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31 Important Things to Do to Make the Best Use of Your Time During a Pandemic

A guide on how to turn unremarkable times into thriving times

Danny Forest
Mar 18, 2020 · 20 min read

As I’m writing this, I’m home quarantined for 14 days. I came back earlier from a writing retreat I did in Cuba. While a lot of the plane’s passengers weren’t happy about the situation, I viewed it differently.

This is my time to do things I’ve always wanted to do but kept pushing back. This includes improving my relationships, doing other types of work, catch up on my video games, and more. During a pandemic, I call these “productive activities”.

What are your productive activities during these testing times?

This article covers 31 of the most important ways you can make the best use of your time during a pandemic. I’m starting with the things you must avoid doing, both for your sanity and for the respect and safety of others. If you only have a few minutes to spare reading, start there.

And because this is a comprehensive guide, I’ve included a table of contents so you can jump to the sections that interest you the most.

Remember to stay calm!

Table of contents

*Feel free to highlight those you do or want to do, or agree with.

Don't
1. Don’t panic
2. Don’t hoard everything you can get your hands on
3. Don’t be glued to the news
4. Don’t fuel your bad habits
5. Don’t sit around and mope
---Activities
6. Attend online events
7. Read more articles and books
8. Play games
9. Watch movies and series
10. Learn to cook new recipes
Quirky
11. Design a dream house
12. Unleash your inner child
13. Do a treasure hunt with your family or roommates
14. Re-arrange your home
15. Create home-made gifts
Relationships
16. Spend time with your loved ones
17. Spend more time networking online
18. Call your parents more frequently
19. Use video conferencing to keep a semblance of being in-person
20. Play board games with your family or roommates
Self-awareness
21. Review your life priorities
22. Practice gratitude
23. Practice forgiveness
24. Record lessons you’ve learned this year
25. Write life lessons learned for your younger self or your child
Skill up
26. Learn new skills
27. Use your skills to help others
28. Take online courses
29. Watch instructional videos on Youtube
30. Learn a new instrument
31. Become craftier

The list below is ordered by the “don’ts” first, followed by categories ascending.

Don’t

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Some people simply have their lower brains “stronger” than their higher brain, resulting in difficulty controlling their emotions when in fear. If you know someone who’s panicking, don’t judge them, help them.

The measures taken currently (lockdowns and shutdowns) are the right measures to prevent the exponential spread of the virus. This is temporary. Everything will get back to (a new and probably improved) normal.

How to not panic:

Additional resources:

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People who hoard things they don’t need are robbing it from people who need it. I came back early from vacation to an apartment with no food or supplies and with no easy way to get anything.

The less resourceful people may starve and lack supplies for proper hygiene. Be kind. You wouldn’t want to be in such a situation. Share the goods. We’re all in this together.

How to not hoard:

  • Ask yourself: Do I have enough for three weeks? If so, the rest is extra.
  • Shop at Amazon, where they restricted to a maximum of 2 of each item per customer
  • Adopt the above mentality if going to a grocery store (that still has stock)
  • Don’t think about profiting from selling rare items. Kindness feels MUCH better than greed.

Additional resources:

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Do you really need to know the number of cases for all countries and the names of people affected? Be aware of the situation and its latest developments, but realize that news is on repeat. The more you hear the same thing, the more it sinks into your brain. That’s how you start to panic.

How to not be glued to the news:

  • Turn the TV on to watch the news only for 30 minutes per day
  • Or don’t watch the TV and read the news online instead. But again, limit yourself to 30 minutes
  • Ask someone to give you daily updates
  • Only follow things by the CDC, John Hopkins, WHO, or other reliable sources
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If you’re quarantined at home and not working, view this as an opportunity to catch up on things you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t take the time (more on that throughout this article).

Don’t let yourself get back to your bad habits. You’ll realize that if your time isn’t occupied with a primary activity, it’s easy to fall off your good habits and resort back to your bad ones.

How to not fuel your bad habits:

  • Track your habits
  • Find activities to fill your time (see Activities section next)
  • Keep your regular morning and evening routine
  • Get yourself a Pavlok

Additional resources:

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There’s really only one important thing to do during a pandemic: manage your time productively. With the word “productive”, I don’t necessarily mean work, I mean activities that do yourself and your loved ones some good. For example, entertainment is a productive use of your time. All of the above are not.

How to not sit around and mope:

  • The rest of the article answers that

Activities

For more ideas of activities, check out: 12 Ways To Spend Your Time If You End Up In Quarantine, by Jake Daghe

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Most local events are cancelled but the online events space is booming. You can attend webinars on a wide variety of topics, join online events on Eventbrite, or organize events of your own on Zoom or Hopin. You can even meet people online for the sake of meeting people on Virbela.

How to attend online events:

  • Search on Google: “Online event <topic>”. Substitute online for virtual if your search is fruitless.
  • Search on Google: “Webinar <topic>”
  • Browse on Eventbrite

Additional resources:

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Now is a perfect time to catch up on your reading! Reading quality content is a great way to fill up your time while getting entertained or getting smarter. If you’re not used to reading, now is the best time to start!

