Life under Lockdown or: what to do when there’s nothing you can do

collage city under lockdown corona 2020

Monday afternoon downtown – had to go to the office to organize some things even though we were technically already under lockdown.

It’s quarantine day 7 today. I’ve been from home since Tuesday, this will last until April 13, at least. I’m used to working from home and prefer it to most other ways of work (like office life), so this is not a problem for me. If I need something I can call my co-workers and I guess we all evaded quite a few meetings that in the end could be e-mails after all. Being the content loner I am, staying at home for days is rather easy for me because I don’t necessarily seek human interaction as much as other people might. To me, a lengthy phone call too can be a great way to stay in touch with friends and family. But – and that’s a huge but – I live with Wonderguy and our two kitties so I’m not all alone during the lockdown. This is something I appreciate very much and which can make all the difference for a lot of people.

 

All this noise … in my head

So it’s not the social distancing that made the last few days challenging for me but rather the constant influx of news and information from all directions. No matter if you talk to your friends, colleagues, and family or if you’re scrolling through your social media feeds: the pandemic is everywhere. It is important to stay informed and know what you should and should not do to help flatten the curve but can be overwhelming too. Sharing your thoughts and fears regarding Covid-19 is important and social media is the place to do so. We want to support each other by sharing our thoughts and emotions, kind words, funny memes, and other positive content that lifts our spirits and spreads some positivity (hopefully). That’s the blessing of our digital age and social media.

Then again, there can be downsides. I’m not used to so much news and I’ve felt overwhelmed and petrified often in the last few days and weeks. I quit watching television news 13 years ago because I don’t like how news content is filtered and presented on TV. I prefer reading about what’s going on in the world, so I get my daily dose of news from papers and magazines (online and offline). Depending on my schedule, my mood, and the international situation I often skip a day or two, because I don’t find the time (and nerve) to keep up to date. Therefore, refreshing the local news sites every few minutes or at least once an hour is an unusual new habit I developed thanks to Corona and one I don’t intend to stick to. My fuzzy brain has an even harder time focusing on anything when conditioned to expect new inputs every five minutes. As it takes 21 days to form a new habit I will get a grip on this and change this behavior asap. After all, this lockdown will continue for several weeks and even then it is not clear what will follow. So the last thing I need is my fuzzy brain being all over the place constantly.

 

Break the cycle – cut the crap

Over the last few days, I saw a lot of people on Instagram describing how they had a hard time focusing on their reading or work with all that is going on. This is a common sentiment I share. You don’t need to have ADHD to lose your fuzzy brain in the current news cycle. You want to stay informed on how your respective government handles the situation, you want to stay in touch with friends and family and you want to find out as much as possible about this virus that is threatening the lives of so many people. But at the same time one can only go so far … and stay sane, calm, and happy.

So what can we do to break the cycle? I for one decided to go cold turkey on news of any kind. I will stay active on the gram and google my way through the world as I usually do, but I will refrain from refreshing our local news channels/the Guardian/Reuters/… every other hour to ‘stay up to date.’ Wonderguy has a much healthier approach towards news and if anything groundbreaking happens, he will keep me posted. In the meantime, I won’t notice every verbal fart of the orange fucktard or the wigmaster of horror, but will only visit news sites once a day to stay in touch with the world outside (my head). Thereby I’m returning to my usual news dosage without this nagging feeling of emergency. This, I hope, will help me to calm down and get back to the things I should and could do in this situation. Like working on my thesis, for example.

Book Bill Bryson 'At Home'

Spirit of the day(s) … 

Seize the day (or night – whatever you prefer)

As I’m used to working from home, I have no issue with doing my ‘normal job’ away from the office. Working part-time I now save some time going to and coming from work, a time I could use productively. I guess most of us work from home right now and while some will adjust quite easily, this can be a huge challenge for others. Having a designated working space at home makes things easier since this may resemble a sort of ‘office’ some might miss. Calling co-workers and/or clients brings the social interaction some miss and helps you stay in touch with your work reality.

A lot of us may feel the effects of the pandemic crisis also regarding their workload. Working at an ad agency I prepare myself for weeks that might not bring as many jobs as we are used to – this will improve eventually but we will feel the result of this not only in our workloads but also our bank accounts. Anyway, this too shall pass – as long as I still got a job half a year from now I’m okay with cutting back.

Reduced workloads also mean more spare time, something that gives me an even better chance to pursue my goal of finishing my dissertation this year (I will regret sharing this ambitious goal here because the internet never forgets …). At present dissertation work comes in waves – I’m totally in the flow two/three days in a row and don’t even look at it for 10 days. That’s not a good ratio and there’s room for improvement. Having been sick for weeks was also hindering, though I’ve been well for a week now, so that’s not an excuse anymore. So for now, I know what to use my time and brain for once I calm down a bit …

Getting off the news ticker may not be doable for everyone and you may not even find constant news input as distracting and irritating as I do. So whatever is right for you, find your way to calm down and try to seize the day the way that’s best for you. Read that book, write that book, watch that show, call your friends, finish your paper, sow some seeds and plant some crops, sing, dance, exercise – do whatever you want to do as long as it helps you getting through your days …

Stay safe and healthy – take care!

Using a Traveler’s Notebook as a Bullet Journal (and more) – first impressions

Collage Traveler's Notebook closed and open

The new Traveler’s Notebook in black – already customized 🙂

As I stated in my last post regarding my February update, I bought a Traveler’s Notebook to use as my new main Bullet Journal and Notebook system. There are two main reasons for doing so.

