For some, the thought of spending week after week indoors is a terror. For others, it’s a gift. I happen to fall in the latter category. There is so much to do in this life, but our day-to-days tend to ask a lot of us. Between commuting to work, being present at work, and hanging out with friends after work, it can be hard to find the time to do just about anything else. Sure, we can make time for eating, sleeping, and (maybe) working out. But when it comes to crossing items off our long-term to-do lists—to doing any of the indoor activities we’ve long dreamt of having time for—we can’t carve out any more space from our already-loaded schedules.
For this reason, unanticipated free time is a gift. Sure, canceled plans can be a bummer, but they’re also an invitation to revisit that list of stuff you’ve always wanted to do, to learn, to try. No, you didn’t ask for all these uninterrupted hours. But now, you have them. And the easiest way to pass the time is to find something to do. Is there a TV show that’s been sitting on your Netflix watch list for way too long? A book you were given two birthdays ago that you never got around to reading? A queue of YouTube yoga workouts you’ve been avoiding because your everyday life is simply too exhausting?
Now is the moment to Kondo your mental to-do list—to finally do all of the stuff you never had time for, and to finally give up on the stuff you never really wanted to do in the first place. Maybe time wasn’t keeping you from reading that book, or mastering that skill, or trying that thing—lack of desire was. Ridding your to-do list of these items (and ridding your mind of these burdens) is its own kind of productive.
Odds are, you already have a couple things—maybe a full list of things—you’ve wanted to do for a long, long time. Start there. And if you need a little help getting started, scroll down.
Read a Book—Even Just a Short One
Reading is one of those things many of us aspire to do more frequently, but time never seems to permit it. But now's the perfect time to make reading a priority. Make your way through a book—even a short one—and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
If you’d prefer to kick your reading up a notch, you can join or start a virtual book club. Pick a few books to read and discuss with friends, or join an already-existing online book club—like author Yiyun Li’s #TolstoyTogether.
Do Some Athletic Binge-Watching
Consider this your excuse to kick back, relax, and power through some serious binge-watching. Revisit all your favorite shows. Watch those movies people are always shocked you’ve never seen. Explore TikTok once and for all, and send all your favorite videos to your friends.
The Netflix Party extension will let you stream shows alongside your friends, no matter where in the world you all are. So host a long-distance movie night, and message each other all the stuff you would’ve loudly exclaimed if you’d been in the same room.
You knew this was coming. If your go-to excuse has been, “I don’t have time to work out,” the universe is calling your bluff. No, now isn’t the time to sign up for a local gym membership. But it is the time to stock up on (budget-friendly) home gym equipment and try all those YouTube workout videos everyone always raves about.
Bonus: This to-do list item doubles as an excuse to do a little shopping. Once you start working out, treat yourself to some cute new sports bras, leggings, and workout tops.
Finally Give Meditation a Try
It might seem strange to invite more stillness into an already-still time, but meditation is one of those things that comes recommended by just about everyone who’s tried it. Meditate in the morning, recenter partway through your day, or ground yourself before you go to sleep. Getting acquainted with stillness might actually make all this calm feel more welcome.
Learn Entirely Too Much About Something—Really, Anything
Power through that wine atlas you bought yourself a year ago. Watch every franchise in The Bachelor universe from start-to-finish, and read that Bachelor Nation book people couldn’t get enough of in 2018. Get way too into K-pop. Figure out every single thing you can cook in an Air Fryer. Learn to wood-work, and make yourself an entire set of new furniture.
Now is the perfect time to master a new skill set—even a completely trivial one. Have fun diving deep into a subject that’s always intrigued you. And don’t worry about whether it has a practical application. Your innate interest in it is enough.
Unleash Your Inner Chef
Most restaurants and bars are closed, meaning it’s time to become entirely self-sufficient in the cooking department—and maybe even the bartending department, too. Experiment with new recipes that range from veritably beginner-friendly to incredibly complex. Bake cakes worthy of The Great British Baking Show. Make your own simple syrups, and invent a new cocktail.
You’re bound to spend a lot of time in the kitchen in the near future—you might as well make it fun.
Take Spring Cleaning More Seriously Than You Ever Have Before.
It’s officially spring cleaning season. And being cooped-up inside all day is sure to make it very clear to you which items bring you joy and which ones are simply weighing you down. Declutter, replace worn-out items, and give your closet the makeover it’s been begging for for ages. Even if all you do is emerge from this period with a home that feels brand-spankin’-new, you’ve done something worthwhile.
Harness Your Inner Plant Parent
Even those of us who’ve long struggled to keep a plant alive can use this time to transform our black thumbs into green ones. Now that you’re surrounded by your plant babies all day, you can take the time to research each one’s individual needs.
Which ones need North-facing light, and which ones need South-facing light? And which side of your house faces which direction? These questions are too tedious to interrupt normal life. But normal life has already been interrupted, and it’s time for your greenery to thrive.
Venture Outside (Responsibly, Of Course)
Remember, you’re not confined to the indoors. You’re welcome to step outside, to spend time in your backyard—even to go on a walk. Be sure to maintain a responsible distance from those around you, and get a little exercise in the fresh air. Breaking up your day with a trip or two outside can be relaxing and rejuvenating in equal measure.
Have a Field Day With DIY Gift Kits
Need a little arts and crafts inspiration? Search the phrase, “DIY gift kits” on Amazon, and see what pops up. Spend just $50, and in no time, you could be making your own hot sauce, crafting your own candles, or distilling your own small-batch gin. These activities would normally call for tons of ingredients or equipment, but when sold in gift kit form, they come with everything you need.
Hang Out With Loved Ones, the Social Distancing Way
You might not be able to visit your loved ones in person. But you can replace your social life with all kinds of phone and video calls. Catch up with a different loved one every day, host a multi-way video chat, or come up with a remote activity you all can do during this time apart. No, virtual communication will never replace hugs and affection, but it can be an opportunity to build and grow relationships more intentionally than you do in your everyday life.