Generally speaking, I am a pretty optimistic person. There are times when I am naively so. However, through this pandemic I’ve noticed that is not that I ignore the negative aspects, but that I rather have a tendency to focus on what I can control. Which generally means to focus on the right here and the right now.
I use a calendar to have an overview on my week, the month and the next period, so I have a grasp on what is to be done. However, I am mostly living my life from one hour to the next, from one task to the next. My to-be-done lists are really helpful with this. I developed a system which comprises of two lists and three sections, all written on paper:
- a general to be done list, where all the activities and the commitments are listed, organised per project;
- a to do list split in two: (a) what I want and need to do and (b) the hourly planning of the tasks I refer to in point (a).
Most days I get to do many of the scheduled tasks. Of course, not all of the needs and wants, but at least most of the important and the emergency. I’ve grown on this organisational system in the last month when I am dealing with both work related deadlines and coming to terms with my father’s death.
Needless to add that the context we live in, my personal situation and my work related tasks keep me in the moment.
I sometimes can’t help but wonder what I miss from before Covid. I miss hanging out with my friends, I miss being outside more and being in large groups at public events, I miss face-to-face teaching [although I. must say that this online teaching strategy is more challenging and it’s a great opportunity for me to develop skills I wanted to develop in a long time, like video editing and creating online courses]. I miss meeting new people, travelling or having the options to do it safely.
But there was something I realised I missed very much when I’ve seen some pictures on Pinterest, in my attempt to find photos to make a screensaver for my computer.
When I was working within the Roma Inclusion Fund of the Swiss-Romanian Cooperation Programme and writing my Ph.D. thesis at the same time, I felt tired after work and I needed some more time for reading. I just needed to not be home so I wouldn’t go to sleep. My solution was to go for coffee after work and read or work on my research. That was possible mainly because I can sleep after drinking coffee.
I sat at a table facing the bar of the place with a delicious warm coffee in front of me, with my laptop next to it, reading, taking notes and writing ideas. When other people were too distracting, I would use my headphones, listening to classical music.
Right then and there, I would turn the world off and turn my thesis on. Despite being tired, I was able to focus for about 90 minutes on the task at hand and really get something done.
I wasn’t really aware I was missing this. I thought about working from the garden of a coffee shop I liked and changed my mind, so I thought it wasn’t so important for me. But, in fact, I didn’t want to work from the garden because people generally met to talk and be together; before covid, people were being social, but they were also working and just hanging out. Now, it seemed to me, that people were really using the time to enjoy the company of others so I didn’t find it appropriate.
I miss this nice treat very much. The working from a cafe was a personal thing. So personal that I actually have zero pictures from those days [the one above is with me smiling as the thesis was defended about three weeks before the picture was taken]. I took no picture in part because I was tired, in part because I took it for granted – I’ve never thought I will not have permission to sit and safely work inside a coffee place.
That time was not only for work, but was also a reward for pushing myself a little harder after I’ve already focused for some hours at the office and tried my best to do my job.
I also miss being in the library, being surrounded by people who were reading and learning and writing was quite pleasing and a good motivator for staying focused.
My routine, like that of others, changed very much. I am grateful for being able to do my work remotely and for having the option to be safe and keep my family safe. I do wish we’ll be able to go back to the activities we liked and miss. At the same time, I also hope that this period was a good time for us all to reflect on our lives so that when we get back at it, we’ll make better and more conscious choices.
Make today count!