Note: this is a lighthearted article because it needs to be. I’m grateful for the work that’s been keeping me busy, and I know many have been less fortunate. Check in with the people you know who have lost hours or jobs due to COVID-19. Small businesses (especially coffee shops and restaurants) need our support now more than ever.

an introvert’s guide to quarantine bliss

or how i learned to stop worrying and love the calm

As an introvert, I love the idea of never leaving the house. It doesn’t matter what the event is – I can always find a reason not to go. So the idea of a self-imposed quarantine sounds amazing.

If you don’t believe me, here’s what my husband does to show he cares: he takes our kid and leaves for the day. I have the whole house to myself, alone. It’s glorious.

All I need to work is a laptop and an Internet connection, so COVID-19 means more work (for now). Lots of website announcements and emails to send. If I see another one of those “49 Things to Do While Quarantined” articles I’m going to break something. So in the spirit of irony, I’m going to write one of those articles. Writing about all the things I would love to be doing is actually doing one of them (#8). The complete list is below: keep scrolling to read in order, or click any item to jump to that section.

If you have no idea what to do with free time at home… here’s what I would/will be doing. I’ll include suggestions to make it super easy for you.

1. read the crap out of some books

1. read the crap out of some books

With the exception of art supply stores, art museums, and artisanal dark chocolate, actual, physical, ink-printed-on-paper books are my favorite things ever.

Most of what I read comes from Mid-Continent Public Library. I play this game of alternating holds for new books and available now books, hoping I can stagger arrival. Lucky for me, I lost that game and everything came in at once before the library shut down. I’ve got a stack of 4 books I haven’t even opened yet. I’m already reading 3. I also have at least 10 unread books in my personal library. My happiness is directly proportional to the amount of books surrounding me at any given moment:

If quarantined, I would brew a cup of tea, fight a cat for the comfiest spot in the house (shout out to beanbags), and read for hours.

Handy Suggestion Box:
Love reading? Peruse your own shelves, see if you can borrow something from a non-COVID infected friend, or buy a book on Amazon. We all know their merch sits in giant robot patrolled warehouses, so it’s
probably safe. Burn the dust jacket if you’re worried (I hate dust jackets). If you’re brave, you could order used books from Half Price Books online inventory.
 
Not a fan of printed words on flattened trees? Go the audiobook route and download Libby, an app that lets you check out audio or ebooks from the library. You could also get a free trial of Audible, which is currently offering kids books for free.

If helpful, a couple book series suggestions:

For Kids:

  • Our favorite author is Adam Rubin. We love every one of his books, but our favorite series are Those Darn Squirrels.
  • We’ve really been enjoying the Nick & Tesla series (available through MCPL on Libby). They’re about a couple of 11 year old kids, so probably better for that age range, but I read them to the 5 year old and ask questions/explain things. Very science-y spy stuff.

For Adults:

  • Nonfiction: See my Books Every Human Should Read List for nonfiction recommendations, which is what I normally read. Feel free to comment here if you’re looking for something specific.
  • Fiction: it’s been a while, but the last fiction I read (fantasy) was Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series. Book #1 was awesome, I liked #2 less, and I never got to #3 although I hear it’s also awesome.

Bonus/Blog:

  • If you don’t want to mess with paper or ebooks, check out my favorite blog, Wait But Why. He basically writes books on the Internet, and they’re amazing.

2. paint and stare into space

2. paint and stare into space

As this website shows, I’m a mixed media artist. Making art requires something a quarantine provides in abundance; large blocks of uninterrupted time. I generally have very few of these, which makes it hard to make art. Looking around my studio right now I have:

  • a huge painting in progress for something like 2 years taking up the whole floor
  • a half complete painting on my drafting table
  • a barely-begun painting
  • a painting that needs retouched and sealed
  • a painting that’s 85% complete but requires nice weather
  • sketches galore that have yet to be started

Lest you think I never finish anything, the multiple-pieces-in-progress is by design. I need pieces I can work on indoors, outdoors, absentmindedly or with zoned in details. It’s the same reason I read 5 books at once. If I’m not in the mood for science, I’ll read the culture/history book. The next night I might read about mindfulness. It’s hard not to find something you like when it’s a buffet.

If quarantined, I would find the painting that speaks to me, strap on my smock, put on some music and stare into space for 20 minutes. (I split art time between staring at art and making it). Or I’d start a new painting for some serious emotional processing of this weird reality we find ourselves in. I’m itching to paint something surrealist.

Handy Suggestion Box:
Before you say “I’m not creative,” let’s make this clear: humans love making things with their hands. It’s what we’ve done for most of our existence. As much as I love writing this article, I’m on my laptop. This is nowhere near as therapeutic as pushing paint around a canvas. You can create something in actual physical space that didn’t exist an hour ago. Amazing, right?