For one, it’s a question of size and format. While I absolutely love my Dingbats Bullet Journal in regards to paper quality, design, and handling I find the width of 16 cm a bit too much – though this is a standard format for notebooks and suits most users just fine. I like notebooks that are a bit smaller, but since the Dingbats checked all my other boxes, I didn’t bother any further – until I found the Traveler’s Notebook on Instagram.
The other reason I wanted to switch notebook systems has to do with how I use my bullet journal. I will go into detail further below. 

After fuzzing about it for several days and discussing the issue with Wonderguy, I gave in. Because of my low buy challenge, I didn’t want to act like spending 65 € on a notebook and inserts is fine, but in the end I decided it’s worth it, which I explain in my last post (LINK). In the end, I purchased a regular sized Traveler’s Notebook in black as well as three additional inserts.

A new way to bullet journal

I use three notebook inserts in my TN as well as the zipper pocket für everyday stuff like post-its, rubber bands, and other things I might find useful. Of those three notebooks, I use one as a bullet journal, one for everything related to Ph.D. and academic issues and one for anything blogging and (creative) writing and reading. This separation of noteworthy fields will make it easier to keep an overview of the different parts of my life I need to focus on. Furthermore, if I fill up one of my notebook inserts quickly, I will only have to replace this single part of my planner and not the notebook as a whole. The other notebooks can stay where they are until I use those up as well.

collage 3 notebook covers

My three notebook inserts and my favorite pen, a Kaweco Classic Sport.

By thematically sorting my inserts, it will be easier to navigate through my notes once the books are full and filed. Additionally, it will also make my life easier because I don’t need to transcribe countless list and collections from one notebook to the other since I use my bullet journal insert mainly as a planner and for short-time lists, but still have my Dingbats notebook for curated collections like my reading list, book shopping list, diary writing and the like. I don’t have to care anymore to not waste pages or space in my bujo because otherwise, I have to do a lot of transcribing with all my list and collections. I can use my bujo insert anyway I want and if I have to replace it in a few weeks no harm done, I just start a new notebook. My longtime lists and collections are not affected by how fast I fill my bujo insert and how often I switch notebooks.

Back to the roots …?

When I started bullet journaling one of my main incentives was to bring everything together in one notebook. Monthly, weekly and daily planner, notebook, diary – all in my bullet journal. Mostly, this worked best for me. But because using my bujo as a diary too, my notebooks filled up faster than I expected and this affected how I kept lists and collections. More often then not I was too lazy to transcribe whole lists to new journals, so I just kept them in my old notebooks. As you may remember, when it comes to my ADHD riddled brain, out of sight is out of mind. So most of the lists in my old journals are simply forgotten.

Another issue Wonderguy frequently mentioned is the fact that my bujo is also my diary, which means that I should definitely NOT forget it anywhere lest I want strangers (or worse: friends or colleagues) to read about my innermost thoughts and struggles. While working at home this was no concern of mine, but once I started working at an office 5 days a week I realized what Wonderguy meant. While it might not be a good feeling knowing someone else could possibly go through your bullet journal because you forgot it somewhere, the feeling gets significantly worse when your bujo is also your diary. Having everything in one book has advantages, but there are also some downsides. And right now I’m about to find out which mix is perfect for me.

Regarding my diary and handling my lists, the split is working well. Knowing that I won’t have to transcribe my lists any time soon I work on them with more enthusiasm. When journaling I also have a better feeling knowing that this notebook won’t leave my home and there’s no need to stress about forgetting it somewhere anymore. And because it’s still in some way my bujo and not ‘just’ my diary, writing about my day doesn’t feel too much ‘dear diary’ like. So, for now, I’m fine with using separate notebooks for separate matters.

The planner setup

By splitting my bullet journaling habits up again it’s back to square one in some instances. In regards to the layout of my monthly, weekly and daily spreads I’m back to figuring out what works best for me. Right now I’m with a layout I’ve used before, but I’m not sure if I like it in this smaller setting. I might switch back to the style Ryder Carroll recommends and uses. On the other hand, I need a weekly layout to note appointments and dates, which is the reason I started mainly working with weekly spreads.

TN Bujo weekly spread

My weekly spread for March. There’s room for improvement …

Again, YouTube came to my rescue. Watching videos by Cissy’s Art Cafe and Sarica Studio, I found some inspiration on how to make my new notebook system work best for me. I will try this out in April. Maybe I just need to minimize the weekend segment of my weekly spread. I don’t use my planner on the weekends apart from jotting something down for the upcoming week, so I don’t really need “Sat/Sun” in my weekly spread. On the other hand, sitting down every weekend and doing a weekly spread like the creators in their videos do/suggest will give me a chance to get a better overview of the week ahead. I will see what works better for me.

Overall, I like the look, feel, and handling of my Traveler’s Notebook. I really like it. I even started a bit of scrapbooking and being more creative in my spreads. After all, I can use a different design and layout in my next notebook insert – which will probably come rather sooner than later, especially compared to my other bullet journals. But that’s one reason I chose to use a TN, isn’t it?


P. S.: It took me more than a week to write this post because I’ve been sick (not Covid-19, just a regular cold). I did my best, but if I sound incoherent or slightly off at times – I’m sorry!