How to read more articles and books:

Additional resources:

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This one doesn’t need much explanation — we’re all familiar with games. With different types to choose from, you could literally spend your whole days on that (but don’t, it’s not healthy and creates addiction).

How to play games:

  • Play board games or card games with friends
  • Do puzzles
  • Play video games on PC, Consoles, phones or Stadia
  • For something more creative, play trivia games with Alexa, Google, or Siri
  • Play games of chance (but don’t spend all your money!)

Additional resources:

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I don’t think you needed me to tell you about this to think about doing it! :)

How to watch movies and series:

Additional resources:

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When you’re working full time and have tons of other responsibilities, cooking is a chore. During a pandemic, it’s a fun game. With limited supplies and more time to think, it’s the perfect time to get creative in the kitchen!

How to learn to cook new recipes:

  • Try new methods of cooking ingredients you’re used to cooking (like eggs, meat, and veggies)
  • Experiment with new spice blends
  • Put an ethnic twist to your favourite foods with different sauces
  • Learn new skills like chopping an onion, poaching an egg, stuffing a chicken, etc.

Additional resources:

Quirky

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Many people have an idea of what their dream place to live would be. Now’s a great time to think about all the crazy ideas you may have, and why not, design it yourself!

How to design your dream home:

  • Get inspired by other homes
  • Use this app (Planner5d)
  • Use Lego blocks (why not?)
  • Draw floor plans using LucidCharts
  • Create a bullet list of features you’d like in every room

Additional resources:

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How about you stop being an adult for once? Wouldn’t that feel nice? Get your curiosity going and be a child again!

How to unleash your inner child:

  • Question every object in the house for their origin and purpose
  • Pick a random object from the house and find 10–15 uses for it
  • Taste foods blindfolded and try to figure out what it is
  • Touch things blindfolded and try to figure out what it is
  • Scream for no apparent reason
  • Laugh the next time your partner farts

Additional resources:

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Children love this and adults secretly still do. Take this time to organize one with people living under the same roof.

How to do a treasure hunt:

  • Wait for everyone to sleep or not be around
  • Hide clues and “treasure” all over the place
  • Make the clues progressively harder
  • Hint at something really good (even if it might not be)
  • Have fun with it

Additional resources:

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A lot of homes remain static for years, except for occasional additions. How about you take this time to just flip everything around? I do it frequently and figure out new and better ways to place stuff.

How to re-arrange your home:

  • Draw it out on paper
  • Get crafty and cut paper versions of your furniture and move it around a floor plan see how it would look
  • Just start moving furniture and see how it feels
  • Look up some ideas on the internet (Google: home decor ideas)

Additional resources:

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Remember when you were a kid and all the gifts you gave were hand-crafted? If you’re a parent yourself, I bet these are some of your favourite gifts. It’s time to start doing that again!

How to create homemade gifts:

  • Get creative with anything you have laying around the house
  • Draw a portrait for someone (the practice alone is a lot of fun if you accept that you won’t be good from the start)
  • Do a collage with photos of the person or group of people
  • Get crafty with paper, cardboard, scissors, and glue
  • Bake something

Additional resources:

Relationships

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When do you get the chance to be with people you love during the core hours of the day? Take this time to rekindle and do as much as you can together.

How to spend time with your loved ones:

  • Do more activities you like to do together
  • Find new creative activities to experiment together. Get inspired by this list.
  • Explore in the bedroom with your partner (yup, COVID-19 babies will be a thing)
  • Engage in deeper conversations and plan your future together

Additional resources:

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Networking online is one of the best ways I know to make good friends and important business connections. You can find so many more like-minded people when not restricted geographically.

How to network online:

Additional resources:

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If your parents are alive, call them frequently. They need you more than ever, especially if they’re older. The older they are, the higher the chance the virus might be deadly for them. Check with them frequently to make sure they’re okay. They’ll love the extra care you give them. I’ve been back home for two days only and called my mom every day so far.

How to call your parents more frequently:

  • Just pick up the phone to say hi
  • Ask them how they’re doing and how they occupy their time
  • Talk about an activity you used to do with them when you were younger
  • And most importantly, be grateful to them for what they did for you

Additional resources:

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I’m currently home quarantined and away from my wife because she’s at a higher risk of catching the virus (she’s pregnant). Thankfully I don’t show any symptoms. Anyway, I’m glad we can still communicate and see each other over video chat.

Use video conferencing both for personal and professional reasons. Working from home, I’m used to holding most of my meetings over video conference. Once you get used to it, you start to like it at least as much as in-person meetings.

How to use video conferencing:

Additional resources:

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Board games are great relationship builders. With tens of thousands to choose from, there’s something for everyone. If you’re on a low budget, there are many card games you can play using the most simple deck of cards.

