Saturday, 14 November 2020

After thirty four weeks

It has now been around thirty four weeks of lockdown and the pandemic. After a period of the country beginning to open up, the rising number of cases and the increase in the R number has forced a return of a full England-wide lockdown.

To state the blindingly obvious, this has been a very difficult year and despite some signs that maybe the world is getting better (not least some promising news about a COVID-19 vaccine) a dip back into full lockdown, while undoubtedly the right thing to do, is a very hard pill to swallow. I deliberately stopped writing these weekly posts because, frankly, I ran out of ways to say “this week I worked hard and spent some time walking in the dark” but after a break I think I need to collect my thoughts on how I’m going to work through the next few weeks.

For me, the approaching winter combined with the loss of places to gather (ie coffee shops) means hugely increased isolation. I can no longer go somewhere to be around humans, which, as someone living alone, is very important to generate that low-level social contact. It also means I can no longer go places to do things. Outside of work, I normally take myself out of my flat to write (words or code) to put myself in a different environment which helps me think and focus. Now everything I do, whether it’s work or sleep or work or relax or write or work is all in these four walls and it makes it very hard to compartmentalise each area. That is making it hard to shut off work (especially at the end of the day), or “get things done” at the weekend.

So, with that recognised, what am I doing?

Firstly, running on low power, I’m going to make sure I set myself appropriately straightforward goals. I’m going to keep todo lists, but make them very achievable which should help motivate me to do them and give me small feelings of satisfaction if I do. I’m going to aim to do less, but aim to do it well.

Secondly, I’m going to make more of an effort to put things in my diary. Generally, I prefer a slightly more ad hoc approach to life since in work my time is dictated by the tyranny of my diary. However at the moment I think I need specific things to look forward to, and specific commitments to motivate me to get moving.

Thirdly, I’m going to pick up a new(ish) hobby. While people have been learning languages and so on, I don’t have the mental capacity to take on something completely new. However I’ve been doing a lot of photography over the years and I’ve found myself taking many pictures of the architecture here in Bath in the dark. I think I’m going to focus on this through lockdown and write a post about the pictures towards the end. It’s a mini-project that will give me some focus.

Fourthly, I need to contain my working hours. There is a lot going on at work at the moment and given my “office” is a few paces from where I’m sitting right now, it’s far too easy to still be sorting out that last thing at 8pm every night. Then a walk, then food, then the evening is more or less done. Done continuously, this way of working has a significant negative impact on those around me and it is very unhealthy for me too. So I’m doing what I can to make sure I am done by at the latest 18.30 every day. That is still a long day against my contracted hours, but it’s a positive step towards putting work in a sensible box.

So that’s four concrete steps I am going to take through lockdown 2. Let’s see how it goes.

This post is from a series of shorter posts, written roughly once a week while the country is on lockdown to capture my feelings and reactions as we go. They are all tagged with coronavirus.