It doesn’t matter if you paint, or crochet, or cook, or turn a bookshelf into a rocking horse. Just make something. No expectations. It’s called playing, and you don’t have to post it on Instagram.

coronavirus-seed-pods

Inspiration: My dad sent this picture to my husband (medical field) and said “I’ve been coughing these up all night. Think I should get it checked out?”

He painted seed pods that look like coronavirus. This is amazing and I fully intend to get my hands on some.

3. start another business

3. start another business

I have another business I’m semi-planning. Early stage, so still developing the concept. I’ve gotten feedback and suggestions that could take it different directions. Meaning I need to sit down and flesh out what this might look like. I’m forcing myself to slow down and let this thing evolve over time.

If quarantined, I would be doing some serious mind mapping and market research.

Handy Suggestion Box:
Do you have a business idea that’s been rolling around in the back of your head? A side project you think would be cool? Well, now’s the time! (I’m looking at you, Paul).

If you aren’t sure where to start – begin with mind mapping: Get a big sheet of paper, write your central word/idea, and start branching ideas off from there. Mind mapping is actually the origin of my new business concept, and it’s how I’ll figure out where it’s going. Try it and see what happens. If you want to combine this suggestion with item #5, The Sweet Setup has a new Mind Mapping course.

4. work on cyclone press

4. work on cyclone press

I know, this is technically work (again), but when you’re an entrepreneur you never really stop working. However, there’s a huge difference between working in your business, and working on your business (i.e. business development). Right now, as most days, I’m buried under the former, and I have to squeeze in the latter. There are a couple blog posts I’ve been wanting to write (one of them is about mind mapping). I have projects I need to mock up and write up for the portfolio on the website. A new page explaining a specific service that I’ve never advertised. An email newsletter I need to send out about a new website add-on, systems development… this isn’t even the half of it. These things always get pushed to the back burner. For months.

If quarantined, I would prioritize my top 2-3 internal tasks, and get to work on projects for cyclone press.

Handy Suggestion Box:
Small business owners: now is a great time to go through one of my favorite business books. Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller. His new one, Marketing Made Simple, came out and into my mailbox last week. It’s designed to be a step by step version of the first book, so we’ll see how it compares. If you aren’t solid on your messaging, I highly recommend you work your way through one or both these. I’ll post a review on my business blog comparing the two when I get through the new one.

5. take online courses

5. take online courses

I’ve seen several other people say you should use this time to learn a new skill, and I totally agree. I educate myself about everything on a daily basis, because that’s what I do. But the in-depth online courses? It’s harder to find enough time and attention for those. Getting through even one of those would be awesome.

If quarantined, I would actually take one of the 5 courses I’ve paid for and still haven’t used.

Handy Suggestion Box:

6. organize the *@$^ out of things

6. organize the *@$^ out of things

I don’t mean cleaning. I mean opening a file drawer, taking everything out, shredding most of it and putting the important stuff back. Or pulling out everything behind my art shelves, seeing what all that stuff actually is, throwing most of it away and reorganizing what’s left.

If quarantined, I would remove everything from that huge catch-all drawer in my studio and figure what to actually use it for. Then I’d repeat that in about 7 other places.

Handy Suggestion Box:
Remove your junk drawer. Dump it out. Throw 90% in the trash. Reorganize the rest. You know you need to. It’s impossible to worry about a pandemic while wondering why you kept every Chick-fil-A sauce for the past 7 years, if this unknown broken thing is important, and if paperclips, nails and assorted loose magnets are capable of spawning lifeforms when left next to corroded AA’s.

Other ideas: hang that organizer you bought at IKEA months ago. Figure out the type of clutter that keeps piling up on the counter and make a home for it. Sort through the paperwork you keep piling in the inbox of unseeing.

7. clean ALL THE THINGS

7. clean ALL THE THINGS

This time I mean cleaning. Passover begins in a couple weeks, which means a deep house clean. The more regular cleaning done beforehand, the easier it will be. That’s also my life philosophy (a place for everything, and everything in its place).

If quarantined, I would clean up that pile of random stuff I need to sell on eBay or Craigslist.

clean all the things

Handy Suggestion Box:
Find a non-routine cleaning project that isn’t done often, like cleaning the gas stovetop. Bonus points if it involves organization.

8. meditate

8. meditate

This might sound like a bad idea right now, but the whole point of meditation is to step away from thinking. To notice thoughts that arise (without judgment), then return your focus to the breath. Because our brains are crack monkeys, this is pretty much a nonstop process. Get distracted, notice, return, get distracted again, notice, return.

I distinctly remember my last awesome (long) meditation session, because it was around 45 minutes (guessing – my phone was dead). It only happened because I was at a retreat. At home the only way to get this much uninterrupted time is by activating a child hypnotizing device (screen time). As evidence I submit this satirical post I wrote about Meditation in the Real World.