How to play board games:

  • Find the right board game for your crowd with BoardGameGeek.com
  • If playing with beginners, start from simple classic like Monopoly or Settlers of Catan
  • Finally take the time to play lengthy board games
  • Practice your Blackjack and Poker game

Additional resources:

Self-awareness

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Raising your self-awareness is probably the best use of your time in pandemic situations. In your day-to-day life, you rarely have the time to pause and reflect, thinking either your life is great or it’s shit. The reality is often not what you think until you reflect on it.

How to review your life priorities:

Additional resources:

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When’s the last time you paused to truly be thankful for something someone did for you? When were you last grateful for something that happened to you? Gratitude is one of the greatest habits I’ve built in the past few years. Now’s a good time to start.

How to practice gratitude:

  • Write down what and who you are grateful for in a journal. Do that daily
  • Say who or what you’re grateful for before starting dinner
  • Think about who or what you’re grateful for before bedtime
  • Say “thank you” to one person every day

Additional resources:

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Equally as important as practicing gratitude is practicing forgiveness. There are people we hold a grudge towards and don’t even remember why sometimes. Most of the time, it’s over a misunderstanding. Let this time be a good time to forgive others, but also yourself for things done in the past.

How to practice forgiveness:

  • Write down what you want to forgive in a journal. Do that daily
  • Say it out loud, it feels better. When you say it like you mean it, it’s powerful.
  • Call the person and tell them how you feel. Don’t be attacking, be compassionate and tell them you now see their point of view
  • Don’t be on the defensive

Additional resources:

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Are you aware of how many things you learn in a single month? With every failed experiment, there are important lessons to be learned. Similarly, victories have things to record.

How to record lessons you’ve learned this year:

Additional resources:

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What are some lessons you learned in life that you wish you knew when you were younger? This is a great reflection to think about the positive side of negative experiences.

How to write life lessons learned for your younger self:

  • Start from the reverse-chronological order — from today to when you were born
  • Think about a failure you experienced and what you learned from it
  • Think about great advice you were given that you wish was given to you before
  • Think about a mindset you had then that you realize wasn’t a good one in hindsight

Additional resources:

Skill Up

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In October 2017, I started the habit of learning 3 new skills every month and followed through for two solid years. It was the best habit I’ve ever started and a great use of your time in any situation.

How to learn new skills:

  • Always know the Why, What, How, When, and Where of the skill you want to learn (meta-learning)
  • Be deliberate in your practice — Craft a learning plan, Practice daily, Log your progress daily, Reflect Daily, Weekly, and Monthly
  • Learn about the 9 different intelligences
  • Learn how to learn

Additional resources:

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During a pandemic, more people will require your help. If you have skills that can help others, please use them. Give for the sake of giving without expecting anything in return. Don’t overthink this. Most skills have a use for other people.

How to use your skills to help others:

  • Ask people around you what they need help with
  • Post your offer to help on social networks. Here’s an example on LinkedIn from James Miller.
  • Post flyers around your neighbourhood
  • Find organizations around and volunteer your help

Additional resources:

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There’s nothing like having more free time than to jump in and learn a full course’s worth of material in one or two weeks of study! Just be sure to review what you learn using the spaced repetition principle.

How to take online courses:

Additional resources:

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Online courses are fine, but they’re time-consuming, and for people like me, too structured. For people looking to learn more in bite-sized chunks, Youtube can be an incredible way to learn almost anything for free.

How to learn on Youtube:

  • Search “How to learn/do <topic>” and you’re almost guaranteed to have results. Append the level you’re looking for, like “beginner”, “intermediate”, “advanced”, “expert” or “master”.
  • Filter by View Count, and if it needs to be recent, also filter by upload date
  • Stick to content creators you like that publish consistently
  • Reach out to content creators on YouTube, you’d be surprised how approachable some are.

Additional resources:

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Learning to play a new instrument takes a lot of practice. For that reason, many adults give up their dreams of playing killer solo rifts on their dusty banjo. Well, time to dust it off and learn like you never have!

How to learn to play a new instrument:

  • Instruments are all about muscle memory, so it’s ever more important that you practice regularly. Ideally daily.
  • Learn the basics first — there’s no point trying to learn to play Master of Puppets on your first day learning to play the guitar, you’ll get discouraged.
  • Find a teacher online. For example, my favourite Ukulele teachers has a Patron page where she gives Skype lessons.
  • Learn an instrument alongside someone else

Additional resources:

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Since you can order stuff online or have materials around the house, it’s a great time to practice getting craftier. Most adults lost that skill as they grew older. Now’s a good time to get it back!

How to learn to become craftier:

  • Analyze everything in your house and brainstorm how you could repurpose it
  • Browse ideas on Pinterest
  • Browse on Arts and Crafts stores’ websites for material ideas
  • Do not limit your imagination. If no idea comes, start with something you might need and imagine what you have available to make it happen.

Additional resources:

P.S. What did I miss?

For more inspiration, check out dannyforest.com.

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Danny Forest

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dannyforest.com <- my new home. I don’t write on Medium anymore.

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Learn Better — Quality Stories about Skill Development

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