive pandemic side-effect today.

During the first lockdown, some of the repetitive tasks of life became a bit of an anchor to ‘normal’ – the world may have been in the grips of a pandemic but the carpets weren’t going to hoover themselves! Maybe you experienced that too? But I also found that as I slowed down and spent more time on mundane daily activities, my attitude towards them shifted. Spending time cleaning or cooking became a valid and useful thing to do. Many of the tasks which seem like a peripheral inconvenience in modern life have given me more fulfilment and satisfaction than ever before. To some degree, the last few months have reshaped my view of ‘being productive’. I no longer feel such a pressure to be achieving something noteworthy. The subtle rhythms of daily life have new value.

Take laundry for example. No one likes laundry – that’s why we’ve invented so many machines to do the hard work for us! But I have found a new satisfaction in the whole process, a joy in the efficiency of my folding and sorting and the scent of sheets fresh from the line. You are possibly reading this thinking ‘she needs to get out more’, and that’s kind of my point. While we can’t get out and ‘do’, we have the opportunity to see value and purpose in the ordinary. Enjoying the simple. Why is that important? Because for me, contentment has become less dependent on what I’m doing and more about how I’m doing it. I have had the same experience with cooking meals, setting aside an hour every evening to slowly and carefully prepare a meal rather than rushing something onto the table.

While you may not have as much time on your hands as I do at the moment, lockdown means that the vast majority of us will be at home more than usual. And for those of us with school-age children, there is the looming possibility that at any point they could be sent home for two weeks. This happened to us before half term when there was a case of Covid-19 in Tiny’s class so she had to self-isolate for two weeks. A fortnight is a long time for a four-year old, but as we slowed down and settled into our calm daily routine, we actually had a lovely time together. I managed to forget my to-do list of projects and enjoy doing bits and bobs with Tiny. Don’t get me wrong, we had our moments of annoyance and frustration, but I can’t imagine either of us settling to it so well before the experience of 2020.

During the past few weeks of self-isolating children, half term and Covid-induced brainfog, this blog draft has sat unfinished in my drafts folder. I have settled down at least three times in the past month to try and finish it, but to no avail! While this would have made me hugely frustrated a year ago, it hasn’t really bothered me. Perhaps you’d call it resignation, but I’m just not as fussed about not being productive. Having my choices limited by circumstances beyond my control has allowed me to find new purpose in the small things. There has been something special about life slowing down that I hope to carry with me when this pandemic has passed and we can choose what to do with our time.

Today might be a very hard one for you as we enter a wintry lockdown. Be kind to yourself, slow down and try to enjoy the small tasks that keep you going. They’re endlessly worthwhile.

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