If it concerns you, meditation is not a religious practice. It can be a spiritual practice (not the same thing). The word meditation as it’s generally used refers to mindfulness meditation, which is what I described above. There are no mantras, you don’t have to say “om” or contort yourself into a pretzel. It’s training the mind, and it’s no different than going to the gym to train your body. Feel free to comment or email me if you have specific questions about this and I’ll do my best to answer them.

If quarantined (and the kid was occupied), I would meditate for an indefinite amount of time. Like sleeping in with no alarm clock.

Handy Suggestion Box:
Sign up for a free trial of Headspace. Due to the weirdness happening now, they’ve made a new section of the app free for anyone (Weathering the storm). Calm is another popular meditation app. You don’t have to use an app, but if you’re new to meditation you definitely need some instruction on how to begin. I’ve been using Headspace daily for years.

9. write some words

9. write some words

Woot! I’m doing it now! Writing is something I need to do, kind of like painting. Essays, articles, how-to guides, anything I’m writing by choice. I don’t make time for it often enough, and usually end up writing when it becomes compulsive. This post, for example. I had to stop what I was doing this past week and start writing for about 10 minutes. Once I had the beginnings of something I knew I’d find time to come back to it.

If quarantined, I would write something from my list of ideas or edit an existing essay. If I was feeling poetic I’d write haiku. If I were ambitious I would add item #2 and turn that haiku into a painting.

Handy Suggestion Box:
I understand not everyone is a writer. But everyone should write. I’m a proponent of journaling, however you choose to do it. Right now, especially, writing can be therapeutic if you’ve got a lot on your mind and aren’t sure how to process it.

Here’s how you do that: Get 2-3 sheets of letter size paper and a pen. Find a quiet, undisturbed place in your shelter-in-place space. Start writing – anything that comes to mind. Not pretty or neatly, not organized, not proper spelling or grammar… it doesn’t even have to be readable. Write your stream of consciousness and keep going until you’ve written 3 full pages.

This practice is known as Morning Pages, from Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. (You’re supposed to do them first thing the morning, although I never have). After discovering this practice I wrote morning pages daily, then once a week, then once a month. At this point I’ll pull out this technique only if I’m feeling scatterbrained or need to process something. If 3 pages sounds like a lot, I promise you there is something about that third page, so keep going.

(I don’t save these pages. I write them as a process, then shred them. Any insights are noted in my bullet journal).

10. plant a victoryvirus garden

10. plant a victory virus garden

Spring is my favorite season. I’m so ready for warmth, getting outside, putting seeds in dirt. This year we have an added bonus; we’re afraid to go to the store and the shelves are empty anyway. There’s never been a better time to grow your own food! (Side note: food supplies are fine – this is a supply chain issue. Empty shelves are because people are being ridiculous).

Most of spring planting involves seeds in the ground, which makes it easy for anyone to do. (Tomatoes are started from seed in a greenhouse. Then tended and re-potted several times before being ready to plant outside. Way more work and expertise required).

If quarantined and the weather was nice, I would turn over the raised beds and get my lettuce, spinach and snap peas in the ground.

victory-garden

Handy Suggestion Box:
If you have a garden, have at it. If you don’t have a garden (or space for one), find a corner of the flower bed. Put a pot on the porch or balcony, and throw some seeds in. Herbs are great. Lettuces, snap peas. We get everything from Baker Creek. Unfortunately, so does everyone else. At the time I’m writing the website is down temporarily due to an “unprecedented increase in order volume.” Again with people being ridiculous.

11. play with LEGOs, puzzles, board games

11. play with LEGOs, puzzles, board games

Not to brag, but I’m a semi-professional LEGO set assembler. It’s a lifelong skill. I dread the day when our kid no longer needs our help putting his presents together. We collect Star Wars puzzles now, so that’s a thing.

If quarantined and the weather was not nice, I would talk the kid into letting me rebuild this super awesome LEGO Creator rally car.

homestarrunner trogdor board game

Handy Suggestion Box:
I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t have at least one board game. Why not actually play them? I’m not super into board games, but I love Settlers of Catan. This detective-style game, Outfoxed, is our favorite with the kid (ages 4+). There’s also pen and paper games, and you can do a lot with a deck of cards. If you go the puzzle route, stick with 300-500 pieces. Challenging but not too difficult. Making origami could be fun too. Use the thinnest paper you have on hand.

12 write letters and make cards

12 write letters and make cards

Yeah, actual letters. Also I refuse to buy cards (sorry Hallmark). If you get a card from me, I made it out of the art supplies I collect for such purposes. That’s probably why I don’t send many cards.

This one is about keeping in touch with people. Saying the things you always think you should say but never do. It’s better in writing because they can hang on to it, reread it. There’s more certainty in something you hold in