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A crash course in down time

Marte Vik Eriksen
Marte Vik Eriksen
Digital Designer 14 May 20204 minutes read

In this opinion piece, Marte, one of our Product designers, shares what she's learned about downtime during the global pandemic.

When life hands you lemons

Over the past few weeks, most of us have had to hit the pause button on our lives. Our holidays and events have been cancelled, and we have been forced to think of activities that can be done at home. I have had to rethink how I spend my time, as my usual go-to options have been taken away from me.

 My life does certainly not stretch as far and wide as it did 6 months ago. Although I am definitely looking forward to society re-opening and meeting my friends and family again, there are a few experiences and lessons learned that I will carry with me when we emerge on the other side.

 Learn to work with what you have

 The outside world may have shut down, but that doesn’t mean you can’t gain new experiences. Whether it is baking a loaf of bread or making some collage postcards, I rediscovered my enjoyment of the more simple things in life.

 These activities may not be thrilling adventures such as bungee jumping in South America or inter-railing in India, but they can be new and exciting experiences all the same. A ‘Staycation’ is a thing and it is trending this year for a reason.

 Be ok with doing less

 We live in a high stimulus society. There are about a billion things demanding our attention at any one time. Now that we are indoors most of the day, we naturally get a break from the street-level attention seekers such as billboards, crowds and store fronts. In addition, most of our errands, appointments and meet-ups have been cancelled. With fewer things fighting for our attention, it seems like a good time to take a break from this overload of ‘must-dos’ and to shift the direction of our focus back towards ourselves.

 Try out meditation or mindfulness. Have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine without simultaneously scrolling on the phone. Familiarise yourself with a slower pace— it can actually be very beneficial for our creativity when we gift our brains with some content-free time. I’m sure we all have experienced the brilliance of shower thoughts or the mental clarity achieved during a long walk, so allow yourself more of that.

 Redefine what productivity means to you

 For too many of us, productivity looks like: getting sh*t done, ticking off boxes on your to-do list and finishing assignments. I’m no stranger to the satisfying feeling of closing all the tabs in my browser when a project is done or throwing away a perfectly completed to-do list. There is a huge focus on maintaining a high momentum in society today — and we love sharing our achievements online. Keeping this up during a lockdown simply isn’t doable, but that crappy feeling of unproductiveness still impacts us and can lead to a lot of unhelpful thinking.

 Let’s try and flip this perspective around: the current situation is a good environment for resting, recharging and preparing for whatever comes next. Redefine what productivity means to you. Quick wins may feel great but if you only focus on getting stuff done, there is no time or energy left to work on your long game. Reflection, acquiring new skills, doing research, working out your creative muscle, relaxing and recharging — these are all necessary for development and the bigger picture.

 Looking forward

 We do indeed live in ‘unprecedented times’ (sorry). Just as society as a whole has had to adapt, so have I as an individual. My routines have been disrupted and my mental resilience put to the test. I’ve had to re-think how I do everything — even the most basic of activities.

 When we all emerge on the other side, the world will be different, for better or for worse. My time in lockdown hasn’t been all sunshine and cupcakes, but it has taught me a number of valuable lessons. You can’t control some things, but you can control how you react. It has taught me the value of being able to adapt and work with what you got. On the whole, I hope to never see a global pandemic again but it hasn’t been an entirely useless experience; I have grown and I have become more resilient.


Hero image by Markus Spiske