Like much of the world right now, you’re likely sheltered in place in your home to help keep the coronavirus at bay — and likely also working from home. One of the bonuses of working from home is that we cut out a lot of wasted time, like the time we spend commuting every day. We also save time on getting ready for the office. For example, at home, you can wear more casual clothes.
Hopefully, one of the bonuses of this temporary arrangement is that you’ve got a bit more free time on your hands — perhaps an extra hour or even two. If you do, you may be struggling to fill the time. Without a clear plan for using your free time well, it’s easy to waste it. Before you know it, your life is on repeat — watching too much news, falling down social media rabbit holes and binging on TV shows.
But instead of squandering an opportunity, why not put your free time to good use? What about that book you’ve thought about but never had the time to write? Or your desire to learn to cook new dishes but opted for takeout after a long day at the office? Or a myriad of other things you’ve always wanted to accomplish but lacked the time and energy to tackle?
In case you need some inspiration, here are nine creative pursuits to consider enjoying while you have the chance — from learning a new language to documenting your family stories.
Those of us with a “creative gene” (or desire to nurture one) never seem to have enough time to sit down and pursue our passions. Consider now an ideal time to finally tackle that project you’ve always wanted to do. Write your book. Paint that portrait. Sew a quilt. Learn an instrument. Write a blog. Even just start a journal. The sky’s the limit.
Make a difference: If you’re a seamstress, sew masks for healthcare workers. Several healthcare facilities and political leaders have put out a desperate call for more protective gear. If you like to sew and have a sewing machine, consider helping the cause. You can learn more and find a pattern here.
Who doesn’t wish they knew a second language? However, learning a language is hard. It requires time and dedication. You’ve got the time now; you just need to add the dedication. Your pursuit can be made easier by accessing the plethora of online learning tools available to help you learn Mandarin, French, Italian, Spanish or any language your heart desires.
Sign up for an app and begin stretching your mental muscles. You can even listen to language lessons while engaging in another activity, such as spring cleaning your home (see below) or batch cooking in your kitchen (see below). Talk about optimizing your free time! Even your boss back in the office would be impressed.
Look forward: Be brave and start planning your next international trip to take when the world returns to normal. Learn the language of your destination. Not only will you accomplish a goal, but you’ll also be thinking positively — which is a great way to reduce your stress and boost your mental health.
If you’re one of those people who buy more books than you can read, well now there’s no excuse for letting your reading list languish. Now you can become the world-class bookworm you’ve always dreamed of being.
Stay informed: Read a few bestsellers about viruses and pandemics. You’ll learn something interesting and useful as you become more informed about the phenomenon that is impacting our lives at the moment. For example, The Coming Plague by journalist Laurie Garrett has received high praise.
We all love to zone out with Netflix, Amazon Prime or one of the other many movie apps. We all need to let our hair down and relax now and then — especially when we’re under stress. That’s healthy — for a while. But what about mixing a few educational films in with the thrillers and comedies?
Pick a topic and find as many films on the subject as you can. For example, have you always wanted to learn more about another country? What about outer space? Or psychology? There is a bounty of movies on all of these subjects and others. Do some research. Create a list and start learning. Mix it up by watching marathons on different topics.
Get educated: Learn more about pandemics by watching documentaries and movies on the subject — if you dare. There are many out there, such as the Netflix series Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak (launched on January 8, 2020!).
In our fast-paced world, many families have lost touch with the art of home cooking. There are so many options for fast and convenient food that we eschew cooking at home. Now is a great time to revive our home dining heritage.
In particular, it’s a great time to do some batch cooking of super healthy dishes, like chicken soup, stew and cassoulets. When you batch cook, you can freeze what you don’t eat and have meals ready for more than one night’s dinner. Just add some fresh bread and a salad, and you’ll wonder why you don’t cook at home more often.
Make family time productive: If you have kids, get them involved in a home cooking marathon. What child doesn’t want to help mom or dad make cookies, pancakes or some other delicious treats? Experiment to get them excited. For example, make homemade ice cream. You may never want store-bought again!
Spring cleaning our homes is an age-old custom that marked the passage from winter to spring. Yet, how many people today actually engage in the annual exercise of cleaning every nook and cranny of their homes? Probably very few. Now is the perfect time to give it a whirl.
The ritual involves pulling out everything from your draws, cupboards and closets, and throwing out what’s old and cleaning what’s new. If tackling your entire home feels too overwhelming, start small. Break it down into smaller projects. Make a list and tackle one item at a time. Start with a closet or drawer.
Revisit ancient customs: Pull your furniture, rugs and curtains out into the sunshine. There’s some evidence that sunlight and fresh air kill off the bugs that make us ill. Our grandparents and great-grandparents did it. They would, for example, beat the dust out of rugs with a special paddle-like tool once a year.
Let’s be honest, if you have children, you probably rarely “play” with them, at least for very long. We’re talking getting down on your hands and knees and truly playing like your five. Now is the time to give it a whirl — and delight your children and yourself. You’ll be creating memories they’ll remember forever.
Need a few ideas to get the ball rolling, so to speak? What about building a fort with couch cushions, a few chairs and a blanket? How about singing karaoke with costumes and props? Or think old school and get out the puzzles, board games and coloring books. Whatever you do, have fun!
Let go of the rules: Let your kids do something you normally wouldn’t let them do. For example, dance in the rain, stomp in the mud puddles or finger paint on the walls (using washable paints, of course!).
So far, we’re still free to get out of our homes for essential activities like exercise and walking our dogs. Make the most of this opportunity by going for longer walks than usual (if your pup is up for it). Explore new neighborhoods, pathways, trails, landmarks and parks, while you both have fun and get healthier.
Give back: If you don’t have a dog of your own, walk dogs in shelters if your local animal rescue operation has a dog-walking program. You’ll both get exercise and fresh air, and you’ll be doing some good in the world for our furry friends until they can find their forever homes.
This doesn’t mean just reading stories already written by someone else. It means actually sharing stories about your life or the life of your parents and grandparents with your children. Every kid wants to hear about events in the lives of their mom and dad and grandparents. But in our fast-paced world, there is often little time to engage in this ancient art.
Creative timeless memories: Record the stories you tell, so you have a record of them for posterity. They will be a treasured memento for the rest of everyone’s lives.
There’s a lot to worry about right now, but there’s also a lot to be thankful for — such as a bit of extra time at home. If you find yourself with extra time on your hands, consider using it to stretch your creative muscle. It might just be the best therapy to help you tamp down the stress and look on the bright side.
Looking for more ways to occupy your time? Check out these healthy and productive ideas.