I’m noticing two waves of thought concerning our quarantine time.
(1) Be productive!
Now is the time to clean out those closets. Learn a new language. Repaint the house.
(2) Take a break!
Read for fun. Sleep later each morning. Go for leisurely walks.
Which is your approach?
Some of you may not have a choice. Depending on your job and life season—you’re homeschooling kids or you’re working twice as hard as a nurse, etc.—your life may have sped up without you getting to decide.
But for many of us, our time schedule is more under our control than ever before. With many of our outside obligations removed, we are the master of our time at home.
What ‘should’ we do with our extra time?
Over the Christmas break I typically do a jigsaw puzzle. It’s a special treat for me. I actually lose track of time when I’m doing a puzzle (and it always surprises me when this happens). So I limit puzzles to that one time a year. Because even though I enjoy it in the moment, it feels wasteful in itself.
But I didn’t buy a new puzzle last Christmas. (At least not grown-up puzzles. I did 5-piece puzzles with my granddaughter instead. Even more fun!)
So I had no new puzzles in the house when quarantine hit. My choices now on the shelves at Walmart were only two boxes.
Apparently after buying up food and toilet paper, shoppers bought out puzzles and games. Puzzlemakers can’t keep up with the demand.
- Week 1: Hand sanitizers, soaps and disinfectants
- Week 2: Toilet paper
- Week 3 and 4: Spiral hams and baking yeast (for Easter)
- Now in Week 5: Hair clippers and hair dye (Feeling shaggy yet? I keep eyeing my scissors)
I bought one of the two boxes left. But instead of one large puzzle (which I wanted), this box had 4 tiny puzzles (150 pieces), 4 small ones (300 pieces), and 4 medium ones (500 pieces).
But unless it’s Saturday or Sunday afternoon, I still feel guilty doing puzzles. Why?
In Celeste Headlee’s new book, Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving, she says:
“We are members of the cult of efficiency, and we’re killing ourselves with productivity.”
Headlee had no idea when she wrote this book how much we were going to need it this year. When I first read it in January, I didn’t agree with everything. But maybe I need to read it again since the arrival of COVID-19.
Too often we overestimate the value of useful things we put into the world.
During normal “work hours,” I feel I should be productive doing things that matter, not something like putting a puzzle together. I don’t want to be lazy. I have negative thoughts about idleness.
I need to redefine my attitudes about idleness.
“Improvement is healthy, but not every moment of your day should be leveraged in an attempt to make you a better person.
If you’re searching for the fastest way to learn guitar because you also have to squeeze in yoga and keto cooking recipes and homemade charcoal facial peels, you have left no time to simply be the person you are.
You are leaving no space for rest and contentment.”
– Celeste Headlee
Especially now, our attitudes of “improvement” can work against us.
While we do still need to do certain things every day—routines are more helpful than ever—we also need to let some things go.
We need to release the pressure on ourselves to “do” more, and instead accept the gift of time to “be” more.
When I’m working on a puzzle, I’m simply “being.”
“Research shows you can lift your mood simply by taking a walk; no need to track your steps. I’d like to inspire a new consideration of leisure and a new appreciation for idleness. Idleness in this sense does not mean inactivity, but instead nonproductive activity.”
– Celeste Headlee
In this season of a global pandemic, I’m giving myself permission to invest more in leisure. To throw off self-inflicted pressure to be productive. To grab a blanket and a favorite book instead. To trust that God will prompt me to do what needs doing, but will also enjoy our extra time together doing nothing.
I’m still pacing myself with my puzzles. I only have twelve, after all, and we don’t know how long this quarantine will last. So far I’ve finished four. And I’m itching to start a fifth. When I do a puzzle, it’s my version of doing nothing.
And I enjoy it.
It’s okay to do nothing sometimes. If we lose touch with our being, our doing is wasted. Less doing can produce better being.
So just be. Schedule it in, if you must. See what happens.
It will be okay.
Do you struggle with doing nothing, or does it come easy to you? Please share in the comments.
My thanks to NetGalley
for the review copy of this book
- Are You More Discouraged or Afraid? – Grace & Truth Link-up
- Will Life Go Back to Normal?—Grace & Truth Link-Up